The customer discovery process is important. It’s the Holy Grail of startups. Use it to kick off product design and business development. How many times do you not have an answer to your customer’s question? What is the impact on customer discovery process, business development and sales processes ?
Customer discovery process makes you squirm in your seat, especially if you are a technical professional. Perhaps you have taken on a selling role. Your engineering education reinforces you always are the repository of the information you need to answer questions. After all, when I have a question, who do I ask? You got it: an engineer. Admitting you don’t know the answer is, well, excruciating. Customer discovery process is all about what you don’t know vs. what you haven’t done.
Part of any sales training course has to do with how to respond when asked a question for which you don’t have an answer. Perhaps it’s a piece of technical information about your product, service or platform. Perhaps it’s a question dealing with bundling features and service plans. That’s where your customer discovery processes come into play.
So what do you say? The usual response is: “I don’t have the answer for your question? I will get it for you and let you know.” There are lots of variations of that sales-training spiel. (I can feel the engineers reading this and gritting their teeth, but c’mon, you’ve seen this scenario and heard this response yourself).
Whatever the subject, you don’t have an answer. You felt you didn’t have to know that answer because you could always tell the customer you would get back to them with the information – the information you didn’t have in the first place. Because you neglected to ask that question during the customer discovery process.
Does your sales culture reinforce that returning to the customer with the information you didn’t have an answer for in the first place, is a great way to get a second meeting? You may have an elegant customer discovery process. However, your customers don’t have the time to participate.
Have you considered that not having the answer, or the information from which to deduce the answer, tells your customer that you did not take the time to anticipate their questions?
Take a solid look at your customer discovery process. What are your current “have nots?” If you are part of too many sales meetings or demos where you or your team tells the customer “I’ll get back to you with that information” you may want to create a “Have not” check list, like the one I’ve started for you, below. Work to move everyone from the “Have not” side to the “Have” side.
Feel free to add to the list. I’d like to know what you’d include.
What have you omitted as part of your customer discovery process? To start you off, you won’t have the answer to the customer’s question if you have not:
1) done your homework about the customer, their company, their industry, the why-what-how-when they make decisions;
2) researched your product-service-platform sufficiently to have a comfortable working conversation with key decision-makers, who might be technical;
3) done more than merely memorized sales scripts, including the ones titled “responding to push-backs”, “overcoming pricing objections” and yes, the terrifying “what our technology offers”;
4) asked colleagues, even the ones from a cross-functional discipline, to help you better understand your product, deliverable, platform, technology, finances, you name it;
5) previewed your agenda for meeting with your customer, in person or virtually, with your internal collaborators – you do have an internal group of folks who vet each other, right?;
6) been proactive and anticipatory of the types of questions your customer might ask you during the meeting, as well as the roles and functions of additional members of the customer’s team who might show up to your meeting.
A robust customer discovery process provides rich insight. If you don’t have the answers to many of the questions your customers ask you during even first appointments, business development is derailed. If you set yourself and your company up as domain area experts, and yet are unable to answer even the basics, you lose credibility and brand equity in the process. You don’t earn the right to a next meeting.
A robust customer discovery process establishes value. Take the steps towards understanding the breadth and depth of what your product, service, platform offers to the breadth and depth of the industry and market segment into which you are delivering it.
You can eliminate many of the “I don’t knows” from your sales arsenal by adding to your “I have done” list. You can add to your value in the customer discovery process.
What areas of your customer discovery process will you be working on this week?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.