“If you were a bank, you’d really like this feature!” I can remember visibly cringing when my co-worker used this as her introduction to our most important competitive product advantage. Before I could even finish cringing, the VP of Manufacturing – from the customer to whom we were presenting – said, “Well, we’re not a bank; we manufacture Styrofoam peanuts used in shipping and packaging. Clearly we need to postpone this discussion until you’ve done some research about our business and can show us some things we might like!” … Needlesss to say, we didn’t win that deal.
That experience was a pivotal moment in my growing understanding of the importance of appropriate discovery with customers and prospects if I intended to make a compelling sales presentation to them about my solution. Twenty five years later I still see sales people who are so enamored with their solution, finding it so amazing and awesome, that they believe it practically speaks for itself and that the prospect will be equally awed as soon as they see it. However, more often than not, those prospects are unable to relate that “amazing” solution to the business goals they are trying to reach or the operational challenges they are trying to solve every day. The best sales people know they need to connect the dots for the prospect – connecting their solution to the prospect’s business.
Changing a sales presentation or demonstration from a risky event into a win enabler requires targeted and effective discovery by the sales team. That discovery needs to include uncovering key information about the customer’s business, strategic priorities, competitive preferences, and decision making politics. As I’ve worked and trained hundreds of sales people over the years, I’ve seen many consistent and universal discovery mistakes that inject unnecessary risk into sales presentations and demonstrations – taking them from “divine” to “disastrous”!
What kinds of discovery mistakes do your sales people typically make and which mistakes do you find the hardest to correct?