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discovery call conversations
August 12, 2021

Sales Leader Interview: How To Have Better Discovery Conversations

discovery call conversations

Discovery is one of the most critical components of the sales process. But when it comes to engaging new prospects, so many sales professionals wade into uncharted waters without proper preparation or fail to do adequate research on their prospective buyers.

I sat down to find a fix for that with Andy Paul, CEO and Founder of Zero-Time Selling. Andy is one of the foremost authorities on sales training and sales coaching with well over four decades of proven success in closing deals and making sales.

He and I discussed how using discovery can better prepare salespeople to get to know their prospects and clients better and lots more besides, with plenty of tactics you can implement personally, and with those you coach.

We also covered:

  • How best to introduce discovery into the sales process
  • Digging deep to find out what drives your buyer’s decision making
  • Not hiding your competitors from prospective customers
  • The importance of building trust, respect, and connections
  • Genuinely discovering and understanding your client’s needs
  • Building lasting relationships with other stakeholders in the sales process
  • Coaching others so that they can use the tools of better discovery too

And lots more besides.

How To Have Better Discovery Conversations

Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Rich: Andy, welcome. How are you?

Andy: Rich, thanks for having me, I’m doing great.

Rich: Before we get started, how about a quick introduction? Who are you? What do you do? Give us the Andy Paul story in a nutshell.

Andy: Gosh. That’s hard to do. Once you get me started talking, it may be a long one. I’ve been in sales for over 40 years, for four decades, more, almost. An interesting career path –  sold everything from women’s shoes to complex satellite communications networks that sold for tens of millions of dollars. So I’ve really spanned the whole side, both from B2C to B2B.

I started my own consulting company in 2000, I worked for a series of startups, started my own company in 2000. Been working with countless companies, primarily in the US, to help them transform their sales. And, since 2012, I’ve been on this journey of being an author, a speaker, and a thinker about sales.

Rich: Excellent. And you have a podcast. If people don’t know about it, let’s get a plug-in early for the podcast.

Andy: Okay, yes. I do have a podcast called Accelerate With Andy Paul, and gosh, I think 718 episodes so far. At least at the time we’re recording this. I’ve been around for a while, have a lot of great guests on, and really dived deep into specific aspects of sales. And if people want to listen to it, I think one of the attractions is that I challenge a lot of things, the conventional wisdom, if you will.

Rich: Yeah, and that’s an impressive number. I can only imagine the amount of time and energy, and work that’s gone into those. But I do recommend people check out the podcast, I think it’s a brilliant listen. And you publish quite regularly, don’t you? You have quite a frequent schedule of podcasts that go out.

Andy: Well, yeah, now we’re weekly. When we first started, we were doing it a little more frequently than that, but yeah, we scaled back to weekly a couple of years ago, and it’s a good cadence to be on.

Rich: Excellent. We want to focus on discovery, and this is completely by accident. Something happened today that got me particularly interested in this topic yet again. I was talking with the head of sales for a startup, fairly big startup. He and I were talking about his career path, and him starting at this software company, and the story that he told me was, when he arrived at the software company, they were doing around an average order of about $40 per month. So it’s a SAS subscription model, average order $40 a month, pretty typical.

Within a month or two of him being there, they had taken that $40 to $400. And so, inevitably, I asked the question, “How did you do that?”

And his answer to me was, “Discovery. We introduced discovery calls into the sales process. Before, reps were going straight in, jumping in with a product demo, throwing all the features at the prospect. And a lot of them were buying, but their average order value was low.” By adding in discovery, he saw the average order value go up significantly.

And so I think that’s a useful starting point for us to talk about discovery and the importance of the discovery. Give people a flavor of your take on discovery. Why is it so important? And why is it often missed?

Andy: Well, everybody does a level of discovery, right? And I think it’s to the point of the story you just told, is that, certainly in the SAS business, being one example, is that, given that we’ve changed the business model, the stakes are relatively low if you make a bad decision as a buyer. You’re not buying a license that’s on-prem hosted, that’s going to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s … it’s going to be $40 a month per user, and if we don’t like it, we cancel after a month.

And in those scenarios, the salespeople, basically, are going for the sale, as opposed to really just to get the foot in the door, rather than trying to actually find out what the customer wants.

