How to Run a Successful Discovery Meeting

The discovery meeting is one of the most critical conversations between you and your prospect. It’s the first “serious” date between the two of you, laying the groundwork for the entire future of the relationship.

There are three critical goals that you should aim to achieve with every discovery call:

  1. Qualify the Prospect
  2. Uncover Problems and Business Drivers
  3. Establish Next Steps

If you can check those three boxes, you are well on your way to making the sale. But to do so, you’ll need to be intentional about how you prepare and lead your discovery meeting. Below are my suggestions on how to run a successful discovery meeting.

Scheduling the Meeting

The first big hurdle is, of course, scheduling the meeting. It’s not as simple as just picking a day and time to talk with a prospect. You need to ensure you have the right people in the room and that the meeting is warranted.

  • Get necessary parties involved. Make sure influencers and decision-makers are joining the conversation. Don’t just schedule a meeting with people who can only say no.
  • Ensure minimum qualifications are met. Check out their website or LinkedIn to ensure they are in the right ballpark of the target customer you are prospecting for. Don’t waste your time with clearly unqualified prospects.
  • Schedule on their terms, but create urgency. Be flexible and accommodating to their scheduling needs. However, if your timetables slip too far, you can risk losing the opportunity.

Before the Meeting

Your ability to run a successful discovery call will be heavily dependent on your preparation ahead of time. BEFORE the meeting is the time to do your research, prepare your questions, and consider how you’ll bring value to your new relationship.

  • Do your research. Do a deep dive into the company and the people involved. Check out their marketing materials to see how they position themselves and get clues into what might be important to them.
  • Consider similar customers. Make a list of past similar customers you’ve worked with. By reviewing what you’ve done for other customers, you can recall their problems/solutions, business drivers, and success stories.
  • Prepare questions. Create an organized list of questions based on products or solutions that you might eventually propose. Ensure you get the answers you need to offer the right solution later in the sales process.
  • Educate your team. If you are bringing additional coworkers to the meeting, give them a quick walk-through of what you know. Don’t let them go into the meeting ill-prepared.

At the Meeting

At the actual meeting, the key is to be intentional with how you run the conversation. This is your opportunity to learn about the customer, for them to build trust in working with you, and to set the groundwork for the rest of the sales process.

  • Build Rapport – It goes without saying, but building rapport is necessary. Get to know who you are working with and their personal style. Be your authentic self and start the process of building trust.
  • Tell me about X company. Get them talking first by asking them to explain their company to you. Pay close attention to how they position themselves and which contact is doing the most talking.
  • Tell me about Y problem. As a follow-up, get them talking about their problem. Why are they meeting with you? You’ll again want to pay close attention to the pain points they raise, how they affect their business, and how that impact is perceived.
  • Ask scoping questions. Ask specific questions to help you with scoping a solution based on their particular problems. Utilize your prepped questions as a starting point. This is also an opportunity to begin teasing how you might be able to help.
  • Qualify. Sales 101 – you need to ask the qualifying questions. Do they have a budget? What’s their timeframe? Who are the decision-makers, and how is the decision being made?
  • Give your elevator pitch. When most of the primary questions are through, THEN talk about your company, who you are, and your approach. You can target your pitch now that you know their primary concerns.
  • Answer their questions. Ask them to ask YOU questions – “What questions do you have for us?” The questions they ask can be beneficial in identifying what they are looking for in their vendor selection process.
  • Fill in the information gaps. Gather any necessary remaining information you need to propose the perfect solution. Don’t leave significant variables up for interpretation.
  • Summarize. Before ending the meeting, quickly summarize what you heard. Show the customer you listened to their needs, and confirm that you’ve comprehended their main points.
  • Explain the next steps. Explain your standard process for solving a problem like theirs. Give them confidence that you have a proven plan. Of course, proactively schedule the next step (if qualified) to keep the sale moving forward.

After the meeting

After the meeting is complete, we all know what comes next – the follow-up. Yet another touch helps the prospect know that you hear them, see them, and are ready to be a trusted partner. A brief email with the following content is all it takes:

  • Thank them. Add a simple “Thank You” message, letting them know you appreciate their time and consideration.
  • Confirm the next steps. Reiterate the next steps that you laid out during the discovery meeting itself. Provide any necessary information around time, location, and potential agenda items that will be covered.
  • Deliver on promises. Follow-up with any promised resources. Provide any case studies, white papers, webinars, etc., that you may have mentioned during the discussion. Show the prospect that your team can be their expert resource.

Discovery calls are paramount to sales success. Many decisions are made at this stage based on your ability to ask good questions and truly understand your prospect’s business need(s). By following the tips above, you can run a successful discovery session.

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