How to Run a Perfect Discovery Call

Freshsales partnered with Dan Smith (Sales Growth Specialist, Winning by Design) for a webinar on “How to run a perfect discovery call” on March 21, 2018. In this webinar Dan talks about:

  • How to run a professional meeting
  • Why tone is the most under-rated tool in sales
  • How to uncover impact that drives urgency
  • How to create your effective discovery meeting framework

How to run a perfect discovery call: Webinar Transcript

Tejas: Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us. I know we have a lot of people who’ve joined us from across the globe for this very, very exciting webinar that we have today. My name is Tejas Kinger, and I’m a part of the product marketing team for Freshsales at Freshworks. To tell you a little bit about Freshworks, Freshworks is a high-growth SaaS company that specializes in tools that help improve teams within organizations of all sizes. We have tools that cater to verticals such as customer service, sales CRM, and ITSM. This particular webinar is brought to you by Freshsales. Freshsales is an intuitive and easy-to-use sales CRM product. We’re about a little over a year old and we have about 10,000+ customers from about 50+ countries.

I’m really, really excited about today’s webinar. The webinar is titled ‘How to run the perfect discovery call’. And what makes it even more exciting is that we have Dan Smith with us. Dan is a sales growth specialist at Winning by Design. To tell you a little bit about them, they help their clients design, build, and scale their sales processes. They gather insights from working with cutting-edge startups and corporations in Silicon Valley and apply these learnings across the board to their clients. At Winning by Design, Dan has helped build SaaS sales teams through designing and implementing sales processes, skill development, and training. So, thank you so much Dan, for joining us and we really look forward to learning from you over the next one hour or so.

Just a quick note before we begin, I’d like to let you know that this webinar is being recorded. So if any of you are interested in listening to this webinar again, you will be provided a link to this webinar, say by Monday. We will also be taking questions towards the end of the webinar. So as the webinar progresses, feel free to key in your questions into your GoToWebinar panel. And in the end, we will curate them and have Dan answer. Without further ado, I hand it over to Dan to begin the session.

Dan: I appreciate you for giving me that warm welcome. One thing that you left out about Freshsales that is super funny to me, is all around San Francisco, you guys had the funniest ads on the buses that went by. And it was really just like a knock-off on like how hard it is to typically work with the CRM. So, I was delighted to be asked to join you and kind of teach some of your customers and fans what it means to have a really effective discovery call. So, as we get started, I appreciate you having me here. I also know that you mentioned we have about an hour total, I’m going to end a little bit early to leave enough time for some of those questions that you mentioned. And then the goal of this meeting is to really make sure that we go into the tactics. I don’t want this to be a webinar that you sit back and you’re like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” I want you to get some tools that you can start implementing after this call tomorrow or the next day when you start talking to your customers again. Does that sound like a good use of our time?

Tejas: Sounds perfect and thank you so much for remembering the buses in our ad campaign,  that’s really awesome! Alright, I think before I digress, you should begin.


Freshsales bus advertisement campaign, San Francisco, October 2017 

Dan: Alright, perfect. So the agenda, what we’re going to be going through today is first, I want to describe, “What do we mean by running an effective discovery call? What does it mean to have an effective meeting?” Then we’re going to go through some of the tactics that go into tone and asking the right questions and finally putting that all together in a framework so that you can see what that looks like. So the first part this whole thing comes down to is, “What do we mean by a discovery call? and Why is that so important when we’re working with our customers?” So to put this in context, what I’ll be describing today will work for on-site or over the phone or video type meetings. This is going to be something that’s geared specifically for scheduled calls. Now, this is not something that’s going to be effective for cold calling. When you call someone out of the blue, how you open up that conversation needs to be much different than a scheduled call. But where I find a lot of people go wrong is, they treat meetings is that, they kind of wing it. They don’t really define what’s coming next. And so this is the framework that I want to get started with. At the very beginning whenever we have a meeting, to just… I know I’ve mentioned earlier on but to make this more engaging, I’m going to ask you a couple questions.

Tejas: Okay.

Dan: So before we ever get into a meeting, what do you think salespeople or anybody in general needs to do before the meeting?

Tejas: So I’d assume that they’d have to read up a little more about who they’re going to meet and about, say what they do.

Dan: That’s exactly correct. So I’m going to count this as prep. You need to prep at some point. Gone are the days when you can just show up. And sales people think that they can be like, “Oh, I got the gift of gab! All I need to do is just show up; people like me.” Unfortunately, there’s going to be a little science that goes into it where you need to make sure that you make that customer feel like you’re an expert. And you can’t tell them that you’re an expert just by saying, “Hey, Tejas, I’ve done a lot of a lot of research on your company, I know a lot about you. But can you do me a favor and in your own words, tell me a little bit about yourself. What do you do at the company? What do you guys trying to do as an organization?” What that means is that you actually haven’t done research. You’re pretending that you have, you’re faking that you know somebody. And this is happening a lot, even in emails; people fake that they know you. So instead, you need to do some research before. You need to prep either by going to their website, their LinkedIn, go onto YouTube, see what their overview videos sound like. This helps you prepare for the meeting so that when you get there, you also have a little bit more confidence. Now this graph that I’m going to go through today it has the X and Y-axis. So the X is going to be something around time.

So as we go through the meeting, let’s say this is a 30-minute discovery call, we’re going to have a beginning, middle and the end. On this side, I’m going to measure this as engagement. I want to make sure that engaged increases over time. So at the very beginning when we’re first getting started a lot of meetings start off with talking about sports, talking about the weather, and really this is based on the old school sales tactic of building rapport. People only buy from people that they like. But really what happens when you spend all of this time going into your opener that is kind of about floofy things that don’t really matter like your favorite coffee shop that’s also down the street from them that you visited 10 years ago on a trip, that actually doesn’t help build rapport. People want to talk to somebody who’s an expert, who’s friendly, that really listens to them. So, what I want you to focus on at the very beginning of a meeting, is not just things that don’t matter but really focus on something that’s related to the business but still gets you talking. So, talk about a recent acquisition or a recent news article going on in the industry. Just ask them how that might be affecting the business. This kind of small talk is really powerful when you’re waiting for other people to join a meeting. So at this point we’re now getting into the meeting. We’re about 3-5 minutes into the meeting and everybody who needs to be there has joined. And now, you have to make that switch. And this is what professionals do. This is how you truly become a Sales Professional. Now whether or not you use my framework or another, you need to have something that demonstrates you’re about to get started.

