Structure The Perfect Discovery Call
With Guest Nikki Rausch
Tailoring your approach based on unique offerings and understanding the prospect's situation optimizes the potential of converting a lead into a client.
The How To Sell More Podcast
November 8, 2023
In the latest installment of "How To Sell More," we explore the nuances of crafting an effective discovery call. Our expert guest, Nikki Rausch, stresses the essential task of zeroing in on a potential client's specific needs.
- The heart of a discovery call is the accurate recognition and comprehension of the client's unique challenges.
- Achieving the perfect balance between detailed preparation and flexible responsiveness is crucial.
- Skillfully steering the conversation with targeted questions can transform the dynamic in your favor.
Nikki Rausch brings a wealth of sales expertise to the table, boasting over 25 years of experience and a track record of dealing with industry heavyweights like The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and NASA. Her extensive background is complemented by her roles as an accomplished writer, a frequently requested speaker, and the visionary leader of the Sales Maven Society.
Links to This Episode
- The Primary Objective of a Discovery Call is Understanding the Prospect - It's vital to ask smart questions that help in determining whether the prospect is an ideal client and if the service or product being offered can address their needs.
- Preparation for the Discovery Call Should be Balanced and Purposeful - While preparation is essential, over-preparation can lead to preconceived notions, which might hinder genuine interactions with the prospect.
- A Structured Approach to the Discovery Call Ensures Effectiveness - It's beneficial to set a clear timeframe for the call and establish the conversation's objectives upfront.
Top 3 Reasons to Listen
Avoid Common Pitfalls: Nikki discusses common mistakes salespeople make during discovery calls, offering listeners a chance to learn and avoid these pitfalls.
Deep Dive into Objectives: Understand the true objective of a discovery call and why it's crucial to prioritize understanding over selling.
Power Dynamics: Explore the significance of leading with inquiry and how the person asking questions can effectively guide and control the conversation..
Follow Nikki Rausch on Social
More About Today's Guest, Nikki Rausch
Sales Maven: Empowering women in sales by teaching relationship selling that builds rapport so you can sell authentically.
Nikki Rausch integrates her 25+ years of experience selling to such prestigious organizations as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, and NASA, sharing with her clients the same approaches that led to her shattering sales records in her industry and receiving multiple “top producer” awards along the way.
A business degree from the University of Washington and her master certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming mesh perfectly to create a powerful foundation upon which Nikki built tremendous sales skills and now provides enormous benefits for her clients.
Nikki has received numerous sales awards, shattered sales records across industries, and was featured in Female Entrepreneur Magazine. A sought-after speaker, she regularly shares the results of success through illuminating keynote addresses and business-changing workshops. Her robust Sales Maven Society ignites game-changing outcomes for clients. Many of whom have also reaped the benefits of her immersive VIP consultations.
A Transcription of The Talk
Mark Drager: So, Nikki Rausch, you are known as the sales Maven, and you have— well, I was going to say decades of experience, but I want to be polite. You have a lot of experience helping professional sales teams and helping people transition into sales. When I saw you coming up on the list, I was excited. There is room for us to have a conversation we all need to have, which is how to structure a perfect discovery call. Because, in my experience, no matter how deep you are in a business, no matter how much revenue you've generated, or where you are in your journey, sometimes we need to get back to basics. The discovery call is such a key part of every sales process. So, help me understand, from your point of view, how should we start thinking about discovery calls?
Nikki Rausch: First and foremost, the objective of the call is to truly understand the prospect. Do they have a problem? A need? Can I ask smart questions that not only plant the seed in their mind that I have a solution but also allow me to determine if they're an ideal client? If they are, we can progress through the rest of the conversation. One mistake I often see is people getting overly excited about talking to a prospect. They do exhaustive research and preparation, and even plan offers before the call. But then, they end up overwhelming the prospect with too much information. This doesn't earn business.
Mark Drager: Did I just overwhelm you with my opening for this podcast? Did I "word vomit" all over you?
Nikki Rausch: Not at all. The idea, especially in the discovery call, is to set the stage. This makes the conversation efficient and effective. It shows respect for the other person. We're not here to give free advice but to understand their needs and present a solution. One often missed step is the "pre-frame" at the start. This sets the pace and direction for the call. If you let the prospect guide it entirely, you may end up wasting time or missing the opportunity to genuinely address their needs.
Mark Drager: I love this concept of the pre-frame. But you mentioned that people often over-prepare for the discovery call. So, does the best discovery call actually start with what you do in preparation? Or is it more about the actual conversation and starting with that pre-frame?