And so you can start seeing this more transactional environment, where people skip discovery. But yeah, if you want to do as that person suggested, and you want to increase your average order size, for instance, which is absolutely crucial if you want to increase your win rate, is you have to really find out what’s driving the decision on the part of the customer.

And that’s distinct from saying, look, I need to understand what their requirements are, and what their pain points are. Yeah, sure. But I really want to find out what’s driving the decision.

Rich: And I think that’s a lovely segue into a report that you and I, I know, have read many times, and are huge fans of. Research put out by Gartner into the buying journey, particularly the B2B buying journey.

Andy: Right.

Rich: Give people a sense, if they haven’t read that, what are some of the themes that come out of that article that are particularly relevant for you?

Andy: Well, so there’s a famous diagram that describes the buyer’s journey, and I urge everybody who … you can find this online. You can find it in some articles that are posted on my website, I’ve used this before as an example. Basically that Gartner drew the typical buying journey based on their research with thousands of enterprises. And, unlike the way most sellers conceive of their sales process, as being this linear stage-based process that goes very neatly from point A to point B, this was what Gartner calls the Spaghetti Diagram, which is … it’s a flow chart that is virtually impossible to follow, just because there are so many overlapping lines.

And the thing that’s most striking about it is, and it’s very dense, you look at it, there’s probably 100 boxes on the page or something like that, is there’s … you can’t find the word sales on it. For me, that was one of the most striking things, is that, in the lower right-hand quadrant, you see the word, ask sales for more information. And that’s it.

So you’re looking from the buyer’s perspective, they’re saying, look, we’re just going to go through this, somewhat on our own, driven by our own requirements, and we can do a lot of this without too much help from the vendor.

And it says, okay, well, then, yeah, really, what is the role of the vendor there, and then what is the role of discovery in this environment where the buyer’s being driven? And that’s where it gets down to this idea of, as a seller, when you’re looking at this buying journey, which is a complex thing, the buyer doesn’t understand it themselves, which is one of the key lessons of the Gartner report, is that buyers are making it up as they go.

Rich: And overwhelmed, as well. They’re overwhelmed. The report speaks to just the sheer overwhelm of information, as opposed to a lack of information.

Andy: Exactly. And so how can you best be of service in that environment? And also, again, also find out what’s really … what are the real motivations behind this investment decision they’re going to be making?

Rich: Yeah. There were two key takeaways for me, from the report, in particular. One is the non-linear aspect of it. The fact that this isn’t … as sales professionals, we like to think of, it’s step one, step two, step three, a funnel, in a sense, a very linear process.

Andy: Well, as I said, linear, stage-based process, yes.

Rich: So that, for me, is key. The fact that just how non-linear it is. But the second point is that there are buying jobs. That prospects have a series of jobs, and if a salesperson can help them fulfill all of those jobs, ideally within the same sort of timeframe, then that’s where the sale occurs.

Rich: Do you want to talk a bit more about buying jobs, in particular? The elements that are key in the process. Problem identification is the first one. Solution exploration, requirement building, and then supply selection. Those are the four key ones, and then after that you have validation, and then build a consensus internally. So the key, is problem identification, solution exploration, requirement building, and supply selection. They’re the main jobs that the report suggested are the ones that are at the top of the tree.

Andy: Right. And I think the critical point for those, that Gartner brings out, and one of the reasons I loved that report when I first read it is … and first heard about the research, which actually was just about a year ago, was that it … you have these experiences in your own career, and it validates what you’ve experienced. And so it was kind of fun from that perspective, to think, “Okay, I’m not crazy.”

But is that discovery is not a one-time process. Just like qualification is not a one-time process, is as the buyer goes through this journey of accomplishing these jobs, let’s say problem identification, is, as Gartner points out, is these are actually loops. And that you may think that you’ve accomplished this job, or the buyer may think they’ve accomplished this particular job, but then a new stakeholder gets involved, and it gets reopened again. Or a new perspective gets added from a vendor, and that job reopens again, and they loop back on it.

And so you have this continually updating process, and which makes so much sense when you think about it from a discovery standpoint, and a qualification standpoint, because those two are so closely linked, is that by virtue of going through a buying process, or by virtue of having somebody be sold to, is your requirements, and your perspective about your requirements, changes as you become educated. And as you become educated, you think, “Wow, I didn’t know we could do that?”