axnot frameworkThe Anatomy of a Perfect Discovery Call. Image courtesy: Dan Smith on Medium

So, for how I like to start all of the meetings, it’s some version of what I wrote about in the blog post that I shared with you, we call this AxNOT. Now AxNOT is going to be the very beginning of the meeting. At this point these letters stand for something and I want you to practice this as you go through it. The ‘A’ of AxNOT stands for Appreciate. Just start off with a little gratitude, it doesn’t have to be dramatic. A lot of salespeople, I find, especially when they’re first getting started, they’re like, “Oh, thank you so much for joining the call.” No, just keep it simple, “I appreciate you jumping on the call today.” Then we are going to avoid the next thing that happens a lot in sales. Now let me describe the issue at hand. So when I talked to a decision maker, I’m really excited to get him on the phone. Sometimes I’ll be having a great meeting but at the end, right when I’m ready to set up next steps, they say, “You know what? I gotta run. I got back-to-back meetings, I need to run. Great meeting, shoot me over an email.” And the problem with that is that sometimes the email makes things fall through the cracks. So, at the very beginning of the meeting what I want you to do is check the end time.

So the ‘x’ stands for check. So, “I appreciate you jumping on the phone today we have 30 minutes scheduled,” and then ask, “Tejas, does that still work for you?” Now, the customer will of course say, “Yes that works,” or they’ll tell you, “You know what? That doesn’t work for me. I only got 25 minutes.” Or worse, they say, “You know what? I know we scheduled for 30 but, I’m real busy. Can we keep this to 10?” and when that happens, which is great to figure out at the very beginning, you need to make sure that you handle it appropriately. You need to think of this as a yellow light. So decide, “Do I need to punch through it and make it through the intersection? Or do I need to stop and wait for the read and handle that right now?” Now, most of the time if you have a 30-minute meeting and they say, “Uh, actually I only have 10,” that’s not enough time to deliver value. So I want you to pause and I want you to say, “Hey, you know what? I don’t think I can deliver enough value in 10 minutes so that might end up wasting your time. So maybe we schedule to a time that’s better for you?” So you figure all of that out at the very beginning, you avoid a very common pothole.

Now, I want to go into the ‘N’ the ‘O’ and the ‘T’. Now this is a way to start a conversation. We want to make sure that we’re having a conversation and it’s not just a one-way monologue. Sales people like to talk. But by scripting it in a certain way that allows you to ask them questions, gets the customer to feel more involved. So this is how it would sound like, “Naturally, you’re going to have some questions for me, obviously I’ll have some questions for you. Typically, at the end of the call, you can expect XYZ.

Now in a discovery call, if this is the first time that you really speak to somebody, the outcome of that is just to set up next step; make sure that we meet their expectations. But typically at the end of a demo, we might want to expect sending over a proposal or setting up a more technical dive on what the product requirements are. So, now what we do is at the very beginning of the call, we define a lot of things. And what is so powerful about this is that everybody is aligned at the very beginning of the meeting and it doesn’t result in sometimes the situation where the customers thought the meeting was about something, you thought it was about something else, and 15 minutes in, the customers really mad. They’re like, “Hey, when am I going to actually see that demo?” And now you can say, “Oh, we discussed at the very beginning, this is going to be a discovery call.” So, Tejas, as I’m going through this, is this the right speed? Are you be able to go through this? Do you think there’s any questions I need to handle right now?

Tejas: There aren’t any questions as of now. But I guess things are looking good so, yeah.

Dan: Okay, so let’s plough through it then. Now what I want to make sure that we do at the very beginning of this meeting is, we’re setting expectations. So just like we started off today, I want you to know exactly what we’ll be covering. This shows that I’m prepared. Now, what happens sometimes if you show up to a meeting, there’s no clear agenda, you don’t even know what the goal of the meeting is, people are going to have different expectations. So the AxNOT is going to be 30 to 90 seconds, I have a couple questions in there, check the end time and confirm the goal of the meeting; typically the outcome is to do this. Then I go into the agenda. The agenda now is about how I think we’ll get to that outcome. So our agenda today is, first we’ll talk about meetings then we’ll go into tone, XYZ.

But at the end of this, and this is one of the most critical things that I hope you get from this whole session today, when you talk about an agenda, realize that the purpose of the meeting is about helping the customer solve problems. So the question I want you to ask when you get to the agenda is, I want you to ask, “What else would you like to cover? Here’s my agenda, this is how I think it will get us to the outcome but Tejas, may ask, what else would you like to get out of the meeting today?” And this question right here is an open-ended question. I want you to ask the open-ended question. I don’t want you to ask, “Hey, here’s the agenda. Does that look good?” Because the problem with, “Does that look good? or Does that make sense?” in this context, is 99% of the time, the customers going to say, “Yes.” And this is why I also find that the question, “Does that make sense?” is actually not a great question at all. Because when I ask you, “Does that make sense?” you are 99% of the time going to say, “Yes.” Because if you said, “No,” to that question, think about what that implies. If I ask you, “Does that make sense?” and you say, “No,” either it’s me, the speaker, who is not articulate, did not explain themselves, so I’m a bad speaker or if you say, “No,” it could mean that, “Hey, you’re a great speaker but I’m just too dumb. I don’t get it. I don’t understand what you’re saying. So I’m just going to say, “Yes”, and hope that I fill in the gaps later.” So, instead of asking your customers, “Does that make sense?” ask them a more provocative question or ask them specifically what else would they like to go into. And the power of doing that when you get to the agenda, is sometimes at this moment they’re going to tell you, “You know what? I would like to talk about the things that you mentioned but I’m also really interested in security or your integrations or how you work with this particular customer.” And as soon as they give you that kind of insight on a silver platter, now you know what needs to happen next.

