Discovery Process — pt. 1 — The funnel

Using the tools of UX design to navigate and master the sales process

This is the initial contact with a prospect.

The discovery phase involves a series of sales questions and is the contextual inquiry portion of the process.

The first thing you need to understand is that there is a decision funnel. This is true for any kind of buyer—whether someone purchasing a new car, a new stereo or a $500k UX project.

Problem Identification 
This is where the customer becomes aware of the problem

Exploration of options
This is when they begin looking at options. They cast a wide net. They are doing their research.

Narrowing of options
This is when they begin to eliminate possibilities.

When we  were practicing our bad process, we did a lot of talking and gave our prospective clients solutions for what we thought they needed or what they initially thought they needed. Now we spend time asking questions. We listen and assume nothing. Our customers are exploring many options and ways to go about solving the problem they have identified, including doing nothing.

If you move too fast to suggest a solution, then you close down the opportunity to explore options with them and to really understand their needs, which might not be initially expressed surface need.

Looking at how people narrow their options, we have to understand why people buy. They make buying decisions not so much because they understand the product but because they believe you TRULY UNDERSTAND them and their needs. They come into the process with a resistance window that is closed tightly. This prevents information from entering and when you throw a proposal at them before they are ready to buy, it sounds like a pitch to them. If they hear a pitch before the window of resistance is open, it’s like throwing water at a closed window—it just bounces off and splashes back into your face. Once they believe you understand their needs, then that window opens and they will allow you to sell to them.

So how do we get the window of resistance to open up?

We have found that it’s simply a matter of using good careful questioning and knowing when they want you to sell to them. With practice, ass you listen, you will hear them ask for you to sell to them.

But before we start asking our sales questions we ask the most important question of all.

Whether or not it’s appropriate for us to do business together at this time, I don’t know. Either way is fine with me, however, we can determine that very quickly if I could ask you a few key questions. Would that be OK?

This is the the money phrase. We start every sales call with the phrase. We say it all at once, without breathing. Actually, I practice it over and over again, out loud, before I get on the phone with a prospective client.

So let’s break it down and look at why this phrase and question are so important.

Whether or not it’s appropriate for us to do business together at this time, I don’t know. Either way is fine with me,

This phrase set up the relationship to be on equal footing. It relieves some of the stress on both sides because it diminishes the master/servant relationship that is inherent in sales. It sends a message that you just want to have a conversation and that you are not desperate for the business. “Either way is fine with me” says that this will be a casual conversation and regardless of the outcome you are interested in what they have to say and if it doesn’t work or isn’t a fit, thats ok. It also says that you have as much of a vested interest in making sure this is a good fit for you and your business as they do and that you have as much right to walk away if you don’t think this relationship will work.

That’s a lot of work in a short sentence.

The next part of the phrase,

However, we can determine that very quickly

this sets up the timing that we will be focused with our questions, that we will be respectful of their time and not waste it.

If I could ask you a few questions, would that be ok?

You are asking them for permission to ask these questions.. You now control the floor. The prospective client is going to still tell you what they need to tell you but now you can get the information you need from them in a natural way and in the manner that you need. The questions also usually touch on things that they may not have told you but show them that you truly care about their needs.

Everyone has been put at ease with the conversation you are about to have.