Nikki Rausch: If you're clear on your offer and business, you shouldn't be doing too much research. It's essential to know about the company and who you're meeting with, but over-preparing the pitch can be a mistake. If you don't understand their needs yet, how can you have the right solution? Spending more than an hour on research can lead to preconceived notions.
Mark Drager: You mean preconceived notions can result in tunnel vision? So, we wouldn't be able to genuinely connect with the prospect and tailor the conversation to their needs, right?
Nikki Rausch: Exactly. In my years in corporate, I received compliments for never doing the same presentation twice, yet always hitting the crucial points. That's because I aim to understand what intrigues the person I'm speaking to and focus on those areas. Sales should be done with a person, not to them. If you approach with a "convincing" attitude, you might miss out on truly connecting, and the prospect might feel that they weren't genuinely considered.
Mark Drager: That's a great point. I want to dissect the anatomy of an excellent discovery call. We must decide who leads the call, right? In my experience, I either follow their lead or take control when there's a pause. So, how do we structure this pre-frame you mentioned? Because I'd prefer a structured conversation that gets to the point rather than beating around the bush.
Nikki Rausch: The pre-frame starts by acknowledging the time and purpose of the call. For instance, stating that you'll chat for about 20 or 30 minutes sets expectations. Most of us live by our calendars, so this ensures that the other person isn't worrying about the time during the conversation. After establishing the timeframe, you can ask permission to lead by inquiring if it's okay to start with a few quick questions. This sets the stage and direction for the call. Now, maybe you want to let them start. But if you let them start, you never know when they're going to finish.
Mark Drager: 25 minutes later, they're like, "That was a great talk." You're like, "I didn't figure anything out."
Nikki Rausch: I don't even know what I need to know yet to see if you're even an ideal client. So, when you ask permission, you set the stage, and now you've created safety because now they know what's going to happen. You're going to ask some questions. Once you get that, that's your pre-frame. And now, this is what I'm talking about: you pace them. You check in, and you make sure that you position it as... So notice, I didn't say, "In order for me to decide whether or not I want to work with you, I need to ask you a question." It's all about me, right? Yet, people use these "I" statements all the time. But if I say, "In order to make this time meaningful and productive for you, is it okay if I start with a couple of quick questions?" Now, I've said, "Hey, this is about you. And are you okay if I start with questions?" As soon as they say yes to that, they have given you permission to lead the conversation because the person who's asking the questions in the conversation typically holds the power. Now, we're going to balance out the power during the discovery call because they need to have the opportunity to ask you questions too. But if you let them start, you never know where you're going to go. If you start, and you've got that list of questions, you can have a set list of questions. And you should. It doesn't mean you have to follow it question by question. You should still have this conversational piece for the discovery call. It's okay to have a set list of questions and bob and weave with the questions as appropriate. But going in with no agenda, and no set list of questions, again, it's like that Lewis Carroll quote: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." You need to know where you're going, and your set list of questions just sets you up for that.
Mark Drager: Let me ask you, how do you feel about questions or statements, like starting off in the discovery call by saying, "You know why I'm here, and I know why you're here. But I am not here to sell you anything today. There's nothing you can buy from me today. All I'm trying to do is figure out XYZ to make sure that blah blah blah for you." Do you feel like that is beneficial? Or does that start to shift the purpose of the conversation away from sales, and you actually want them to know that you are there for a sales call?
Nikki Rausch: If that statement is actually true, I'm not opposed to it. But I'm also not a fan of saying to somebody, "I don't, you can't buy from me, and I'm not here to sell you anything." Because that's probably not true. You are there to sell. Otherwise, why are we having this conversation? So, I always think you should stand in integrity. Now, you don't need to say to them, "I'm here to take your money today." It doesn't need to be like that. But it's okay to call...
Mark Drager: I am going to have your credit card number, and by the end, you will have spent $25,000. And you're going to feel great about it.
Nikki Rausch: Yeah, you're going to be so happy. It's also okay, in your pre-frame, you could even say, "Now, at the end of our conversation, if it makes sense for us to talk about ways to work together, we'll do that too. And you'll have an opportunity to make a decision today, even if you want." So, I'm just saying, "Hey, I'm throwing it out there. I want people to know, that you can go ahead and decide you can pay me $25,000 today on this call, I'll happily take it. As long as it makes sense for you and for me." Because sometimes, you get into a discovery call, and based on the answer someone gives you, you realize they're not a good fit for what I offer. Or frankly, as an entrepreneur, I don't want to work with this client. So, in that case, you're going to bless and release these people, and you should do it as quickly as possible, so as to not waste their time. And yours.