So this is the very beginning of the meeting. Now, as we can see, there’s some structure to it but it’s not a script. I want to start building out this framework so you can see within the different types of conversations that you have. For example, with Erica who is selling to wholesalers, now that’s going to be a way different conversation than somebody who has a more transactional sale. Somebody who comes inbound and said, “Hey, I need the best pricing. What would this cost for 10 people?” But ultimately what we’re doing is building a great conversation starter. We’re making it about the customer, we’re trying to make sure that we balance what their time expectations are with ours. So let me bounce through. Now, we’re going to go to the next phase of it, now we get into the real meat of a discovery call. Now, a discovery call in sales, this is something that typically the customer agrees to doing a 30-minute conversation.

I differentiate that from what a lot of SDRs or BDRs are doing, is their initial conversations are more like qualification calls. And a qualification call is just asking a couple of simple questions to make sure that the fit and needs align with how I can help a customer. Because it doesn’t make sense for either the salesperson or the customer to get into a long 30-minute or an hour-long conversation if actually they’re too small or they’re too big for us to be able to help. So, a qualification call is usually 5 to 15 minutes, but what we’re talking about today is the discovery call; usually about 30 minutes, where we have more time to explore.

So let me dive into what an effective discovery call sounds like. The purpose of a discovery call is this whole section. We need to diagnose our customers. We need to ask them the right questions so we can figure out what it is they’re trying to solve. Now, asking the right questions, this is something that we can spend weeks of training on. In fact, over your lifetime, you’re always going to get better at it. Now, one of my favorite examples of asking the right types of questions is really trying to figure out what answer you’re looking for. So, the most simple type of question that you can ask is a closed-ended question with no context. You can ask, “How many people work at your company?” Or if I’m on the phone with the CEO, a bad question I could ask him is, “What is your title at your company?” Now the reason that’s a bad question is because, in the day of the internet, you can figure out some things very quickly. Same thing like when you’re going into a job interview or you’re trying to get a mentorship from somebody who’s very senior. Never ask somebody a simple question that can be answered in less than 2 minutes on Google. It is your responsibility with so much different information available out there to do some research; and so this comes back to prep questions. We have 2 fundamental types of questions—closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. When I first started in sales, I was always taught, “Only ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions get the customer talking.” But unfortunately, all open-ended questions aren’t made equal there’s some really bad open-ended questions that you can ask. For example, one of my favorite books told me you should ask, “What keeps you up at night?” Now when I first started in sales, I was like, “Oh that’s a really provocative question.” But what I realized, without context, it’s a really bad question. If I ask somebody and it’s my first question to them, “What are your marketing goals for 2018?” They might not know where to start. If I ask, “What are your biggest challenges? What it keeps you up at night?” Oh, you know, I have a newborn baby at home. I’m not sleeping a lot,” or, “I went out partying last weekend and I have hangover,” all of those things it’s like, “I can’t help you with that.” So what I want to do is structure my diagnostic questions to help get to the impact as fast as possible. So there’s 2 types of questions that most salespeople are pretty comfortable asking. I’m going to simplify it at the beginning, even though there’s a lot of different amazing question based sales books out there like ‘Spin Selling’ or ‘Question Based Selling’ by Thomas Freese; both of these will help you understand how to ask great questions. Now ask questions, for me, they stand for situational questions. These are close ended they get you yes/no facts.

These are questions that are simple to ask but you ask too many in a row and it sounds like you’re interrogating the customer. But when I go into a pain question, is what’s the P stands for, these are going to be open-ended questions. So I’d say, “Hey, you have 5,000 employees at your company. Based on my research on LinkedIn, did I get that right?” it’s an example of a situational question, but I’m showing context that I’ve done research. Then I could ask, “What challenges do you have onboarding new reps when you have that many people at the company?” Now they know, they can answer that open-ended question because of the context that came before it. So this example of going closed-ended. An open-ended question is a very simple way to show that you’ve done research without just telling someone, so I’ve proven that I’ve done my research, and then I ask an open-ended question so they know, “Oh, know how to answer that open-ended question because of the question that came before it.” So this is a critical way of going through asking the right questions.

Now, when I typically train salespeople, one of the most powerful exercises that you can do is come up with SP3 questions. So come up with any question that you want to ask and then make sure you build the context towards it. It’s a very easy thing to do when you’re trying to get on the phone with somebody and you’re preparing the right questions to ask, put them in a certain order. If you want to ask about a certain process or a certain challenge you think that the person may have, make sure that you build the context with 2S questions before. So that’s a very effective takeaway, a very good exercise to run. But ultimately, just understanding the pain will not get somebody to buy a high-value ticket item.

So what do I mean by that? I’m going to draw a bad version of a car. Let’s say that I have this old car. The situation is that, this car, 10 years old. The pain of having a 10 year old car is going to be in a couple different varieties. On the one hand, it can be a rational pain—it cost too much money, the gas mileage is not very good, the maintenance also starts costing me a lot, I have to do oil changes more frequently. So, all of this is going to be rational pain. But some examples of emotional pain can be, “Hey, I use my car for work. If I’m traveling to my customer, sometimes I get anxious that I might miss my meeting if my car breaks down on the side of the road,” or, “I’m very anxious that because of my old car, there’s a bunch of scratches on there, if my customer sees that, they may think less of me.

Now these are going to be emotional pains. But ultimately, if I’m a car salesman, I hear you telling me that, I say, “Oh, so your pain is that your gas mileage is not good. Well, hey, I got a great new car, gas mileage is great. Are you ready to buy?” The problem is, that the pain does not equate the value that you’re giving me for the cost of that value. Right now it says, “Oh, you know, I’m probably spending an extra 20, 50, or 100 bucks a month because of bad gas mileage. That doesn’t justify me wanting to spend 30, 50, or 100 K on a new Tesla.” So now what I realize is that we have to go deeper. And this is what I mean by impact. We have to uncover what the customer is trying to achieve.

Now, the impact that we have here can come in 3 different stages. The first stage is going to be the rational impact. Now, this is why most people would buy something like Freshsales. If you’re trying to sell them something, they don’t just buy it because it looks nice, it has to have a business impact. So how do we help the customer realize that? Well, there’s 3 ways. The first, “Can it increase my revenue?” There’s certain products, is very clear you can do that. Other products, their impact can be decreasing cost. This is something that will help the customer realize, “If you buy this, you’re actually going to save a lot.” Now we can get into return on investment or ROI calculations. But there’s another more subtle thing that you can also tap into. Sometimes people like to buy for emotional reasons. Now, very often when we talk about big-ticket items, people justify their decision emotionally first and then justify with rational figures. So, “How much does it cost? Does this make sense?” Think about buying a car, a house, these big-ticket items, you’ll often find the people selling them will ask you to visualize yourself using that car or sitting on the back porch, drinking a glass of wine, watching the sunset.

