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“They wanted to go straight to a demo.” 

A phrase that will strike dread into the hearts of even the most hardened PreSales professionals. This phrase is the death knell clang of an unqualified opportunity, which almost always spells trouble. If these meetings become a regular occurrence, it can quickly lead to “demo-monkey syndrome,” where you feel yourself churning out the same standardised demo script resulting in little satisfaction for yourself or your prospects. 

Why you should never skip the discovery call

Going “straight to demo” has several fundamental issues, including the following. 

Failure to differentiate

If you are working in a competitive market, skipping a profound discovery stage risks failing to uncover the unique underlying needs of your prospects, which is your best opportunity to highlight the benefits of your specific solution. If we never discover the pain at the heart of our prospects' needs, we miss the opportunity to differentiate our solution from the rest of the pack. It also leaves you in a position with nothing specific to focus on in the demo, often leading to an overcomplicated attempt just to show everything. 

Wasted resources on customers that aren’t the right fit

A lack of discovery can waste valuable time for you and your prospects. Discovery conversations are our chance to identify not only the opportunities for success but potential pitfalls that could indicate that the solution is not a fit for their needs. It is best for all involved that these roadblocks are found and addressed as early as possible, so that everyone can focus on the matches with the greatest potential for success. If this stage is overlooked, it can result in ill-advised sales, where prospects buy the product without the roadblock being found — leading to dissatisfied customers, high churn rates, and headaches for our post-sales colleagues. 

Missed opportunity to become advisers

Finally, while the prospect may believe it is the best use of their time to go straight to a product demo, this may be due to a lack of experience. In many sectors, we deal with inexperienced buyers who have never had to evaluate a new technology solution before. They might be pushing for a demo partly because they don’t know how they would benefit from an additional discovery conversation. As sales professionals, we are responsible for guiding our prospects to the best possible process to achieve their desired outcomes. It has also been my experience that prospects who are cagey about investing time into a discovery process may not be invested in driving real change at their organisation, or may not be sufficiently empowered buyers.

What causes teams to go straight to the demo?

If we know that a proper discovery stage is vital, why is it so often missed? It can be because our early engagement teams lack confidence in leading the sales process. SDRs and BRDs are usually individuals who are early in their careers. When faced with an opinionated buyer, their instinct might be to agree to whatever the buyer wants. Additionally, they are often compensated largely based on opportunities created, not opportunities closed, so they will always want to take any action that makes the potential buyer agree to the next call. To set our SDR and BDR up for success, we need to give them the tools and understanding of the value of a robust discovery process, so they can articulate this as the most valuable next step in the deal cycle. 

A lack of discovery can also indicate a lack of training or resources in other parts of the sales team. It is commonly seen in AEs who are early in their sales career or in AEs who do not have experience selling in a very competitive environment. It can also be due to having a highly successful product, where — even though competitors do exist — the buyers already know they want your solution. As a result, the AE may be happy to take their money, regardless of whether the product will actually be a good fit. Finally, it can be due to overconfidence, where the AE believes they have seen it all before and already know the answers without asking the questions. This overconfidence can be particularly toxic, as it can mean that obvious vital information is overlooked, leaving the prospect feeling unvalued and unimportant — a knockout blow to our credibility! 

So, what can we do?

How can we turn this ship around as PreSales professionals? Step one is understanding that discovery is more than a twenty-minute conversation at the start of a deal cycle. True discovery is a continuous process whereby you use every interaction to further your understanding of that prospect and how your solutions can bring value to them. The four key outcomes of a great discovery are that you:

  • Qualify the opportunity 
  • Identify the problem or pain 
  • Establish our credibility
  • Uncover important details

All four of these objectives are areas where a PreSales perspective can add valuable insight and value to the conversation. I would argue that PreSales engagement in discovery is a secret weapon to unlocking a deeper understanding of the prospect's problems and pains, building credibility for your business and ensuring that the details are not overlooked. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into each.

