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Deals Are Won or Lost During Discovery: Guided Selling

Having been in sales, sales leadership, operations and enablement for the better part of 20 years, one thing that I’ve known to be true, remains true.

Too often, deals are lost before sellers even know that the buyer is keeping score, primarily because deals are won and lost during your earliest Discovery conversations.

The only things you need to run a proper discovery are:

  1. A point of view (POV)
  2. The restraint to allow your POV to come out when the conversation allows for it naturally
  3. A blank notebook
  4. A pen

Obviously you want to prepare for these critical conversations, but the images of a blank notebook and a pen should shift your mindset to one where you need to be curious about your prospects instead of eager to share the tactical benefits of your products.

Nobody cares about you, your product, or your value proposition.

Unless you give them a reason to.

Our tendency to rely on talking about the quality of our products instead of being genuinely curious about the people we seek to do business with often stands in the way of a successful discovery.

If you have been on the buying side of a discovery call, you understand: Discovery done well can differentiate you from most of the sellers you are competing against.

Three things you can do right now to execute these conversations better than most:

1. Just… be… quiet

According to a Mindtickle survey, deals that were Closed-Won included discovery conversations where the seller spoke, on average, 45% of the time. For your business, it might be slightly different, but in general, if you are speaking less than half of the conversation, it means the buyer is sharing more information with you. Usually, that information is incredibly valuable for you to understand the true underlying issues behind the pains they are experiencing. If you own a conversational intelligence tool, you can see this statistic easily when reviewing your calls. You can evaluate this before you even hit “play” on the recording.

If you are taking up more than half of the conversation, you are less likely to get to the next meeting… full stop.

2. Dump the slides

According to Gong research, buyers who were presented with slides during discovery were 17% less likely to move on to the next meeting. Buyers expect you to ask questions so you can thoroughly understand their current state.

The only exception here is the “One Slide” background during the discovery. A single slide that outlines all of the different outcomes you can help the buyer achieve allows you to show the capabilities you can help with without forcing your value proposition where it doesn’t belong. It is literally just a slide in the background as you facilitate the conversation.

3. Ask and solicit questions… but ACTUALLY participate and be interested in the answers

Saying that it is important to ask questions during discovery is like saying it is important to be able to hold a note to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, but common sense is often not common practice. On average, deals that end up Closed-Won had the seller asking 11-14 questions while the prospect also got involved with 8-10 questions.

A Guided Selling Framework For A Winning Discovery Process

There are many frameworks you can adopt in order to ensure consistency in your Discovery process. Some work better than others but the key is to ADOPT SOMETHING. If a seller has to think about the framework of questions they need to ask AND the actual questions themselves, it can be overwhelming. If the questions are not in line with the responses they are receiving, it can feel like an interrogation.

I use an acronym called FOCUS.


Every statement your prospect provides to you is worthy of further investigation on your part. Each of these statements is a “Fact” about the current state of their business that often represents a surface level challenge or initiative.

For example: “We have often struggled with adoption” or “We are looking to expand into other areas”. Each statement (or Fact) can be a branch to be built out as you prepare to uncover how you can help them with what they are working on.


Simply put, building out the details of each Fact your prospect provides you is as easy as understanding “What is the opportunity for you if you can resolve that challenge” OR “What is the opportunity if you are able to execute on that initiative?”

Understanding the opportunity at hand will allow you to articulate your value with far greater “So What” impact.


Once you understand the challenge, and the opportunity at hand, the next obvious question is “What is causing this issue” OR “Why are you looking to execute on this initiative? Keep in mind, the response you get to this question is often filtered through the lens of this individual’s personal role. Which leads to the next question…


What are the REAL underlying dynamics that are causing this issue or motivating you to take on this initiative. If the “Cause” sounds something like “We are struggling to forecast accurately because our reporting system just isn’t doing what it needs to do”, then you need to understand “Why is this important? Who is most affected? What goals is it preventing you from achieving? Is the issue significant enough for your organization to make an investment in technology to fix it?


Once you understand all of this, you can now build a vision of value that connects what you do with the challenges you solve for. This is not a “pitch” but rather painting the picture of what the future state might look like and should sound something like this:

“What if you had the ability to…”

“What if the process looked more like…”

“Would it be helpful if…”

This is where you start to get your prospect thinking of you as a partner rather than a sales person trying to close a deal.

By practicing this guided selling framework (or something similar) you don’t have to think about what questions to ask, you just have to listen to what the buyer is saying and navigate the conversation with the intention of connecting the information they are sharing with the ways you  might be able to help them.

Bonus: If you are one of the many organizations that have implemented MEDDPICC (or something similar) to help understand the risks associated with any opportunity, You should include components of MEDDPICC in the information you seek to uncover during these early conversations.

Now that you’re aware of these steps, you may wonder about the unseen factors. No worries, we got you.
In another thought-provoking Revmag article, we dive into the reasons behind the unsuccessful deal closings.

Curious about partnering with Revgenius? Talk to Us!

Jeff Macomber is a Co-Founder at Revenue Anchor. For over 20 years, Jeff has been singularly focused on all aspects of Revenue Execution. As a seller, sales leader, operations & enablement leader, SDR/BDR executive and Co-Founder, Jeff works to modernize revenue delivery in a way that is aligned with the ever-changing behaviors of the modern buyer.

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