Now, in all of these cases you say, “Oh, I can see myself living here,” and then you’ve got to figure out, “Alright, can I actually buy it or not?” So sometimes it’s important to go into the emotion. So for simplicity, I’m going to talk about this as a heart shape, but this is going to be user experience. Sometimes people are so frustrated using old technology that requires 12 clicks to do something that they just want something that’s easier to use, even if it has the same type of impact. So make sure that you try and explore that for your customers as well. Right now what we’re doing is, we discussed 3 different types of questions to help you diagnose your customer. But, you know, whenever we ask questions, at least I know. I always used to like ask these amazing questions to customers and then in my head I’d be like, “That was a great question. So now what’s another question I can ask that will really get them talking; really tell me all this info?

Unfortunately, at this point, what we’re forgetting to do is listening. And now we know that when we’re going through discovery, when I ask questions, I have to listen. So I’m going to go into that and a little bit more depth, but it’s important to realize that when you ask questions, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. So, one of the things that I want to go into now is the tone, I want to talk about tone a little bit. This is something that I don’t think a lot of people really understand how to train, how to think about, how to apply to their own sales process. Some people feel like, “Ah, this is how I talk.” But remember, your voice is the most powerful tool that you have. It’s the thing that can confess love to somebody, you can start wars, but ultimately how you speak is the foundation of how you communicate with somebody. Now sometimes when I talk really fast, it’s hard to understand me. When I do this, it’s usually when I’m very passionate about something. And a lot of you listening are very passionate about what you’re selling. And so when you talk about yourself, you’re going to talk very fast, you’re getting get very excited. But if you’re selling to somebody who’s very senior, they like to talk slow and articulately, all of a sudden there’s going to be a mismatch there. So you have to make sure that your speed and enthusiasm are in alignment with your customer’s. Also volume; speed and volume, they tend to go hand-in-hand. I’m going to talk louder, I talk faster, everything gets a little crazy! But what I want you to be aware of is that, you can control this. So a good way to apply this to your own sales is to make sure that you’re adding a little bit more energy to the conversation but not too much.

Probably a bad example to think about is, if you’re a cheerleader, just graduated from college, you can be so excited about everything, you want to talk to everybody about everything that you’re doing, so excited. But ultimately, you need to make sure that you align with the other person on the phone. If the other person on the phone sounds really depressed and they don’t like their job or they don’t like their life, I don’t want you to match that because that’s a downer. Depressed people don’t like talking to other depressed people. But try and make it 10% more energetic, more enthusiastic than they are. Add a little bit of energy to the convo, but not too much. But one of the most powerful things in sales is my effective use of silence. There’s nothing wrong with a little silence. What we need to do in sales is make sure that when I speak to somebody, I give them the opportunity to talk. A lot of salespeople they like talking and they get very uncomfortable with silence. But instead I want you to think about it; other people get uncomfortable with silence as well. So when you ask a good question, let there be silence. Let them think about what you just said before filling it in.

One of my biggest struggles when I first started, you know, I was that enthusiastic fresh graduate from college and I just talked a mile a minute. But what I realized is, when I slowed down, I started filling in the silence with ‘uh’s, ‘uhm’s, ‘got it’s, ‘cool’, ‘perfect’, ‘yeah’, ‘uh-huh’. All of these filler words actually also don’t provide anything the conversation. So I got into a bad habit of saying ‘uh’ every third word. And spoiler alert, when you do that, you don’t sound confident. Now you’re probably not going to lose deals just because you say ‘uh’ every now and then, but if you’re standing on stage and you realize that you say ‘uh’ all the time, this is going to reflect that maybe you don’t master, you’re not an expert in what you’re talking about. So instead of saying ‘uh’ try and train yourself to slow down and fill it with silence. Get comfortable with silence; it’s a really effective use of tone.

So as I go through this meeting I realize I’m going to ask questions, I’m going to listen effectively, and what I mean by listening effectively is that I don’t just say ‘aha’ or ‘got it’ or ‘yep, I hear you’, it’s actually proving that you heard active listening is not saying, “Yeah, I heard you,”. Active listening is mirroring what the customer has said. So if they tell you something make sure that you write down the tone word that they used and say, “Oh, that feature is particularly important to me,” or, “I’m so frustrated with the existing solution that I have,” come back to them and you say, “Oh, what is frustrating about your existing solution?” or, “Why is that feature of particular interest to you?” This use of mirroring shows the customer that you’re engaged, that you’re responsive, that you actually care about them. And when you show somebody that you care about them, they’re going to open up more. They’re going to tell you really about what’s going on, what they’re looking to solve, and this is going to help you diagnose them much faster. When I get into impact, this is the thing that we need to realize that you have to sell against impact, unless you’re doing something super transactional, pain might work. Pain helps you with like low ticket items where the cost isn’t very high so the risk isn’t very high.

But people are not going to buy something from a sales person just because you tick off a couple low level pains. They’re going to buy based on impact. Especially in today’s world when we’re very familiar with subscription-based pricing, it’s very easy for customers to say, “Oh, I’m not getting any value from this; unsubscribe.” And now the big revenue driver is gone. So now we’re starting to get into a lot of different elements of what we want to talk about. But before I go too much deeper, Tejas, any questions from the audience? Anything that you want to make sure that I go into deeper before going to the next topic?

Tejas: There actually aren’t any more questions from the audience as of now. But I’d just like to repeat to the audience, if you guys have any questions before we move on, please feel free to key them into your GoToWebinar panel and I think Dan would be happy to take them right away.

Dan: Absolutely! Makes it more engaging, more fun to work with. So, let’s break down on what we’ve gone through so far. Tejas, please just interrupt me whenever a question comes in and you think is going to be relevant to the audience. Let’s go back to this car analogy and how it can apply to your sales process.

So, something that I want you to think about is, the persona that you’re reaching out to, what are this typical situations that they care about? So you can do some research. So the situation that they might be in is—my target customer typically has this type of employee or this type of tool that they’re using looking for this type of solution. These are all going to be situations. Then I want you to break down the pain. Now pain can be, “What are the challenges that they have?” But the key here is realizing that people in different roles have different types of challenges. If you ask a CEO or VP, somebody very high level in a company, they care much more about the strategic impact of a solution than if you were to talk to an end user. So make sure that when you’re uncovering the pain, you think about it in the title totem-pole. So, when I visualize this, I like going through it like this—I’ll have 3 different tiers of people that I reach out to. At the top tier, this is going to be the CXO; so CEO, CEOs, CFOs, people at the very top tier. Then I go down here, usually the next rung is on the VP level. But at the bottom, and then there can be end-users. So really, “Who is your solution helping solve for?” And now I can start aligning the situation that each of these people might be in and then the pain that they have. Now when I get the pain from a certain level, I think the easiest thing to apply overall to this framework is, let’s talk about the VP level. VPs are going to be unique in that, they care a little bit about the strategy and not as much about the tactical. When you talk to a VP, and let’s say you’re selling them a solution, a platform, application, something you do is software, they don’t care about how easy it is to sign up for it on mobile on desktop. They don’t need to see what the login instructions are; that’s something that’s very tactical. They don’t need to see per se, how easy it is to run a report, run a dashboard and see all the information. What they care about is, “What can you do? What can you do for the business from a strategic level?” Now in this case, don’t demo them how easy it is to use a tool, demo them the strategic impact your tool could have.

So, now we know that based on persona, “What is the pain that I’m going to address? How do I try and diagnose those pains?” And this will help you prepare and structure a better conversation. Then, these pains of course have to lead to an impact. So in this example we know that we have pains associated with a car. The pains associated with car we discussed before, mileage, maintenance, anxious about being with the customer, what is the impacts of those create? Now I’m not going to buy a new car just because I want better gas mileage. But if the impact of getting better gas mileage allows me to provide groceries for my kids or go on a vacation one extra time per year and this will be meaningful to my marriage, all of a sudden that’s an impact that I can associate this purchase against. When it comes down to software sales, remember the 3 types of impact—increase revenue, decrease costs, better experience, what does that actually mean to the business? So run this example, think about this car analogy, how can I apply it to my own sales? What are my customers impacts of solving the pain? This is going to be first, second level type thinking. It’s easy to come up with. “You can save this amount of time. And if you’re wasting an extra 10 hours a week, that relates into an extra 100K across the company per year. So buying a 20K solution to solve a 100K problem, that makes sense.” But that’s bottom-line thinking. What I want you to do is go up to the next level and start thinking about, what else would you do at that time? So not only with that time you get back, now that you have that time, does that mean a new product launch or delaying bad issues that could come up because now you have more time for QA? So now all of these things can have a direct impact to the business. So how does this all fit together? Oh, Tejas, yeah.

Tejas: So, we actually have 2 questions.

Dan: Oh, good, good, good!

Tejas: Since you were actually speaking about impact, we have a question that actually talks about it. Emily asks, “You talked about 3 stages of impact, would you ask all 3 questions to the customer?

Dan: Okay. So at this point we have to know a little bit something about our customer in our solution. So when I work with a customer that’s providing insurance or cybersecurity, their value prop isn’t to increase revenue. So in this case I wouldn’t ask about that because they buy my solution to help protect against something. So really is to decrease cost or decrease exposure. if I had a breach, what would that mean to my business. So now they buy for a different type of impact. So all three are not always related or always something that you have to go through. But if your solution, Emily, does have that then, yes, I would love for you to explore which one of those is the higher priority to your customer so that when you build a quote or a proposal, you put it in their context what they care about. So, thank you for asking that.

Tejas: We have 2 more questions. Would you want to take them right away?

Dan: Yeah, sure. Let’s go, yep!

Tejas: Perfect, awesome! So Shawn here asks us, “Do you find it more effective to build rapport at the beginning or at the end of a discovery call?

Dan: So, rapport is one of those interesting and I think a little bit overused in terms of sales. Now, the theory of rapport building is that, people buy from people that they like. Now I think that’s pretty simplistic. I think that of course I prefer to talk to people that I like. But one of the best things that I learned from my business partner is that, there actually should be no difference of how you treat your friends and how you treat your customers or your prospects. You should communicate with people the exact same way. Always treat them with respect, always make it about them. Now for some insight about where the theory and the science really comes behind it, I think Dale Carnegie said it best, “When you want somebody to like you, all you have to do is ask them about themselves.” So, Shawn, when I if I were to meet you at a meet-up or networking event and we were to go face-to-face and I came up here said, “Hey, Shawn, tell me a little bit about yourself,” what do you do? Now you start explaining; people like talking about themselves. So if I responded and I said, “Oh, great well, you know, I also do this. I’m very passionate about sales process and training and coaching,” I made it about myself. And this is what a lot of salespeople do. They feel comfortable talking about themselves so they pitch, they talk about themselves, their product, their features, and benefits. But realize, if you want your customer to like you, ask them about themselves, “How have you try solving that in the past? Why is that important to you? To what extent does solving that challenge means something to your business?” Now when you start doing this, people start realizing, “Wow! That was a thoughtful question,” or, “I’ve never thought about combining this issue and that part of the business with the issue on a different part. Yeah, I see how those are related that actually has a big issue.” So when you get started there’s going to be a fine balance.

Now, when I first meet somebody and I don’t know them at all, I actually don’t really like talking them about things I’m passionate about like biking, coffee, because I don’t even know if I’ll talk to them again. But over time if I build a relationship with somebody, it can be a little bit rude to only talk about business. You know, “Hey, you told me you went on this ski trip, how did that go last weekend?” So I think there’s a different time for different parts of your relationship, but in today’s world, Shawn, things are moving so much faster that you need to make sure that you get to the point right away. Especially when you’re talking to executives, don’t be floofy, don’t beat around the bush, get straight to the point, “Why are you talking? What research have you done? Why do you think it matters to my business?” And realize that people care more about themselves until they realize that you can help them. Once you show them that you know about them you can help solve a problem then, you can start focusing on other parts of building the relationship and building rapport.

So, I hope that was a comprehensive way of thinking about when to build rapport. Not just at the beginning, not just at the end, but there’s going to be a bell curve a variety of when you actually apply that report building. So thanks for the question. You said one more?

Tejas: Yes, there’s one more. Jarifa asks, “What if your client or your prospect identifies a challenge for you, for which you do not have a readily available solution or product. How do you respond?

Dan: Jarifa, okay. That an excellent question and actually just comes back to my story of something that my business partner shared with me. When you treat somebody the same you would with a friend, a relative, same as a customer, in this scenario, the framework that I want you to think about the modern sales professional. Anything today in sales, is not about the old-school tactic of ‘always be closing’.

So, the premise of your question is, “If I can’t solve something that they need or asking for, I need to figure out a way to sell them something else or do something.” But what I want you to realize that there’s so many different options out there for people that your main value is helping them solve problems. So, if you realize they have a big problem that you actually can’t help solve, please focus them and where you think you can be most helpful. Maybe that’s a competitor, maybe that’s a completely different solution. So for example if I’m selling an email tracking software, but the customer I’m working with doesn’t have a CRM in place, it doesn’t make any sense for their business to invest first an email tracking before they’ve defined the process. So I would suggest to them first to say, “Hey I would love to work with you but at this point in your business, I suggest getting a CRM implementation. As soon as that happens you’re going to find benefit from our solution. We’ll help augment that but it doesn’t make sense for you before.” So this is something that I would like you to consider is that your focus as a sales professional is to not be the shepherd of information. Alright, this is the old-school way like, “You tell me your price if I give you my budget.” This comes back to this relationship between the customer and salesperson, it is a kind of a battle.

But, what I want you to think about is, you’re on the same side of the table with them, you’re a business professional helping another professional solve problems. And the reason this is so powerful is, when you actually show them that you can be very helpful, they’re going to remember you. They’re going to say, “Hey you know what? It wasn’t the right time now but maybe if I go to a different company in the future and this person is an expert in this, I’m going to call them up first. They’re very helpful, they’ll give it to me straight.” So don’t think of it as pitching or trying to find a solution when one doesn’t exist, think of it much more about helping your customer solve problems. So thank you for asking that question. Now let me go through one more, Tejas, and then let me kind of wrap up what we talked about with the framework, and then we’ll open it up for a couple of questions at the end. Does that sound fair?

Tejas: Perfect.

Dan: Okay, excellent. So what we’re going through here, what we’ve started writing on the board is really, “How do I run an effective meeting?” Now at the end here I’m diagnosing somebody and one of the questions I got from a student yesterday was, “If I’m spending all of my time asking questions, there’s actually no value for the customer.” They’re going to feel like, “Well, I did a 30-minute call but I actually didn’t see anything, I don’t understand anything,” but here’s the kicker—When you diagnose somebody, when you show them that you’re listening, you help organize all of the challenges they have and structure it, so you say, “Well, this is your number one priority, this is what you’re looking to solve, and now you can summarize and say, “My diagnosis is this and here is my prescription.” Now, I come from a medical background so I think of this in a very process and scientific way.

I don’t think sales is as much of an art as a lot of people think. I think there’s skills, there’s foundation that they can learn and then start to apply. So in this case when you’re wrapping up your meeting, you’ve gone through your diagnosis, I want you to summarize your diagnosis before giving them your prescription. Now the prescription would be a product demo or providing a solution that you have. But ultimately what we want to do in this point is end the call with them realizing the value that you could provide. “I understand what you’re looking to solve, here’s what I suggest is the next step,” and then you create it. Now this creation point come back to the very beginning. Now when I first started speaking to you today, I tried to demonstrate this in real time so you could hear and make sure it doesn’t sound scripted. At the very beginning of when I first started speaking I went through a version of AxNOT, “I appreciate you being here. We have 30 minutes. I’ll leave some time at the end for questions. And the outcome of this meeting is to give you…,” in this case I said, “some tactical things that you can start using.” What I started doing is building out the next step. I’m just going to put this is a big ‘N’ for next step. Now at this point you’re five minutes towards the end of the meeting or when you discussed you’d stop talking, I want you to do a quick recap. At the beginning, we talked about the ‘T’. Typically the end of this meeting will end with this, make sure that I meet your product requirements and if so, we’ll move forward to next steps.

So now at the end of the meeting, you’re going to refer back to the beginning of the meeting. So I’d say, “Hey, Tejas, at the beginning, we discussed that by the end, we’ll go through give you some tactical things you can start applying right away to your sales. May I ask did you see what you needed to see today?” And the customer should tell you, “Yes, I see exactly what we went through. We accomplished the goal of the meeting.” Now if they say, “No, actually I don’t really see how this could map,” now you have 5 minutes to try and balance that. Now if you realize they ask a question that’s going to take more than the 5 minutes you have left, use that time to schedule another call. But if it’s a quick question, handle it right away, so that there’s no lingering thoughts. But you realize that you’re doing is you’re structuring the meeting like a professional. You’re organizing when certain things happen and you don’t just rush at the end. Your responsibility as a sales professional today is, not to just tell the customer what they should be doing, it’s to help them realize that they have some problems that they may or may not know about, the impact that they could have to the business, and then the solutions and the trade-offs that they have to solve those problems. Your role is to help make that as easy as possible. You’re the expert; you help people like them solve problems just like they described. So now what I do is I structure at the beginning of the meeting to open up, with the AxNOT, the agenda, show that I’ve done some research. Then I go into the middle part which is whatever the objective of the meeting is. In a discovery call, the objective is diagnosing your customer. So in this case, we really focused on question based selling; closed-ended questions, open-ended questions, making sure that you provide some context. And then finally, the end of the meeting is setting up next steps; summarizing what you know, suggesting what a potential solution is, and defining what next steps look like. Now all of this together is how you run a perfect discovery call.

None of it I’m trying to say, is going to be easy. None of the things that we talked about today is going to be the Silver Bullet, and all of a sudden you’re going to start closing all your deals. But, what you’ll realize is that this is a great way of having a conversation. I always joke that when I first got engaged and we had to start doing wedding planning, sometimes I would have this issue where I’d still be working and my wife would come home and say, “Oh, can you help me figure out what color we want the table cloths to be?” And I said, “Sure yeah, no problem. I don’t mind talking to you about that. I don’t particularly care what color so this should be easy.” But then an hour into the conversation and I’m like, “Ah! I still got work to do,” I’m getting frustrated, she’s getting frustrated. So what I realized is that even doing something as simple as a version of AxNOT, even with my mom, my spouse, anybody that I work with, all this is doing is at the beginning, setting expectations then going through what you want to accomplish at the end; “Did we hit what our expectations were?” So this type of communication is why it’s so valuable for any type of meeting; on-site, over the phone, video conference, you’re going to sound like you’re prepared, you’re an expert, you know what you’re talking about. And as soon as you start doing that, your confidence will build, people will also want to talk to you they’ll start opening up, and all of these little steps that we talked about today are going to start helping you have better conversations with your customers.

So, I hope that that helps put everything together that you understand how this framework could apply to you and then some of the levers that you have in your own process on when do you orchestrate certain parts of these elements. So thank you, Tejas, why don’t you wrap it up. I know that we have some questions that have flowing through. So guide me; where do we want to talk about next to make sure this is most effective for everyone?

Tejas: So I guess, we can start off with taking the questions. Does that sound good to you?

Dan: Perfect!

Tejas: Perfect! So we have a question here from Ignatio. He asks us, “Do you also apply this process the meetings that happen in person? Is there a difference?

Dan: Yeah, yeah absolutely. So yes, you do apply this to meetings in person. So, I know I just gave that analogy of doing it with my wife, now a lot of people make fun of me for doing that, but ultimately this is just having a good conversation. So yes, do it in person but the major difference is that, when I do it remote, let’s say it’s just a phone call, I can have a visual framework like this up on my screen, and so if I get lost I know where to go. In person, it requires you to practice it more. So don’t just start applying this right away, try practicing this with a colleague or somebody before and say, “Hey you know what? I’m about to get on the phone with Shawn, so Tejas, can you help me? Can we just do a quick role play? I’ll start off the call and then you practice. This is what I think the call will sound like,” and then it will become more natural. It’s just like what athletes do preparing for a big game. So thank you for the question.

Tejas: I think Emily again has a question that’s quite similar, but, I guess we have to delve a little more into detail to answer this. So, she says, “You talk about not having a script however, when you have a face-to-face meeting, you think you need to know the framework by-heart or do you use a cheatsheet?

Dan: So, I think that there’s different levels of doing that. I think when you’re first starting out, you want to make sure that you have a cheatsheet. I don’t think that even if you do a face-to-face meeting, if you come prepared with a notebook and in that notebook you have a rough draft about what you want to cover when and you reference back to it during the meeting, you actually look like prepared; that you’re trying not to waste their time. But a lot of times what will happen… so, Emily, let me give you a personal example. I was so excited to talk to this VP of Sales that had just started on to a new role. Now, in my old company this structure was SDRs and AEs. And I was an AE so I was responsible for closing business where the sales development representative, the SDR, would be somebody who’s trying to prospect and open it up. But in this case, I have found my own deal; this guy responded to one of my prospecting emails. So, I got on the phone and his name is Greg. Greg picked up the phone and the first thing that he asked me, ended up making my palms sweat, I started spiraling out of control, I was completely unprepared. And what had happened is, before I had gone on a discovery call,I had back-to-back meetings. I was like, “Oh, you know, I’ve done some research done in the past, I’ll be able to wing it.” But his first question to me, which is something that I always want you guys to be prepared before getting on the phone is, he simply asked me, “Do you know what we do?” Now, in this case, they were in involved in the financial sector. So I stumbled around and I said, “Oh, you’re involved with helping companies figure out accounting,” and I started rambling. So, he said this very simply, “We help build beautiful software for small businesses to do things in finances that they’re typically uncomfortable with.” I was like, “Oh! That’s a very simple explanation!” But then, I did something else that was really bad. I said to myself, “Okay, you know, that wasn’t a good start but I’ll fix it.” I’ll show them all of the amazing customers that we work with and I put up the logos. I say, “Hey, here’s all the companies,” he said, “Oh, how do you work with that particular company?” I was like, “Oh, you know, I wasn’t on those deals so…” and I didn’t know. And what I found out later is that, he had worked at that company before. And so I had proven to him twice now that I haven’t done my research. And so this type of thing can be prevented and this is why I started off with prep.

So, in person, still come prepared, know what questions that you want to ask, know something about that customer, show them that you care about them. Because really, you’re asking them for something before you’ve delivered any value. So, make sure that you show them that you’ve invested in them, you care about them what they care about, what they’re trying to solve and then you’re not coming in there just to try and sell them something they don’t need. That kind of old-school salesman mentality doesn’t work anymore. People now want to buy for solutions that have an impact. So you can’t just wing it. Come in prepared, whether that’s in person or over the phone, that’s okay. So practice the framework before as much as you can but even if you’re first getting started, show that you’ve done your prep work, apply this framework, you can reference back even when you’re having a real call. Thank you for the question.

Tejas:  Dan, it looks like there are a lot of interesting questions. But I think we’re running a little short on time, so I’ll try and get as many as I can to you.

Dan: Yeah, choose your favorites. You can pick and choose which ones you think will have the best impact for most of the audience.

Tejas: Right. So, I think Jonathan here has quite an interesting question which is, “What is the best way to handle a client who wants to push a discovery call into a demo?