Qualifying the opportunity

In qualification, we know the boundaries of our products and where our solution can most comfortably sit. We have answered enough RFPs and worked on enough “closed lost” sales to understand the red flags and the tell-tale signs of a no-go opp. We have also presented to enough rooms of people to know when what we are saying is landing, and when vacant eyes and phone-checking indicate that our solution is way off the mark. Don’t be scared to take this knowledge and insight to your AEs, and explain why you feel the deal is or is not qualified. A good salesperson will understand the value of your opinion. 

Identifying the problem

When it comes to identifying pain, there is often no one better than a PreSales person. We have spoken to many prospects and have heard all kinds of war stories from across our industry. Additionally, questions about a prospect's current workflows, other technologies and systems they use, and their ideal future state are perfect avenues for uncovering pain. If a prospect tells you of a workflow with multiple steps, clicks, or system switching, this can be your window to ask what the impact of those workflows are today. How much time does it take? What does that cost them in a day, a week, or a month in terms of lost productivity? Leveraging these conversations to always dig a level deeper is key to creating a compelling case for your product or service. 

Establishing credibility

Taking the opportunity to ask follow-up questions won’t just help you with uncovering pain. Asking intelligent and thoughtful questions is invaluable in establishing your credibility with prospects. If you remember to pepper in other times you have seen similar problems or how we have helped other customers with that issue, you will be well on your way to building a strong relationship with your prospect. But establishing credibility also may require breaking bad news to the prospect. For example, if there is a limitation to your product, or it won’t help them address the pain they are experiencing, being open and upfront about it will go a long way to building your credibility. If we are honest about the bad stuff, they are much more likely to trust us when we tell them about all the good. 

Uncovering details

Finally, the information you have collected through fulfilling all the preceding stages should put you in a great position to uncover and document the essential details about the deal. Throughout your sessions speaking with a prospect, they will tell you the information that matters to them. Remembering and responding to these are the foundation of creating a successful, long-term customer relationship. All these details should be documented, retained and communicated to your post-sales and R&D teams. 

Let's say you have uncovered that a lack of integration to another key system was costing your prospect 15 minutes per interaction, and they perform this interaction 50 times a week. You have calculated this is roughly 50 hours of work a month, and you have asked them what that costs them as a business. Through your sales process you deliver a solution that now removes that manual effort and brings about this time saving to your customer. This information should be documented and passed on to your customer success or account teams. They can use this metric as a foundation for conversations around the measurable benefits your solution has brought to the business. This attention to detail can form the backbone of creating credible customer success stories, which will benefit you in PreSales as you can share them with your new prospects. 

Putting it all into practice

Let's come back to that “straight to the demo” prospect. Maybe this time, instead of just re-running the same “overview” demo you have done a million times before, pause and think about where you can insert more questions into your process. Think of the big-hitter features in your product: How can you understand the impact they may have for this prospect? What questions can you use to establish your credibility at the start, and how can you push the prospect to continue uncovering details throughout the demonstration? 

I also recommend searching for information about the prospect online — both the people you will be meeting and the overall company. For example, I currently work for a recruitment software company. Searching the number of open vacancies an organization has and how long those openings have been live can tell me a lot about the state of hiring. Showing that you have done your research ahead of the call can encourage prospects to open up, and can make them more receptive to what you show them. Using the information you have found to formulate thoughtful questions can go a long way in helping you uncover the real value drivers for your potential buyers.  

If all PreSales people were enabled correctly and empowered to take some ownership of the discovery process, the days of vanilla demos could be behind us! But it isn’t something that PreSales can do on its own; it takes buy-in and backing from the wider business. So we must communicate the value to our sales colleagues and bring them with us on the journey. I hope that the points put forward in this post can help you formulate the value proposition of this to your own company, and that it can assist you in championing the importance of the discovery. 

About Ruth Cockshott 

Ruth has been working in Presales for international SaaS solutions for a couple of years. Her background in Customer Success and Service has greatly informed her prospect-focused approach to Sales. She is passionate about helping others in the space and advocating for the importance of PreSales empowerment.

Unlock this content by joining the PreSales Collective with global community with 20,000+ professionals
Read this content here ↗

“They wanted to go straight to a demo.” 

A phrase that will strike dread into the hearts of even the most hardened PreSales professionals. This phrase is the death knell clang of an unqualified opportunity, which almost always spells trouble. If these meetings become a regular occurrence, it can quickly lead to “demo-monkey syndrome,” where you feel yourself churning out the same standardised demo script resulting in little satisfaction for yourself or your prospects. 

Why you should never skip the discovery call

Going “straight to demo” has several fundamental issues, including the following. 

Failure to differentiate

If you are working in a competitive market, skipping a profound discovery stage risks failing to uncover the unique underlying needs of your prospects, which is your best opportunity to highlight the benefits of your specific solution. If we never discover the pain at the heart of our prospects' needs, we miss the opportunity to differentiate our solution from the rest of the pack. It also leaves you in a position with nothing specific to focus on in the demo, often leading to an overcomplicated attempt just to show everything. 

Wasted resources on customers that aren’t the right fit

A lack of discovery can waste valuable time for you and your prospects. Discovery conversations are our chance to identify not only the opportunities for success but potential pitfalls that could indicate that the solution is not a fit for their needs. It is best for all involved that these roadblocks are found and addressed as early as possible, so that everyone can focus on the matches with the greatest potential for success. If this stage is overlooked, it can result in ill-advised sales, where prospects buy the product without the roadblock being found — leading to dissatisfied customers, high churn rates, and headaches for our post-sales colleagues. 

Missed opportunity to become advisers

Finally, while the prospect may believe it is the best use of their time to go straight to a product demo, this may be due to a lack of experience. In many sectors, we deal with inexperienced buyers who have never had to evaluate a new technology solution before. They might be pushing for a demo partly because they don’t know how they would benefit from an additional discovery conversation. As sales professionals, we are responsible for guiding our prospects to the best possible process to achieve their desired outcomes. It has also been my experience that prospects who are cagey about investing time into a discovery process may not be invested in driving real change at their organisation, or may not be sufficiently empowered buyers.

What causes teams to go straight to the demo?

If we know that a proper discovery stage is vital, why is it so often missed? It can be because our early engagement teams lack confidence in leading the sales process. SDRs and BRDs are usually individuals who are early in their careers. When faced with an opinionated buyer, their instinct might be to agree to whatever the buyer wants. Additionally, they are often compensated largely based on opportunities created, not opportunities closed, so they will always want to take any action that makes the potential buyer agree to the next call. To set our SDR and BDR up for success, we need to give them the tools and understanding of the value of a robust discovery process, so they can articulate this as the most valuable next step in the deal cycle. 

A lack of discovery can also indicate a lack of training or resources in other parts of the sales team. It is commonly seen in AEs who are early in their sales career or in AEs who do not have experience selling in a very competitive environment. It can also be due to having a highly successful product, where — even though competitors do exist — the buyers already know they want your solution. As a result, the AE may be happy to take their money, regardless of whether the product will actually be a good fit. Finally, it can be due to overconfidence, where the AE believes they have seen it all before and already know the answers without asking the questions. This overconfidence can be particularly toxic, as it can mean that obvious vital information is overlooked, leaving the prospect feeling unvalued and unimportant — a knockout blow to our credibility! 

So, what can we do?

How can we turn this ship around as PreSales professionals? Step one is understanding that discovery is more than a twenty-minute conversation at the start of a deal cycle. True discovery is a continuous process whereby you use every interaction to further your understanding of that prospect and how your solutions can bring value to them. The four key outcomes of a great discovery are that you:

  • Qualify the opportunity 
  • Identify the problem or pain 
  • Establish our credibility
  • Uncover important details

All four of these objectives are areas where a PreSales perspective can add valuable insight and value to the conversation. I would argue that PreSales engagement in discovery is a secret weapon to unlocking a deeper understanding of the prospect's problems and pains, building credibility for your business and ensuring that the details are not overlooked. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into each.

