Sales Discovery and Prospecting | Sandler Pain Funnel

Sales Discovery: More than Just a Needs Analysis

One of the topics that has been popping up quite a bit lately with clients has been about the specifics of sales discovery, the kinds of questions to ask and how to deal with it. Discovery is really one of the harder components of the sales process to help salespeople master simply because it’s non-linear. There are a lot of pieces to understand including how sales discovery relates to the buying process, to need, to pain or to gain, and to the impact of a particular niche.

Those are the components that correlate with an actual purchase, but it still comes down to, “How do you ask these questions?” You can’t just say, “What’s your need?” It’s a progressive level of understanding. In fact, as I’ve said before, I use the term “discovery” rather than “needs analysis” because I consider it a process of mutual exploration. Part of the value of the salesperson emerges within the sales discovery process as we help the prospect or client increase their understanding, find their blind spots, and think more critically about their situation.

While sitting with a client yesterday talking about the sales discovery process, we very successfully identified the conversation components of discovery in their marketing, including the technical, infrastructure and business value pieces. However, what we were wrestling with was creating a hierarchy of questions to probe for greater depth. How do you get more information out of a prospect?

Some sales methodologies suggest that you get greater depth of understanding by basically continuing to say, “Tell me more,” and that you simply keep asking, “Why?” Meanwhile, I’ve been racking my brain because I know somewhere I’ve seen a really good articulation of this concept of questioning depth and intensity from broad to very specific, but I just couldn’t think what it was.

Well, this morning, I happened to be taking a conference call in an office space that is owned by my good friend Steve Parry, who is a Sandler sales consultant. For those of you that don’t know of it, Sandler Selling is an absolutely fabulous package selling methodology that’s used the world over and is one of the programs that I advocate strongly for when clients say ask if I know somebody who can come in and train 50 salespeople. It’s a great methodology, but one of the brilliant tools that Sandler uses was staring at me on the wall while I was on the conference call. It’s called the Sandler Pain Funnel, and the idea is that you move down the funnel and ask progressively more insightful series of questions.

So if you are a salesperson who has been wrestling with how to ask better questions, I really recommend you take a look at this pain funnel diagram and consider the ways that you can ask essentially the same question over and over again to get more information about the particular topic. Lastly, if you haven’t ever looked into it, definitely check out Sandler Sales. These will both help you tremendously.

By Townsend Wardlaw