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etailinsights eCommerce Data and Sales Blog

Sales Hack: Have Diagnostic Discovery Conversations First

By Darren Pierce on May 18, 2017 1:13:23 PM

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...Ah, this preschool is just right.

Tip o’ the cap to Goldilocks. I’ve become an expert on child care options from nannies to pre-schools, and everything in between. My son Julian has unique needs regarding care.  Last month my wife went back to work, and we simply placed Julian into the most expensive school, thinking a high price would equate with being the best.


That school turned out to be a disaster, including a final comment from my son, “The teacher pushed me.” True story!  My 2-year-old son is very advanced verbally. In fact, on the way out of the school, he told the owner that he doesn’t like her school. (Nice shot, son.)

I dropped everything to learn about schools and find the best possible situation for Julian.  We settled on the [name edited] school.  Not only does this preschool meet his needs and hit all the checkboxes for his parents, but I was blown away by the Director's intuition.

When I arrived at this school for my scheduled tour, almost everything was the typical procedure. She showed me to the library where I sat and waited. She then entered with a pretty, white branded folder full of all the information I needed (i.e. their “product”).  She handed it to me and sat down. This was very standard from the dozen of schools I visited.  

But then she did something unique, amazing, and even shocking. She looked at me and said, “Tell me about Julian.”

I was caught off guard. So accustomed to going through the motions, I figured she would walk me through every document in the folder. As eCommerce leads often think in sales presentations, I had thought “time for the demo.” Instead, she kept asking me questions to uncover the ultimate pain, i.e. why we took him out of his current school. She pushed past the initial reason (teacher pushing), to the real pain: Julian has separation anxiety.  

We then opened the folder and went through the demo. But here’s the kicker - she tailored the pitch around what I cared about: Julian’s separation anxiety. I don’t care about peanut allergies, nor the nap time, so she skipped over all of that.

We can learn a lot from this and incorporate it into our SaaS sales calls. A diagnostic discovery conversation will improve your close rates. They allow you to be diagnostic, uncover pains, then prescribe solutions during your demo.

Diagnostic Discovery Conversations

You might remember a previous hack discussing the power of silence in sales conversations. It’s also important to ask the right questions prior to silence. I learned this technique from Scott Addis. Doctors are the best at this.

  • Doctors typically know what’s wrong with you before they enter the room, but they still start with top-of-funnel questioning.
  • Based on your answers, they narrow down the questioning to get to the true pain.
  • From there, they prescribe the solution, you walk out and follow the prescription.

What if a doctor walked in and said, “You have a sinus infection, take this medicine. See you later”?  Or worse, what if they talked for 30 minutes about the chemical make-up of the medicine like a product demo?  That would never work for us because we don’t care about those aspects. We only care that the doctor understands our pain. We will take whatever solution the doctor prescribes once we know what’s in it for us.

Uncover the True Pain

It’s critically important in the discovery conversations that you uncover the true pain.  It’s often not the first thing they tell you (Julian being pushed), rather it’s deeper (Julian’s separation anxiety). So keep pressing. Don’t open up the folder until you know exactly what the pains are. Then tailor your demo around those particular, personal pains. Afterward, prescribe your solution with confidence, and your close rates will skyrocket.

Practice Makes Performance

Before you try this out on a new eCommerce lead, you’ll want to practice discovery conversations, even try them out with your teammates.

  1. Make a list of the top 10 pains that result in the purchase of your solution.  
  2. Practice open-ended questions to uncover these pains. (Hint: don’t ask yes or no questions). Practice with a teammate. Practice performing your demo differently for each of the 10 pains.  
  3. Don’t move on to a demo until you have at least one of these pains uncovered.  Remember, don’t tell them their pain, have them tell you their pain.  Make them feel comfortable that you are going to make it better, and it’s all going to be ok.

When you use the discovery conversation methods I described here, your eCommerce leads will feel understood, and they will be happy to let you help them solve their pain point.

And if you have any questions about early childhood education, bring em on!

Learn how etailinsights will increase your eCommerce sales savvy today.

Written by Darren Pierce

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