Qualifying the opportunity

In qualification, we know the boundaries of our products and where our solution can most comfortably sit. We have answered enough RFPs and worked on enough “closed lost” sales to understand the red flags and the tell-tale signs of a no-go opp. We have also presented to enough rooms of people to know when what we are saying is landing, and when vacant eyes and phone-checking indicate that our solution is way off the mark. Don’t be scared to take this knowledge and insight to your AEs, and explain why you feel the deal is or is not qualified. A good salesperson will understand the value of your opinion. 

Identifying the problem

When it comes to identifying pain, there is often no one better than a PreSales person. We have spoken to many prospects and have heard all kinds of war stories from across our industry. Additionally, questions about a prospect's current workflows, other technologies and systems they use, and their ideal future state are perfect avenues for uncovering pain. If a prospect tells you of a workflow with multiple steps, clicks, or system switching, this can be your window to ask what the impact of those workflows are today. How much time does it take? What does that cost them in a day, a week, or a month in terms of lost productivity? Leveraging these conversations to always dig a level deeper is key to creating a compelling case for your product or service. 

Establishing credibility

Taking the opportunity to ask follow-up questions won’t just help you with uncovering pain. Asking intelligent and thoughtful questions is invaluable in establishing your credibility with prospects. If you remember to pepper in other times you have seen similar problems or how we have helped other customers with that issue, you will be well on your way to building a strong relationship with your prospect. But establishing credibility also may require breaking bad news to the prospect. For example, if there is a limitation to your product, or it won’t help them address the pain they are experiencing, being open and upfront about it will go a long way to building your credibility. If we are honest about the bad stuff, they are much more likely to trust us when we tell them about all the good. 

Uncovering details

Finally, the information you have collected through fulfilling all the preceding stages should put you in a great position to uncover and document the essential details about the deal. Throughout your sessions speaking with a prospect, they will tell you the information that matters to them. Remembering and responding to these are the foundation of creating a successful, long-term customer relationship. All these details should be documented, retained and communicated to your post-sales and R&D teams. 

Let's say you have uncovered that a lack of integration to another key system was costing your prospect 15 minutes per interaction, and they perform this interaction 50 times a week. You have calculated this is roughly 50 hours of work a month, and you have asked them what that costs them as a business. Through your sales process you deliver a solution that now removes that manual effort and brings about this time saving to your customer. This information should be documented and passed on to your customer success or account teams. They can use this metric as a foundation for conversations around the measurable benefits your solution has brought to the business. This attention to detail can form the backbone of creating credible customer success stories, which will benefit you in PreSales as you can share them with your new prospects. 

Putting it all into practice

Let's come back to that “straight to the demo” prospect. Maybe this time, instead of just re-running the same “overview” demo you have done a million times before, pause and think about where you can insert more questions into your process. Think of the big-hitter features in your product: How can you understand the impact they may have for this prospect? What questions can you use to establish your credibility at the start, and how can you push the prospect to continue uncovering details throughout the demonstration? 

I also recommend searching for information about the prospect online — both the people you will be meeting and the overall company. For example, I currently work for a recruitment software company. Searching the number of open vacancies an organization has and how long those openings have been live can tell me a lot about the state of hiring. Showing that you have done your research ahead of the call can encourage prospects to open up, and can make them more receptive to what you show them. Using the information you have found to formulate thoughtful questions can go a long way in helping you uncover the real value drivers for your potential buyers.  

If all PreSales people were enabled correctly and empowered to take some ownership of the discovery process, the days of vanilla demos could be behind us! But it isn’t something that PreSales can do on its own; it takes buy-in and backing from the wider business. So we must communicate the value to our sales colleagues and bring them with us on the journey. I hope that the points put forward in this post can help you formulate the value proposition of this to your own company, and that it can assist you in championing the importance of the discovery. 

About Ruth Cockshott 

Ruth has been working in Presales for international SaaS solutions for a couple of years. Her background in Customer Success and Service has greatly informed her prospect-focused approach to Sales. She is passionate about helping others in the space and advocating for the importance of PreSales empowerment.