So, now let’s factor that, I didn’t know we could do ABC. Well, now we can think we can do ABC, how does that have an impact on the identification of our problem, and the solution do we think we need for it?

And so, as a seller, when you’re really looking at discovery, it’s not, hey, this is a … we’ve got to my discovery stage, and I’m going to check off this box and said I asked these 10 questions. And that’s my exit criteria, and I’ve got answers for them. It’s like, yeah, those are static questions in a very dynamic environment. And you really have to avoid being stuck in this static perspective of what discovery is, and sales in general, and say, “Yeah, everything I know today could necessarily change tomorrow based on what the customer learns.”

Rich: And being flexible to return to those points, and not consider them ticked off the list.

Andy: Exactly. Exactly.

Rich: And that flexibility to return to that, and know that that may well come up in the process.

Andy: Yeah. And so I’ve written in the past about, you know, it’s sort of like … and I’m not a physicist, but draws an analogy to Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty, where they talk about the observer effect, as you can’t measure a position or velocity at the exact same time.

And yeah, by virtue of trying to do that, you necessarily change the outcome. Well, the same thing as the position and velocity, the buyers can change by you engaging with them, selling to them, and them speaking with you.

So that’s, to me, that’s not, oh my gosh, something I really have to watch out for. That is an opportunity, as a seller. Because if you stay attuned to this process that the buyer’s going through, and understand that they’re necessarily changing, based on what they’re learning, then you’re ahead of the game. Then you can help direct that journey much better than someone that says, “Oh, yeah, we did that, now let’s move on to the next phase.”

Rich: Yeah, a really, a concrete example from our own experience is, Allego operates in a category that, in some cases, is relatively unknown. And so people, prospects, may come to us, having discovered Allego, but in the process of doing then, they then discover that we have some competitors. And they would never even have been aware of those competitors, or even the category, had they not found out about us in the first place.

And so, as part of what we do, we’re always looking to educate the customer, to help the customer, not hide from competitors, but almost embrace that. I guess that’s what you’re speaking to, in a way.

Andy: Yeah. Yeah, well, I mean, the thing is, I think one of the worst things, as a seller, is to have no competition in a deal. To me, that increases the likelihood that the customer ends up making no decision to proceed at all.

And so I think, rather than run away from your competition, you want to embrace it, and use it to your advantage by saying, “Look, yeah, my competitors, they’re locked into this old-fashioned model of sales. They’re going to do their one-time discovery call. Yeah, we did that. Yeah, we’re going to stay alive to the possibility, because there’s some ambiguity here.” And ambiguity is really an opportunity, in sales.

Rich: In particular, then, how would … just so everybody’s clear, we’re talking about the same thing here, how are you defining discovery? What constitutes discovery from your side?

Andy: Well, I mean, yeah, I think where I look at it more comprehensively, perhaps than traditional ways of doing it, which is … for most people, discovery is, yeah, I’ve got this list of questions that I’ve been told we need to get answered. And based on that, then we can do some sort of fundamental needs analysis for the buyer, and see if they’re possibly a fit for what we’re selling.

And you still have to do that. But I think there’s a greater question you really want to answer, and that is that everybody has what I call the one thing, that really is driving their decision. I’ll give you an example. Early in my career, I went through this very competitive sales process to sell a computer system to a mid-size company. $100, $150 million dollars a year company.

And it was for an accounting system, so we went through this detailed evaluation of their needs, and extensive demonstrations of all the accounting modules that we were selling to them, and so on. And I remember going back to the customer, visiting, let’s say about six months after they had installed the system. And, of the 10 packages, accounting packages we had sold them, or modules we had sold them, they were using one. And I’m like, “Guys … “, you know, talking to the CEO. I said, “You made me jump through hoops on this, and all this detail, and all these … “, and he goes, “Yeah, but we were only concerned with the billing module.”

So all they were doing is invoicing. He said, “That’s how we justified the whole purchase price, was being more effective on our invoicing. Yeah, we’re going to get to the other stuff eventually, but that was the thing that really drove it.”

And for me, that was so eye-opening, because I have example after example after example, as I went through my own sales career, when I was personally selling, or managing sales teams with startups, where that’s what happens. The customer … yeah, we could be selling a large, complex system with all these various attributes to it, but there’s always one thing that was driving that decision. And the challenge was to find the right person, often it was the CEO, but to find the right person who could speak for the company in terms of what that priority item was.

