What is your Sales Discovery Efficiency Rating (DER)? It has always been obvious to me that top performing sales reps and sales teams are experts at discovery and discernment.

Yet it begs the question, why don’t more companies and sales leaders place an emphasis on developing and optimizing their sales discovery and discernment skills? A well executed sales discovery and discernment process in complex B2B sales has never been more important. