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Improving Discovery Questions
FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:
Discovery questions have one goal: The ability to say ‘Because you said, what I recommend is …’
But how do we discover enough about a prospect to make a recommendation? It begins by understanding that making a recommendation is the end of a discovery conversation and too many salespeople rush towards that outcome instead of visiting all the steps that lead there. Those are micro-objectives.
From Chapter 8:
The Micro-Objective System
Trigger: When establishing campaign systems and call scripts.
Bulletproof Impact: For many salespeople, not making a sale on every call can be demoralizing even if they sell a high-cost item in an industry with a long sales cycle. This comes from not understanding the data that must be in place before they can be ideally positioned to ask for the prospect’s business. Gathering that data can serve as micro-objectives for salespeople to strive for in every prospect exchange, allowing them to change their definition of success from ‘selling something’ to ‘being better positioned for a future sale than we were yesterday.’
For the teams I embedded with around the world, their work was dangerous, demanding, and done in rapidly changing environments. Each mission always had a primary objective such as ‘clear these four city blocks,’ just as our salespeople are told, ‘meet this minimum sales goal.’ However, there are also ‘even better if’ goals Bulletproof teams are asked to pursue on every mission. These could include such items as bringing back high-value prisoners, gathering additional intelligence to help other teams in the area, and of course bringing everyone back alive.
Bulletproof teams have minimum/maximum objectives to pursue; not just one benchmark for success, but many. And of course, the more objectives a team can achieve on a single mission, the better off their organizations will be.
Let’s contrast that with the way most salespeople are taught to set goals for calls and scheduling sales meetings. Some organizations give their salespeople training, leads, and a sales quota, then tell them ‘go out there and sell’ and wonder why turnover and lagging results are an issue! Few organizations give their salespeople objectives for each client contact such that even if a sale isn’t made, measurable progress occurs toward an eventual sale.
Instead of complicating sales, these types of micro-objectives allow salespeople to have verifiable proof of progress while also creating forward movement in their pipelines. As a sales manager myself, it’s imperative for me to know that if every prospect contact doesn’t generate a sale, it should at least get the account closer to one in the future. Simply hearing a salesperson report, “The prospect isn’t buying now,” tells me nothing about the account’s value, decision makers, decision-making process, etc. Basically, that statement means we know nothing more than we did before we made the call or stopped by the prospect’s office!
While your organization’s micro-objectives will differ depending on your industry, customer buying cycle, budget, etc., there are always things your salespeople can leave a prospect conversation with that will prepare that account for a successful conversion in the future.
This is where Bulletproof selling systems come in, specifically the separate deal stages that make up the verticals in your pipeline. Micro-objectives are the trigger mechanisms that move an account from one campaign system in your pipeline to another even if a sale doesn’t occur.
For instance, if we call on a prospect we know very little about, the salesperson has an opportunity to discover who makes buying decisions in that organization for our product or service, specific challenges they’re suffering from that our product or service alleviates, how the company makes decisions to purchase, when they make those decisions and at what budget ranges. That’s five micro-objectives a salesperson can leave a call having achieved even if the prospect didn’t purchase today. Having that data easily accessible in a CRM will make any future sale in that account much smoother. When a salesperson checks what campaign system a prospect is in, they’ll know what deal stage they’re trying to move a prospect into next. That will reveal exactly what secondary or tertiary objectives they’ll need to pursue in their next outreach to move the account forward and consider that interaction a success.
Systemizing Success with Micro-Objectives
Below are the series of data points we advise our clients use to form their outreach objectives, but you may have others that are required to ensure your product fits in the prospect’s floorspace, maintains compliance with local and state regulations, does not conflict with client policies, etc. In other words, modify your micro-objectives depending on your unique product or service’s customer requirements.
To train your salespeople in their use, roleplay with a sales leader acting as a prospect. We make a game out of this with our clients’ new salespeople and encourage bonuses on the sales calls where salespeople to capture all their micro-objectives, even if a sale isn’t made. The more questions salespeople can ask and get answers to, the closer they are to being able to position your product or service as an ideal solution when a prospect is in a buying window or capable of purchasing.
Objective 1. Identify the Decision Maker
Many people in an organization have the ability to say no, but few can say yes. The more expensive or wide-reaching your product or service is, the fewer people there are who can say ‘yes.’ In order to maximize your time and your salespeople’s time, it’s vital the decision maker(s) for what you sell are quickly identified and/or updated within your CRM. Confirming a decision maker – or reconfirming one from a legacy account – is an awesome micro-objective for any outreach attempt.
Objective 2. Confirm Need
Few people care about the product or service you sell. They do care about the problems they’re suffering from or growth they want to achieve. In order to earn the right to offer your product or service as a solution to their problem, confirm a need actually exists. Asking for and capturing needs and challenges from a decision maker or even a gatekeeper within an account is a micro-objective that will serve a salesperson well in later conversations.
Objective 3. Confirm the Impact of the Prospect’s Challenges
While this could be considered objective 2.5, it’s valuable enough to stand alone. In order to justify the cost of your product or service, especially a service, you need to know what the ROI is likely to be for your prospect. If it’s impossible to determine the exact financial impact of your product or service because much of it depends on client implementation, then you can at least determine how many individuals your product or service will touch and calculate potential impact to $X dollars of payroll, $X dollars of lost revenue if nothing changes, etc.
Objective 4. Confirm Buying Timeframe
In many organizations, there will be cases where bureaucracy or a budgetary cycle or a contract renewal period prevents some products or services from being purchased at the moment your salesperson is in a conversation with the decision maker. In that case, a micro-objective can be to confirm a follow-up date with that decision maker and schedule a meeting when they will be empowered to make a buying decision.
Objective 5. Qualify for Budget
Why is this question not earlier in the list? It’s a moot point to discuss a $5 million-dollar widget if a decision maker doesn’t know they have a $200 million-dollar problem the widget can solve. Additionally, budgets sometimes change for decision makers between now and whenever they can make a buying decision, just as our fees may change from one year to the next. This is why confirming potential budget or budget range is a micro-objective always worth pursuing after needs have been identified or reconfirmed.
Examine Other Opportunities Within the Organization
While you or your salesperson may be speaking with the main decision maker, it doesn’t mean they’re the only one with fiduciary power in the company. This applies for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales. A great micro-objective is also discovering any other divisions, offices, events, or branches of that company that might also be suffering from that need or desire those improved outcomes your product or service provides.
Examine Opportunities Outside the Organization
We do advise this question be saved until the end of the conversation, as it’s used to generate external referrals. While many salespeople are uncomfortable asking for a referral before their product or service has even been sold or delivered, sales experts from Zig Ziglar to Grant Cardone advocate asking for referrals from prospects early and often. A salesperson who doesn’t leave a call with a sale but does leave with qualified leads can absolutely consider that call a success – making this a micro-objective worth pursuing.
If your salespeople create questions that elicit those answers and actually ask those questions when in conversations with decision makers, here’s what they’ll be able to accomplish that they may not have been doing before:
Confirmed who in the account should be contacted via email, phone, LinkedIn, carrier pigeon, etc.
Fleshed out exactly what that organization’s or individual’s challenges and growth goals are that can be used as future call premises and research points to continue to add value
Quantified the impact of your product or service for their organization (this will be specific to each buyer, even if there are multiple decision makers within a single account)
Confirmed when the buyer would be willing to buy, allowing your salesperson to project potential revenue in their pipeline, often down to the month or week
Confirmed this buyer has the budget to invest in the product or service, avoiding the ever-present ‘unqualified account’ that stalls most salespeople’s pipelines
Identify other buyers within the organization to add to the salesperson’s pipeline and begin pursuit with
Generated at least a few referrals to scrub and get into play