Unlock this content by joining the PreSales Leadership Collective! An exclusive community dedicated to PreSales leaders.
Read this content here ↗

“They wanted to go straight to a demo.” 

A phrase that will strike dread into the hearts of even the most hardened PreSales professionals. This phrase is the death knell clang of an unqualified opportunity, which almost always spells trouble. If these meetings become a regular occurrence, it can quickly lead to “demo-monkey syndrome,” where you feel yourself churning out the same standardised demo script resulting in little satisfaction for yourself or your prospects. 

Why you should never skip the discovery call

Going “straight to demo” has several fundamental issues, including the following. 

Failure to differentiate

If you are working in a competitive market, skipping a profound discovery stage risks failing to uncover the unique underlying needs of your prospects, which is your best opportunity to highlight the benefits of your specific solution. If we never discover the pain at the heart of our prospects' needs, we miss the opportunity to differentiate our solution from the rest of the pack. It also leaves you in a position with nothing specific to focus on in the demo, often leading to an overcomplicated attempt just to show everything. 

Wasted resources on customers that aren’t the right fit

A lack of discovery can waste valuable time for you and your prospects. Discovery conversations are our chance to identify not only the opportunities for success but potential pitfalls that could indicate that the solution is not a fit for their needs. It is best for all involved that these roadblocks are found and addressed as early as possible, so that everyone can focus on the matches with the greatest potential for success. If this stage is overlooked, it can result in ill-advised sales, where prospects buy the product without the roadblock being found — leading to dissatisfied customers, high churn rates, and headaches for our post-sales colleagues. 

Missed opportunity to become advisers

Finally, while the prospect may believe it is the best use of their time to go straight to a product demo, this may be due to a lack of experience. In many sectors, we deal with inexperienced buyers who have never had to evaluate a new technology solution before. They might be pushing for a demo partly because they don’t know how they would benefit from an additional discovery conversation. As sales professionals, we are responsible for guiding our prospects to the best possible process to achieve their desired outcomes. It has also been my experience that prospects who are cagey about investing time into a discovery process may not be invested in driving real change at their organisation, or may not be sufficiently empowered buyers.

What causes teams to go straight to the demo?

If we know that a proper discovery stage is vital, why is it so often missed? It can be because our early engagement teams lack confidence in leading the sales process. SDRs and BRDs are usually individuals who are early in their careers. When faced with an opinionated buyer, their instinct might be to agree to whatever the buyer wants. Additionally, they are often compensated largely based on opportunities created, not opportunities closed, so they will always want to take any action that makes the potential buyer agree to the next call. To set our SDR and BDR up for success, we need to give them the tools and understanding of the value of a robust discovery process, so they can articulate this as the most valuable next step in the deal cycle. 

A lack of discovery can also indicate a lack of training or resources in other parts of the sales team. It is commonly seen in AEs who are early in their sales career or in AEs who do not have experience selling in a very competitive environment. It can also be due to having a highly successful product, where — even though competitors do exist — the buyers already know they want your solution. As a result, the AE may be happy to take their money, regardless of whether the product will actually be a good fit. Finally, it can be due to overconfidence, where the AE believes they have seen it all before and already know the answers without asking the questions. This overconfidence can be particularly toxic, as it can mean that obvious vital information is overlooked, leaving the prospect feeling unvalued and unimportant — a knockout blow to our credibility! 

So, what can we do?

How can we turn this ship around as PreSales professionals? Step one is understanding that discovery is more than a twenty-minute conversation at the start of a deal cycle. True discovery is a continuous process whereby you use every interaction to further your understanding of that prospect and how your solutions can bring value to them. The four key outcomes of a great discovery are that you:

  • Qualify the opportunity 
  • Identify the problem or pain 
  • Establish our credibility
  • Uncover important details

All four of these objectives are areas where a PreSales perspective can add valuable insight and value to the conversation. I would argue that PreSales engagement in discovery is a secret weapon to unlocking a deeper understanding of the prospect's problems and pains, building credibility for your business and ensuring that the details are not overlooked. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into each.