Dan: Ah! Okay, so this is a really wonderful question. Because the frame of mind is, “I’m selling something that’s more transactional or I’m selling to small businesses.” Now, in this case, the decision-making process is going to be very quick. Let’s say, I’m sell to a 10 person company, the decision maker is probably going to be the CEO; or may be somebody right under them. So I shouldn’t put them through my enterprise selling process. They don’t have to go this and then this and then this. So, what I want you to think about is, “What is in the best interest of the customer?” But what I want you to also remember is that, when someone asks you the simple question, “Hey, Tejas, what do you do at Freshsales?” my gut reaction is to start pitching, “Oh, at Freshsales, this is what we do.” But what you should do is say, “Hey, before I just tell you about what we do, may I ask you 2 questions to make sure I make it relevant to you?” And so if your customer is showing up to your discovery call and they say, “Hey, I don’t want to answer any of your questions, I just want to see what I got,” their mentality is, “If I see it, I can make a decision faster.” But what you should realize is that, “There’s 50 different things that I do to help customers. But to make it more relevant for you, may I ask you one or two questions to start showing you the right thing?” And this is what’s so beautiful about that kind of objection handling, is when I usually hear that type of thing is, the customers will get on the phone and be like, “I don’t want to talk to a Salesperson, I just want to see it. Show me what you got.” And if you do what a lot of salespeople are trained to do which is to say, “No, this is a discovery call, I’m not showing you anything,” the customer is going to sit on the other end and be like, “Oh, what is this person hiding? What’s going on? Just wasting my time.” So, you have to do a little sales judo in that case. You have to say, “Hey, typically I just want to make sure that we meet your requirements because there’s so many different things that we can do. So, instead of just showing you a generic product demo, I’d like to show you the three things that may have the biggest impact on your business. May I asked you a couple of questions to do that?” Now in this case if they say, “No, I just want to see it,” then start showing your screen. But you can do something special, say, “Hey, while I’m showing up my screen, you know most people who are VP of IT like you really care about this feature so I’m going to show you that first. May I ask…” And now as you’re showing them something, you’re still asking them questions. And now the customer will hopefully we’ll get more at ease because they feel like they’re getting what they want, which is to see something, but you’re still secretly getting what you want which is really diagnosing them, making sure that you can actually solve their problem.

So I hope you see how you can play that and obviously it’s different for different companies, but I hope you understand the frame of mine from the customer’s perspective and then what you can do as a sales person. So thank you for the question.

Tejas: So Jim here has a very, very interesting question. I’m pretty sure this is something that’s always on top of all of our minds. “So, are there any indicators, any warning signs or body language that you should look out for, that tells you whether a meeting is going well or not?

Dan: Absolutely. I think where this comes to mind, is it’s not anything secret like you would, say, “Oh, if they look top left, they’re lying,” you can tell right away if somebody likes you or not. Now the easiest thing to see are arms crossed, are they leaning back or are they leaning forward and saying, “Oh, that’s really interesting,”? And what you realize is when you engage somebody and make them feel like they’re heard, they’re much more likely to do this. But, if you’re starting to pitch or talk about things that they don’t really care about, they’re going to be like, “Uh-huh, yeah, yeah.” And what I want you to realize is, when you talk to someone who’s it I can alpha female, alpha male, somebody who feels very powerful and say, “Oh, I don’t think that you can do this,” or, “Why do you solve it like that,” now all of a sudden if you respond to them like they just talk to you, you’re going to clash, and if they’re really alpha, they’re going to win that every time. But in salespeople, it’s not about a battle; it’s not about who’s right, who’s wrong. You got to think about the mentality, “Can I help this person or not?” So at that point when you see somebody… now this can be the tone of voice if you don’t… if you’re just on a phone call. But even on video messaging you can see, “Are they writing notes? Are they doing emails distracting?” And my best tool for figuring out if they’re engaged or not is asking them a question. When I read, I can read 300, 500 words per minute, but I can only talk 80, 100, 120 words per minute. So there there’s this big gap in my comprehension ability, but when I ask somebody a question, no longer can they be distracted. Because they can comprehend 300, 500 words per minute, but they can only hear me speak 100; so there’s that gap of at least 200 words. But when I ask you a question, you have to be 100% focused on answering that. So, if you feel you’re talking to somebody who’s distracted, I want you to do this, I want you to summarize, “Hey, 10 minutes ago you mentioned your number-one priority is this. How does your current question or the issue help solve that?” Now when you ask them a question, they’ll get more engaged. So, hopefully, that was an interesting way of you thinking about how to drive engagement when there’s no recognizing it or when you don’t have it. So thank you for the question.

Tejas: Thanks, Dan. This is the last one we’ll be taking and this is a question that a couple of people have actually asked us.

Dan: Okay.

Tejas: I’m just going to put all of that into one question, which is, “When doing a cold call, what are some of the techniques that we can take from this framework and apply it to that?

Dan: Okay, so the cold call has a completely different framework, but let me give you a little teaser. Our limbic system is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. When I call somebody and it’s unscheduled, out of the blue, your first question can be, “Hi, how are you?” or, “Did I catch you at a bad time?” Now both of these were taught to us as old-school sales professionals because that used to work. And the mentality was, when I talked to a stranger and I… let’s even go back further. When I was a hunter-gatherer and I hear rustling in the bushes, I’ve got to figure out, “Is that friend or foe? Do I need to run or not?” When I get an unscheduled cold call, I am asking myself some similar questions, “Who is this? Why are they calling? And what’s in it for me?” So, at the beginning of your cold call, you need to make sure that you’ve shown that your prep work. I don’t want you to ask them, “Hey, how are you?” because ultimately, they don’t know who you are. So when they hear that rustling in the bushes, they’re going to be like “I still don’t know if that’s friend or foe.” But also when you ask, “Hi, how are you?” that’s wasting time. Get to the point. “Who are you? Why are you calling? What’s in it for me?” And this is the critical way of starting off. Now I mentioned that asking about, “Did I catch you at a bad time?” I used to ask this all the time. The thought process was, strangers always say, “No.” So if I ask you, “Did I catch you at a good time?


Did I catch you at a bad time?


But ultimately, we’re not trying to trick our customers anymore. The new way of selling is to help them solve problems. So don’t try and play mind games on then, don’t ask them backwards questions, because in reality, it’s only salespeople who ask about that. So instead, value their time and the fastest way to do that, show you’ve done your research, show that you know something about them, and you can hopefully help them solve a problem. Answer the question; who you are, why you’re calling, and what’s in it for the customer. Okay, I hope that helps wrap everything together.

Tejas: Yeah, it does thank you. Thank you so much, Dan. I think we’ve had a lot of lot of interesting questions so, I guess that goes to show that folks were really tuning in and I think they picked up quite a bit from this webinar. Thank you so much and thank you all for joining us. I know we have a couple of folks who’ve joined us from India, pretty late out here, so thank you so much for joining us. And those of you who’ve joined us from other parts of the world, thank you, have a good day/good night and we really look forward to seeing you once again in our next webinars that we have.

Dan: Yes, I look forward to it!

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