And that’s really your job as a seller because that’s the way decisions really, I think, in my experience, that’s the way that decisions are made. Is, yeah, we’re evaluating everything, but there’s one thing that’s really driving it.

Rich: So the obvious question now, is how on earth do you go about trying to ascertain this one thing? And, as a supplementary question, just to make it that little bit harder—how do you differentiate between the noise that may come out in your attempts to find that, and the actual, deeper answer?

Andy: Right. Well, so the second part of that question we’ll address first, which is that discovery’s really tied with qualification. To me, I look at it as one thing, almost, not two separate steps. And, for someone to really be considered a qualified prospect is, and this is my experience, what I’ve seen time and time again over my four decades of sales, is that, until the customer can quantify the value of the outcomes they want to achieve, in dollars, or whatever currency they use, is they’re not yet qualified to be a prospect. They’re not a finally qualified prospect.

Meaning, until they’ve said, “Look, yeah, based on what we know so far, and based on the pricing we’ve seen, and the outcomes we think we can achieve, we’ve done this internal business case, and we said, yeah, it’s worth continuing this search.”

And so that business case is going to be based on the one thing, right? So now, if we say, okay, let’s back up here, is how do we get to that understanding? How do we make connections with people? And it’s really back to the fundamentals of sales, which I talk about, which is you have to be able to build strong enough relationships with the stakeholders that you’re talking to, that they will feel comfortable telling you what that is.

And people want to just assume that, hey, I’m talking to someone, they’re trying to buy something, they’re going to be completely open with me about what their motivations are. They’re going to be completely open with me about what they’re trying to achieve. And they’re not. They’re not equally open. They’re not equally accessible. It’s based on the level of respect and trust and connections that you have with each of the individual stakeholders or, in particular, with that one person that really knows that answer.

And so it really gets back to the beginning. How are you connecting with someone, on the human level? How are you activating their interest? How are you demonstrating your curiosity about them? Because we know that the way to become interesting to someone else is to be interested in them. Are we asking good questions? Are we really listening slowly to the answers so we fully comprehend what they’re trying to say, which is … that’s the gate that opens to empathy.

Are we ensuring that every time we interact with the buyer, that we’re delivering something of value to them, so that, at the end of the interaction, whether it’s a phone call, or video call, or whatever, they’ve made progress on their own buyer’s journey. They’re closer to making a decision at the end of the call than they were at the beginning.

If you start that base, then people are going to open up, they’re going to give you their time. Because they know they’re going to get something in return for it. And people will be more revealing, if you will, about what their motivations are, and what they’re trying to achieve. So it really starts with the relationship, and I don’t want people to be confused about this. It’s not about making friends with people, because there’s a certain segment you see online,, and I’m doing air quotes around sales experts here, who are saying relationships are dead in sales.

And nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to be effective at doing discoveries, people have to feel comfortable with you. They don’t necessarily have to tell you everything, it’s not their obligation. They have to feel that they can trust you, that your motivations are transparent, that you’re working for them, you’re just not trying to do a transaction. And all that has an impact on how much you’re going to learn in discovery.

Rich: Let’s try and fuse these two things together, and think about what are some of the outcomes in that initial discovery call that you think would lead a sales professional to consider that discovery to be successful? What are some of those outcomes that you think are the indicator of a successful discovery?

Andy: Well, yeah, I may be a bit contrary on this, because yeah, I don’t know that they necessarily are discovery calls, per se. I think that your motivation as a seller should be to say, look, I’m going to have an interaction with this buyer. And we could be at a stage where … we’ll call it the discovery stage. We’re trying to learn more about their requirements. But you’re not just gathering information. Every time you interact with the buyer, again, you have to be delivering something of value to them that helps them move closer to making a decision. And that includes during discovery.

People tend to think of discovery as this take, take, take, take. Every time you interact with a buyer, there’s got to give, give, give on your part. And so, part of comes down to just, hey, how do we ask the questions? Are we asking the questions … there’s a way you can ask a question that does start delivering value to a buyer.