Qualifying the opportunity

In qualification, we know the boundaries of our products and where our solution can most comfortably sit. We have answered enough RFPs and worked on enough “closed lost” sales to understand the red flags and the tell-tale signs of a no-go opp. We have also presented to enough rooms of people to know when what we are saying is landing, and when vacant eyes and phone-checking indicate that our solution is way off the mark. Don’t be scared to take this knowledge and insight to your AEs, and explain why you feel the deal is or is not qualified. A good salesperson will understand the value of your opinion. 

Identifying the problem

When it comes to identifying pain, there is often no one better than a PreSales person. We have spoken to many prospects and have heard all kinds of war stories from across our industry. Additionally, questions about a prospect's current workflows, other technologies and systems they use, and their ideal future state are perfect avenues for uncovering pain. If a prospect tells you of a workflow with multiple steps, clicks, or system switching, this can be your window to ask what the impact of those workflows are today. How much time does it take? What does that cost them in a day, a week, or a month in terms of lost productivity? Leveraging these conversations to always dig a level deeper is key to creating a compelling case for your product or service. 

Establishing credibility

Taking the opportunity to ask follow-up questions won’t just help you with uncovering pain. Asking intelligent and thoughtful questions is invaluable in establishing your credibility with prospects. If you remember to pepper in other times you have seen similar problems or how we have helped other customers with that issue, you will be well on your way to building a strong relationship with your prospect. But establishing credibility also may require breaking bad news to the prospect. For example, if there is a limitation to your product, or it won’t help them address the pain they are experiencing, being open and upfront about it will go a long way to building your credibility. If we are honest about the bad stuff, they are much more likely to trust us when we tell them about all the good. 

Uncovering details

Finally, the information you have collected through fulfilling all the preceding stages should put you in a great position to uncover and document the essential details about the deal. Throughout your sessions speaking with a prospect, they will tell you the information that matters to them. Remembering and responding to these are the foundation of creating a successful, long-term customer relationship. All these details should be documented, retained and communicated to your post-sales and R&D teams. 

Let's say you have uncovered that a lack of integration to another key system was costing your prospect 15 minutes per interaction, and they perform this interaction 50 times a week. You have calculated this is roughly 50 hours of work a month, and you have asked them what that costs them as a business. Through your sales process you deliver a solution that now removes that manual effort and brings about this time saving to your customer. This information should be documented and passed on to your customer success or account teams. They can use this metric as a foundation for conversations around the measurable benefits your solution has brought to the business. This attention to detail can form the backbone of creating credible customer success stories, which will benefit you in PreSales as you can share them with your new prospects. 

Putting it all into practice

Let's come back to that “straight to the demo” prospect. Maybe this time, instead of just re-running the same “overview” demo you have done a million times before, pause and think about where you can insert more questions into your process. Think of the big-hitter features in your product: How can you understand the impact they may have for this prospect? What questions can you use to establish your credibility at the start, and how can you push the prospect to continue uncovering details throughout the demonstration? 

I also recommend searching for information about the prospect online — both the people you will be meeting and the overall company. For example, I currently work for a recruitment software company. Searching the number of open vacancies an organization has and how long those openings have been live can tell me a lot about the state of hiring. Showing that you have done your research ahead of the call can encourage prospects to open up, and can make them more receptive to what you show them. Using the information you have found to formulate thoughtful questions can go a long way in helping you uncover the real value drivers for your potential buyers.  

If all PreSales people were enabled correctly and empowered to take some ownership of the discovery process, the days of vanilla demos could be behind us! But it isn’t something that PreSales can do on its own; it takes buy-in and backing from the wider business. So we must communicate the value to our sales colleagues and bring them with us on the journey. I hope that the points put forward in this post can help you formulate the value proposition of this to your own company, and that it can assist you in championing the importance of the discovery. 

About Ruth Cockshott 

Ruth has been working in Presales for international SaaS solutions for a couple of years. Her background in Customer Success and Service has greatly informed her prospect-focused approach to Sales. She is passionate about helping others in the space and advocating for the importance of PreSales empowerment.

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