Enabling the Buyer Discovery
by Ton Verleg
Loyal readers of thesalesadvice may have noticed that I have been posting lately more views about how to become better at a Discovery Conversation. In the end, after what you have learned about the new way of selling, you need to put that knowledge into practice when talking to your stakeholders.
In traditional selling, the salespeople’s objective in a discovery conversation is to gain customer information and discover needs. Some sales books you still find on the bookshelves of leading bookstores declare that the more open questions you ask, the more effective your discovery will be. Well, that may have worked in the past, but this method is no longer effective. I am sure you have experienced this too.
In particular, when talking to stakeholders you don’t know too well yet – like prospects- your questions can become uncomfortable for you and the stakeholder. Your interrogating style creates unnecessary tension for the stakeholder. Your intention of having an open conversation is excellent, but if the stakeholder is the only one answering all the questions, how do you think they feel? After the 4th question, it becomes so uncomfortable that the potential of a proper dialogue collapses. In most cases, the stakeholder will find excuses not to continue the conversation or at least to make it as short as possible. If you recognize this, then read on.
We’ve got to do this better. Much better. And it starts by preparing conversations where your objective is to let the stakeholder discover something instead of you discovering customer needs. Your new job is to enable the buyer discovery.
First and foremost, you must earn the right to lead your stakeholder in such a conversation. You do this by creating an atmosphere of respect. You want your stakeholder to feel you came prepared to the meeting. After some short chit-chat you,
- show you understand their business and challenges.
- verify your understanding
- ask something you don’t know but is super relevant to their challenges
This requires preparation with the buyer’s perspective. After your stakeholder has answered your first super relevant open-ended question, there is that crucial moment where you can kick-start the buyer discovery. I heard a great metaphor to illustrate how that can work in a podcast between Jeb Blount and A.J. Harbinger and John Dzubak, the authors of another popular podcast, “The Art of Charm”. It is called:
Walking into the cave of vulnerabilityJohn Dzubak
Imagine you are walking in a forest with your stakeholder, keeping the small questions and answers on a safe “on the surface ” level. You know the drill; if you ask “horizontal questions”, you will get “horizontal” answers. But now you are standing in front of a cave. You want to enter that cave because that’s where you want the conversation to get deeper, maybe even confronting and emotional. And your stakeholder says, I don’t want to get in. Because they know that once you are inside the Cave of Vulnerability, they have to open up. This is where you take the initiative and shine a torch into the cave. You say: “you see, not scary at all”. Now you are walking in the cave, and you can go as deep as you and your stakeholder allow yourselves to go. There is trust, and you are both contributing to the conversation. Because of the reciprocity law, you and the stakeholder feel good about letting the discussion go deeper.
Translating this analogy into a conversation is called: Sharing. You are making yourself vulnerable by sharing insights, ideas, or stories. You don’t know how well your insight, idea or story will land, but if it lands well, you kick-start the deeper conversation. If it doesn’t land well and the stakeholder sees no impact of what you shared, then you try again with a different insight, idea or story.
And you can because you are leading your stakeholder into the cave and by sharing, you are enabling the buyer discovery.Tags: Ton Verleg