For instance, you could, typical discovery call, “Mr. Prospect, do you have the requirement to do ABC?” Let’s say that’s a feature set. And this is pretty typical, you go through a list of questions. “Would it be nice if you could do this? Do you have an interest in doing this? Da-da-da.”

As opposed to saying, “Mr. Prospect, what would the impact be on your, let’s say, your revenue, your sales, over the next year, if you could do ABC?” So, suddenly, now, you haven’t said that you do ABC, and you’re not really asking if they have a particular pain point, you’re saying, “What would the impact be for you?”

Now they have to think about the answer. And this is really what you want to achieve during discovery, is are the questions you ask requiring them not to give you a rote answer, but to actually think about the impact of doing whatever, would be on their business, on the relevant portions of the business that your solution addresses.

Rich: I like it a lot. I think that’s really, really valuable. What about, then, how do you walk a fine line between asking questions like that, that perhaps the prospect feels put on the spot? Because I can imagine, asking particularly pertinent questions, not the one you gave, but others I can think of that maybe would put the prospect on the spot, do you … how do you try and navigate that?

Andy: Well, this gets back to the connection and the relationship. They’re going to feel more on the spot if you’re just coming right in and jumping right into it. Think about … and this is something that maybe seems evident, or maybe too obvious, but it’s missed by too many sellers, are you would … outside of work context if you met somebody new, would you immediately start asking them the most personal questions about themselves? Personal information? Of course, you wouldn’t.

Andy: I mean, certain personality types might, but in general, as humans, we wouldn’t do that. We’d get to know the person, we’d be curious, we’d ask some questions more generally about them. Where are you from? How long have you lived here? Da-da-da-da.

Andy: Yet they get into a business situation with another human being, and they think, oh, we don’t have to do that, because we’re here to do business, so I’m just going to jump in and ask my questions. And if you don’t have that foundation with this other human being that you’re dealing with, they’re not going to answer.

Andy: So, to your point, is you have to invest in being the best you can be at connecting with someone else, at being curious about them, and building that trust that enables them to open up. And again, I’ll reiterate something I said before, is too often sellers think, this is business. That’s their job to give me this information. If I ask, they’ll have to tell me. And that’s not the way humans work. It doesn’t Richer whether it’s in life outside of work, or if it’s in work. You have to build that foundation of trust and respect and connection first.

Rich: I think there’s so much to be said for the ability within a discovery, or throughout the sales process, the ability to educate and inform, and to provide genuine value, even if the sale goes nowhere, that at least you’ve been able to impart some information that the prospect can walk away from feeling like they’ve got something.

Rich: And I guess those questions would be part of that.

Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rich: What do you think about other approaches that involve, that kind of education piece? Not being patronizing or condescending, but being able to genuinely offer some educational value early on in the sales process, to build that trust.

Andy: Well, and so, when you look at the question format that I laid out for you, “What would the impact be?”, is what you’re doing is you’re opening the door to that education. Because first of all, they’re thinking about it in the context of their own business. So they’re starting to build their own story about what it would be like to use your product or service. Because they’ve thought about, oh, if we did it, this is what the impact would be. I can start to envision this outcome using Allego, let’s say.

Andy: So they’re starting their education right there. And then, based on what their answer is, that’s when you roll out a short story. “Well, that’s really interesting, Mr. Prospect, because that’s very similar to a company XYZ that we work for. They had a similar problem. They chose to work with us because we were able to provide this outcome. And as a result, they’ve achieved this dollar, this increased market share, increased sales, whatever.”

Andy: In 20 seconds, then, you just educated them about somebody that had a similar challenge, and yet they’ve already started to envision their outcome in their own mind. You’ve just supported it. So you’ve moved them further down the path. Because they say, “Oh. Well now we’ve got some validation about this vision I’m having. I get it. Somebody else thinks like I do.”

Rich: Superb. So, Andy, I guess, the next question from me, then, is whether or not you can recall examples. You coach, you do training. Any examples that you can recall of particularly good discovery techniques? Or just simply a story of a person or a time when you’ve experienced discovery, and it’s made a big difference for you. I’d love to know if you have any specific examples that you can share.

Andy: Well, yeah, I mean, it’s … I spent a good chunk of my career, before I started my own company, with seven or eight different startup companies in the tech space, both as an individual contributor and as a VP.

