Frightening Statistics on Doing Discovery


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I’ve done some informal interviews with heads of sales and presales recently and uncovered the following, rather consistent statements:

– Heads of sales and presales tell me that about 10% of their teams actually do Discovery very well.  [Group 1]

– They also say that about 70% of their team THINK they do Discovery well, but actually do not (in the eyes of their senior managers).  [Group 2]

– The remaining 20% of their teams do realize that they don’t do Discovery well.  [Group 3]

This reveals an interesting and rather frightening gap that deserves additional thought – and action to address…!  Looking at these three groups again:

– Group 1:  These people are either consciously or unconsciously competent.  Their knowledge and process steps need to be captured and taught to the balance of the team.

– Group 2:  These people are unconsciously incompetent.  This is extremely dangerous – they don’t know that they aren’t doing a good job.  As a result, they don’t realize what they lack and aren’t willing to take time to learn.

– Group 3:  These people are consciously incompetent.  They recognize that they lack certain skills and knowledge and may be interested or willing to learn.

[Quiet question:  which group are you in?  (Be honest with yourself…!)]

A few ideas to close the gap:

1.  Gather your best sales and presales people together (the Group 1 folks) for a half a day or so, have them generate Discovery Documents and outline the key process steps that they follow when doing Discovery.  Distribute to the balance of the field.  Train managers and mentors to coach Discovery role-play sessions for their team members (first making sure that the managers and mentors can use the Discovery Documents and execute the process steps well before they work with their teams!).  Consider hiring a 3rdparty to facilitate and teach the above (hint hint).

2.  Track closed business when Discovery was sufficient (as measured, for example, by a completed Situation Slide) vs. where Discovery was insufficient.  This will help identify who is in Groups 1, 2 and 3…  It will also underscore the importance of doing sufficient Discovery, when the numbers are compared at the end of a quarter or two!

3.  Consider using a tool like DemoCoach ( to develop and reinforce good habits, and to share ideas with colleagues.

4.  Read the article, “Stunningly Awful Demos – Insufficient Discovery” for more ideas on doing Discovery and on the impact of not doing it well!

5.  Require reasonably complete Situation Slides prior to assigning resources for any demo scheduled to run more than 6 minutes.

Some additional observations I’ve heard from senior sales and presales management:

– Doing Discovery minimizes surprises – especially negative surprises.

– Many sales and presales teams believe they have and use a consultative model – but they really don’t!

– Many people THINK they have been learned how to do Discovery, since they’ve been through one or more sales methodology training courses – but most sales methodologies only scratch the surface.  Even worse, most sales methodologies focus on qualification questions as opposed to really doing Discovery.

–  One senior manager positioned a lack of sufficient Discovery beautifully.  He said, “What you don’t know will hurt you…!”

– Another head of sales commented, “In corporate America, successful sales people are promoted – and are expected to manage their teams.  In the military, those same successful soldiers are first brought back to teach the other soldiers how to win…”

How do you successfully teach and reinforce Discovery skills in your organization today?

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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