Mark Drager: Okay, we're going to jump ahead later. I want to talk about how to close these calls. What's the best way to close it, the best way to offload someone who's not a good fit without insulting them. Or whatever. We'll get to that in a second. But in the middle section, I mean, that's where powerful questions are really going to be your best friend, right?
Nikki Rausch: Yeah. And the questions that you should ask, I mean, you're gonna have some standard sales questions: What's your timeframe? What's your budget?
Mark Drager: Are you trying to figure out if people are at different levels of awareness? Are you trying to figure out if people are problem aware, solution aware, how deep they are in terms of their research, to see if you need to go into education mode at a high level versus "us versus them" mode? Versus why you might even want a solution like this? Are you trying to figure that out on the Discovery call?
Nikki Rausch: I'm trying to figure out what's the problem. Or what's the need? And I'm also trying to plant the seed about my solution during the questions that I'm asking. One of the first questions I always recommend asking is, "What prompted you to set up this time?" or "What prompted you to agree to have this meeting with me?" Because right there, they're probably going to give you some information that is going to be revealing. I take notes during these calls. I write down key phrases, keywords, and things that are popping up for me, like, "Oh, this is something. I can already tell that I'm going to be able to help them with this." Now, for clarity's sake, when you're in the position of asking the questions, what you should not do is ask a question, let them answer, start selling a solution, then ask another question, let them answer, and now your solution has probably changed, then you sell something else. Your questions during that part of the process? Keep it clean. Don't comment, don't say, "Oh, yeah, we've got something great for you," or "Oh, my..." Just keep it nice and clean. Get the information you need to establish whether or not they're an ideal client. And again, start to plant the seeds for them about how your solution is going to meet that need and solve the problem. Okay, and...
Mark Drager: What do you mean by "plant the seeds"? I've seen different strategies where people start to dig into specifics. Let's say you're selling a solution that helps people sell more, which is easy to understand. If I'm selling something that's going to help you sell more, I'd want to know details like your average sale cost, maybe the number of clients, your current volume, and then your aspirations. I might create a chart and say, "You know, if it's 25 grand, and you're currently selling three of these a month, but if you move that to eight a month, look what it does for your top line revenue," and so on. Is that what you mean by planting a seed, or how are you approaching this?
Nikki Rausch: I approach it by considering what makes my solution unique. I then form questions around that. Instead of telling them how my solution will say, 2x or 10x their sales, I ask them questions that plant that seed. For instance, I'm known for teaching clients how to create curiosity when discussing their product or service. So, one of the questions I ask is, "How proficient are you at creating curiosity when discussing your product or service?" Most of the time, when I ask this, people are unsure. Just by asking the question, it plants the seed. It hints that I must know how to teach this skill. Another example would be asking if they know how to incorporate storytelling into their proposals. This technique starts to plant the seed in their minds. With your example of the $25,000 product, you might then ask about their average sale price, current volume, goals for the next year, and what's been holding them back. By framing your questions this way, you're planting the idea in their minds of what they might need from you.
Mark Drager: The other day, I attended an event where I heard this business coach, a high-performance coach. I was captivated by his presentation and decided to spend some time with him. We were supposed to have a brief coffee, but it turned into a longer session. His initial question to me was, "Mark, do you have a clear vision of the life you want in various areas?" I was taken aback because, as an entrepreneur, I felt these things were always in my head. He emphasized that successful entrepreneurs have this vision figured out. I realized I wasn't ready to work with him yet because I needed to define this vision first. It was this direct, almost impossible-to-answer question that got me thinking, similar to what you're suggesting.
Nikki Rausch: One thing to be wary of is not to leave people feeling helpless or undervalued with your questions. If you're going to pose a challenging question, be prepared to provide the next steps. It's vital to move the conversation towards a solution. In a sales conversation, you must drive towards the close. When you see that close language, dive into it. After laying out your solution, it's crucial to issue close language. This step ensures that the potential client feels satisfied with the conversation and knows what to expect next. If they're unsure or hesitant, be prepared to answer any questions or address objections.
Mark Drager: This is all incredibly insightful. I'm speaking with Nikki Roush, the Sales Maven. All her contact details are in the show notes, and I highly recommend her podcast. As we're nearing the end of our time, I'd like to ask you one last question. What's your number one tip or strategy to help us sell more?
Nikki Rausch: Always invite people to do business with you. Never be afraid to ask if there's an opportunity for collaboration. Often, people might not have even considered working with you. When you pose the question, it gets them thinking about the possibilities. So, always ask for people's business; it increases your chances of securing it.