Andy: And we were selling, by and large, during a good chunk of our career, selling these large mission-critical networks, communications networks, to some of the world’s largest companies, as a startup, with no track record, no brand name, no nothing. And we were competing against large multinational tech companies, and yet we won a ton of business, and these companies grew substantially.

Andy: And so the question was always, “Well, how do you do that? How do you compete on that basis?” And a lot of that really starts in discovery, because … and some people might say, “Well, this sounds like The Challenger Sale.” To some degree, it is, to a certain degree. But through the questions you ask in discovery, if you’re asking them in the framework, in terms of putting the customer in the frame of the questions, in terms of they have to think about, and come up … think deeply, and pause, and think about, okay, what will the impact be, what will it mean for them?

Andy: When you … is they start to think about things that are different, or they start thinking differently about the problems, and potential solutions to those problems that they have.

Andy: And so that, to me, is where discovery really was important, is I could then use the discovery questions, say, “Have you ever thought about what the impact would be for you if you could do XYZ?”, is if they’d never thought of that before, suddenly you start opening their eyes to new possibilities. And we’d often run into cases where we’re selling to large enterprises where the goal would be, it’s, look, they’re doing a survey of X number of vendors, maybe 10 vendors, with the goal of reducing it down to two or three, and then they’ll release an RFP to the final three.

Andy: Our goal is to use, really, the power of discovery, is to shape and influence the final RFP. Not only to be one of the final three vendors, but also have it be shaped our vision that we’re shaping for the customer of what they can achieve, that’s unique, perhaps, and different from what they had set out, initially, to do.

Andy: So, yeah, to me that happens during discovery. That’s where you’re really opening the customer’s eyes, not during a presentation. Yeah, you can come in and give a presentation that says, “look, have you ever thought about doing XYZ?” Okay, well, yeah, in a presentation setting, it’s not quite the same. Whereas discovery is really a collaboration.

Andy: If you set up the relationship and the connection with the customer, you’re having this conversation, and suddenly you start collaborating on this potential outcome they can achieve. And they’re learning, and they’re being educated, through the questions you’re asking them.

Rich: I absolutely love that. That is, for me, that’s absolutely key.

Andy: And that’s how we, as a smaller company, companies in the past, is how we competed, is we’d change the … we’d tilt the playing field in our favor, but we did it by opening the customer’s eyes through the questions we asked.

Rich: Yeah, the thing for me … that absolutely resonates with me. Prior to Allego, I had an agency, I built an agency, and constantly we would be going in and pitching to prospects, selling services. And initially, we’d be brought in on the basis of, can you supply X? And then they would go to a number of vendors, and the vendors would compete.

Rich: But the approach I always took was to focus on the outcome of the prospect, similar to what we’ve been talking about already. Focus on the outcome, and then work together to collaborate on a solution that ultimately meant we took control of the discussion and started to lead that discussion.

Rich: And for me, the number of times that we were successful in that regard meant that it was just the right approach. It developed a relationship, really, really early on, really positive relationship. But also, that relationship extended far beyond the sale. It extended into the customer relationship. And I think, for me, that’s absolutely critical, and it saw us successful many times.

Andy: Yeah, and it’s the point I made before, is that you have to have that relationship in place first, though, to really be very effective at that. Another example is, at one startup, I was leading sales on … we were selling to this … one of the world’s largest cruise lines, at the time. And it was going to be the first example, really, in the world, of high-speed Internet communications to a cruise ship.

Andy: And so this was a while ago. But it was quite revolutionary. And so, what they wanted, they had a complex list of requirements as, “Look, we need … the customers want high-speed browsing in their staterooms. We want to be able to voice over IP. We want also connect in all of our mechanical operations onboard the ship back to our operations group.” A list of requirements. And they had a compliance matrix in their RFP that ran 300 items.

Andy: And you know that you can’t compete on the basis of 300 items. There’s always, like I said, this one thing. And what we found is, because we had built up a really good relationship with the CEO of this company, with the founder, is that the one thing actually wasn’t even on the compliance matrix. The one thing, the only thing he cared about, was how reliable the communications link was between the onboard casinos and headquarters. Because he wanted to know, every minute, exactly how much money they were taking in from the gamblers. And that’s really all he cared about.

