Do the “Discovery” and “Qualification” Stages of Your Sales Process Deliver a Personal ROI to Your Customers?

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This may come as a surprise, but as a former “buy side” C-level executive, I believe one of the primary goals of the discovery and qualification phases of a B2B sales process should be to deliver value and a personal ROI to the buyer.  Bet you never heard that before from your sales manager or a “sell-side” trainer!

Unfortunately, most B2B sellers believe discovery and qualification conversations are ONLY about asking probing questions and interviewing the prospective customer. In other words, the discovery and qualification phases are purposely designed to benefit the sales person, with no personal ROI intended to be delivered to the person or persons sitting (unfortunately) across the desk from them.  This early behavioral signal and disconnect during the start of the sales process will likely manifest itself later on in a weaker qualification outcome and longer sales cycle, or worse yet, in a stalled deal.

Buyers Have Their Own Discovery and Qualification Stages in the Buying Cycle

Most B2B sales people who participate in our Business Advisor Training workshops are surprised to hear that customers have their own discovery and qualification phases during the buying cycle.  Buyers follow a prescriptive step-by-step process for making a buying decision and selecting a vendor partner, just like sellers follow for prospecting and selling.  One of the most important steps for both sides in the buying-selling process is to navigate the tricky discovery and qualification phases.  Each party must pass through these early stages in their respective decision processes in order to continue down the path to consummating a transaction.

What Buyers Really Want

Interestingly, buyers and sellers are simultaneously attempting to identify needs and requirements during the discovery and qualification phases. The seller wants to understand what the customer is trying to achieve and how this project relates to the attainment of their goals.  On the other hand, the buyer, especially the executive-level buyer, is trying to determine if they need to spend any more time with the seller, and if they decide to move ahead to next steps, what resource requirements will be thrust on their organization in terms of people, time, and money.  After all, people, time, and money are scarce resources that are highly-valued (and protected) by executive-level buyers.

Compelling FINANCIAL Value Accelerates the Sales Cycle

If the potential financial value and business/organizational impact is compelling, the executive-level buyer will agree to spend more time with the seller and allocate scarce resources accordingly. This will accelerate the sales cycle for B2B sellers.

During the discovery and qualification phases, the executive-level buyer needs to understand the possibilities for positive financial impact on their organization. These possibilities don’t have to be accurate to ten decimal points; they just need to provide a range of potential impact on the KPI metrics of the customer or the project ROI. This is hard for the sales person to deliver during the discovery and qualification phases since there is a lot more work to do (and questions to ask) before refining the solution proposition.  But the best sales people get it done by leveraging their pre-call preparation and customer-specific business insights.

So the next time you just jump into discovery and qualification mode with a prospective customer, stop and think: how can I do what I need to do and simultaneously deliver a personal ROI to my prospective customer.

Questions

  1. Do you have any prospecting war stories to share?
  2. How else can you deliver a personal ROI to your prospective customer during the discovery and qualification phases?

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Jack, your view nicely ties in to an article by Dave Brock http://customerthink.com/can-sales-really-create-value/ with the following discussion. You essentially describe how a salesrep can co-create value together with the customer and thus influence the buying decision into his own favour. This – consultative selling – is also the one way that helps sales reps becoming more relevant again. After all studies show that sales reps get involved in a buying process only after the decision has been made. A decision that might be right or wrong …

    Regards from Down Under
    Thomas
    @twieberneit

  2. Thanks Thomas for your comments. The key to “co-creation” is getting the customer to cooperate (i.e. flapping lips). Remembering to deliver a “personal ROI” is one good way to convey customer acumen (and sincere interest) and getting them to free up their resources (time, people) to “co-create. It’s a quid pro quo of sorts.

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