The Power of Discovery
An increasing number of my client companies are taking a different approach to business development. After years of scouring all manner of organizations hoping for an opportunity to quote on a job, a higher-level strategy is taking hold; one that focuses on the potential for long term relationships and unique value creation. And the approach is different in so many ways, including how the initial meeting is shaped and executed.
Historically, the first meeting with a potential customer would be seen as an opportunity to tell the prospect all about our products and services, and why not? Most of the training for customer facing team members is focused on just that, the company’s products and services. Over time however, organizations have tried to position themselves as “solutions providers.” To present that notion with credibility, it is necessary to identify just what “problem” the prospect needs to be solved. And that’s hard to do when you’re busy talking about your products and services and then hoping something from your menu happens to fit with what is needed by the prospect in that moment. There’s a better way.
The strategic client development process begins with research; identifying those prospective customers most likely to have needs similar to those of your best clients. The initial meeting (often referred to as the “discovery meeting”) is a time for questions, not for answers, and certainly not for offering “solutions.” Well-designed questions in the proper order that get the prospective client talking about their opportunities, challenges, issues and obstacles is an essential first step. Remember, you must earn the right to ask questions that probe deeply into the prospects major concerns. Once a level of trust is established, communication can flow freely.
Now comes the hard part: listening actively and with the intention of clearly understanding the prospect’s most pressing needs. While the temptation to offer an immediate response to what is being said will be strong; it's best to hold off. Remember, this is a discovery meeting; the sole purpose of which is to understand so that a comprehensive, targeted proposal may be crafted and presented in a follow up meeting.
Those who have mastered the art of the “discovery meeting” report that the information gathered makes possible a highly targeted proposal. Many prospective clients appreciate the opportunity to share their business concerns with someone trained to ask pertinent questions and to listen without judgement, emotion or jumping to “constructive” conclusions.
A well-planned approach to client development turns the traditional sales approach on its head by starting with the client's needs in mind and suspending the assumption that these needs are known to the representative walking in the door.
For more information way to employ the “power of discovery” in developing your strategic approach to client development in particular and to business in general, contact me at email@example.com.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.