Discovery – It Shouldn’t Be Surprising That…


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It shouldn’t be surprising that many sales and presales people are not be particularly skilled at doing Discovery… Why? When interviewing candidates for new sales and presales positions, we don’t explore their Discovery skills nearly in the same depth with which we evaluate other skills, such as the ability to deliver a credible presentation.

Consider the typical process for assessing a new sales or presales candidate:

– We review their resume and cover letter (note: people are perfect twice in their lives – at birth and on their resumes!). It is very rare that anyone claims to be proficient in doing Discovery as a resume “bullet”.

– Next, we bring promising candidates in for an interview, in which we ask many questions about them and allow them some questions about us and our organization – this is typically as deep that our evaluation of their Discovery skills ever goes – a handful of questions about the position, responsibilities, objectives, the company, etc.

– Candidates that survive an initial interview are often invited back to deliver a 30-60 minute presentation (on a topic of their choice) – we want to make sure that they have sufficient presentation skills, since it is an important skill for their role.

After a discussion with their references, we make a final decision, draft an offer letter and, once accepted, welcome the new hire on board.

Our assessment of candidates’ Discovery skills was limited to a few questions, mostly about the job and related topics. We never really explored candidates’ ability to execute real Discovery. We are much better at assessing candidates’ abilities to tell than to ask!

Here’s a recommendation:

For candidates that survive the interview (and presentation, if desired), invite the candidate(s) back to perform a Discovery session with you as the customer. Let the candidate use their current company/offerings as the basis (and candidates can tell you what role you should play in terms of job title and other situational information). This provides you with a direct method of evaluating their Discovery skills and methods, giving you much clearer insight into how each candidate may perform when working with real customers.

If you feel that strong Discovery skills are an essential part of your team members’ toolkit, then consider including a critical review of these skills during the interview process. [Note: if you have existing team members whose Discovery skills are less than desired, that’s where I may be able to help!]

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


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