Well-trained sales reps identify buyer’s needs by asking a series of scripted questions. This exercise can uncover useful information for the rep, but it provides little value to the customer. For many buyers, the ‘discovery’ sales call is the second, third or fourth interrogation with the same questions by yet another competitor. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


Why does this matter? Executives are changing the way they make purchase decisions. Some are altering their evaluation criteria. Others are involving more people in the decision-making process. Some are changing their preferences for how they want to engage with your sales team. Decentralized decision making is becoming centralized, and centralized decisions are now being made regionally. And on and on. Failure to exactly understand how executives are buying will prevent you from growing revenue.


How often are you shut out of a major opportunity at the beginning of the sales cycle, simply by a lack of understanding buying behavior – the way your prospects conduct their discovery? Shift your focus to learning how your prospects discover solutions to their problems. End the interrogation sales call. If you can learn how your target market makes buying decisions, you will participate in more deals.


Here are the 3 Steps:


1.    Interview recent new customers to identify their discovery process

Focus on net new customers because they have not developed a trusted relationship with your sales team that can bias their discovery practices towards your solutions. Customer discovery journeys differ. World-class sales organizations generally complete a series of six or more interviews to identify common themes and practices on the buyer’s journey. Multiple products, services or channels may require more and different interviews.


Question: What was the trigger event? Before any buyer begins the search that ultimately leads them to your solution, something happened that made it imperative to learn more about your product or service. Understanding the origin of the buying journey helps you to refine your Ideal Customer Profile to better target future buyers.


Question: What is the first thing the buyer did? The two most common actions are to launch an Internet search or pick up the phone and call someone. The latter action results in a referral and quickly engages the buyer in your selling process where your sales team can contribute to the buyer’s discovery process.


Buyers who start with an Internet search often do not engage with a sales person until they have completed an investigation of potential solutions using the online resources that you and your competitors provide. This is where the buyer-seller disconnect happens because buyers are more educated than you think.


Question: What did the buyer already know when they formally engaged with your sales team?


Focus on the buyer’s use of web resources – white papers, blogs, on-line demos, videos, product specifications, ROI calculators, etc. Inventory your own on-line resources and your competitor’s. Provide the buyer with a checklist to remind them of their journey.


Include other Marketing resources – events, newsletters, outbound messaging, advertising, etc. Inventory these resources and create a checklist. Be sure to ask which resources had the most significant impact or value in the discovery process.


Ask where your sales team was able to add value or help to advance the buyer’s discovery that could not be learned by the other resources. What knowledge gaps did the sales team fill?


If the buyer used a documented evaluation process (spreadsheet or matrix), ask them to share it with you. For each decision criterion, what evidence or resource did they use? How were the factors weighted? 




2.    Interview non-customers of lost opportunities

This can be a bit more challenging, since you normally do not have a strong relationship with non-customers. Their insights are especially valuable because they can pinpoint an essential ingredient that your sales process may be missing.


The questions are similar to those asked of new customers, but the focus is on closing the gap between you and your competitors.


Focus on the non-customer’s use of web resources. What resources did the winning competitor provide that aided their discovery journey? Using your inventory checklist, ask what was missing from your online resources.


Ask questions to spot where your sales team failed to advance the buyer’s discovery process. What was redundant and time-wasting?  What knowledge gaps did the sales team fail to fill?


3.    Construct a Buyer’s Discovery Map

Synthesize your findings by using a flowchart to build a discovery timeline. The end result will be a buyer’s discovery map that will enable your sales and marketing team to understand how to intersect with the buyer and immediately add value.


Identify general patterns in the discovery process of your sample population. Note the sequence that the resources are engaged.


Use the discovery map to train your salespeople on the buyer’s process. This will save time during sales calls and build credibility. Your sales team should let buyers know that they will not waste their time because they understand the buying process.


Provide your sales team with stories about how other buyers have approached the discovery. These help to build rapport with buyers who are currently making the same journey.


Avoid unproductive and potentially damaging sales calls. The steps outlined above require time and resources, but the investment will pay big dividends. If you want more details or support, please click on the download link below or contact me.


Knowing your buyer’s discovery process – their buying behavior – will put your sales team ahead of the competition and enable your sales process to deliver world-class performance.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:

  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job




Josh Horstmann

Brings a deep level of experience and insight in helping organizations develop and execute their corporate, sales and marketing strategies.

Josh specializes in helping clients solve demanding sales and marketing challenges through aligning functional strategies within an organization. He has worked with clients in manufacturing, ecommerce, software, financial services and technology sectors.


Recently he helped transform an international services company ‘go to market’ strategy, which included assessing talent, re-organizing the sales force, increasing team productivity, reducing the cost of sale and aligning the marketing and sales strategies.


Josh continues to provide thought leadership to his clients advising them on how to build inside sales teams, develop compensation programs, share best practices on social selling, transform sales organizations, drive demand generation programs and acquire and cultivate talent. Along with this he helps organizations align functional strategies.


Read full bio >