Andy: And so that wasn’t even addressed in their RFP. So when we replied, we pretty much ignored their RFP, and we focused purely on how we were going to make sure that there was triple redundancy on this link, that it would never go down, that it was always going to be available for them, so he would always be informed. He’s the CEO. Yeah, we won, it was $8 million. We won easily, against some really big names, because we were addressing the thing that was really driving the decision.

Rich: Absolutely fantastic example. So, with one eye on the time, I just want to pivot onto a final question. There are people who either coach staff at the moment, they coach colleagues at the moment, or they aspire to coach people in the future. What advice can you give to people around coaching others in the discovery? What pointers can you give people who are trying to support other people to elevate their discovery? What things can they do to coach other people better in that regard?

Andy: Well, focus on two things. One is, to spend time educating your people about getting back to the fundamentals. How do I connect with another human being? How do I activate their interest? So I’ve got this acronym I talk about, that it’s called BALD, B-A-L-D. And these are the four core sales skills that every seller needs to master.

Andy: So, if you can focus on these, and coach people to getting at better at these. The B stands for being human. Meaning, if you’re on a call with a customer or a prospect, are you present? Are you checking your phone? Are you paying attention to what they’re doing? Are you curious about them? Do you have just a base level of curiosity that makes you want to learn something from this person?

Andy: The A stands for ask great questions. It’s as we talked about, ask questions that invoke a personal response from someone. A great discovery question, which is oftentimes overlooked, because we’re so scripted these days, is, once you’ve built this relationship, at some level, with a person, it goes through multiple stakeholders you can ask this question too. It’s a great question, it’s, “So, if you make the decision to move ahead with this investment, this project, what will the impact be on you, personally?”

Andy: And you start learning all sorts of information, because people, it’s like, oh, if you built the relationship to the point where they feel like they can open up about this, you start getting insights into the company, and this person, this critical stakeholder’s motivations, what’s driving them. Absolutely valuable, valuable information. So again, questions all about impact, and how they impact the person personally, as well.

Andy: So, be human, ask great questions. Listen slowly. That’s the L. Don’t think ahead to the next question you want to ask. Actually, listen to the answer. And I hear this on recorded calls all the time, with reps when they’re doing discovery calls, and they jump to the next question. Rather than saying, oh, here’s an opportunity to go deeper, and to ask this great follow-up question, like, “Mr. Prospect, that’s really interesting. So, what else can you tell me about that?” Or, “That’s interesting. Tell me more about that.”

Andy: But again, if you haven’t built that relationship, you might not be comfortable asking that. You might feel you have to go ahead and ask that next question on your script. So, listen slowly. When somebody, a customer, gives you an answer to a question you’ve asked, put this into your process, pause for a second before you say anything. And just think, what did they just tell me? Build-in thinking time. So that’s what I call listening slowly, actually, physically pause, and give yourself the chance to think and say, okay, what’s the next best question I can ask now? Is it the next question on my list? Or is it, “Huh, that’s interesting, I’ve heard some other customers talk about this. What else can you tell me about that?”

Andy: And then D is delivering value. As through the questions you’re asking, as I talked about before when you ask from the perspective, what would the impact on them if they could do, then … your prospects aren’t stupid, they understand. When you ask that question, oh, these guys can do that. Interesting. I didn’t know that. You’ve delivered something of value to them.

Rich: I love it, brilliant. And what a nice way to round off the conversation. You’ve delivered a huge round of value for us, and I’m really, really grateful. You’ve been extremely generous with the insights that you’ve given us, Andy.

Andy: Sure.

Rich: Yeah, superb. So, I guess, next question then, how can people find out more about you and the work that you do?

Andy: Well, they can … a couple of things. One is … I have this performance enhancement program that I run called The Sales House. And I urge people to come to check out The Sales House. And it’s at It’s a subscription service, but we have courses that dig into the details of what we’ve talked about here today. We do live coaching every week, we have a private Slack community, we have an engaged community of members who are constantly sharing best practices.

Andy: So I urge people to check out One of my other websites,, where we talk about some of the services I provide, personally, and my blog is there. And I do blog daily. Or join my mail list at, and yeah, it goes out to thousands of people every day, a sales tip, or sales perspective, if you will.

Rich: The last thing from me is just to thank you once again for, as I say, delivering a huge amount of value today. Andy, thank you, have a great day.

Andy: Rich, thanks for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

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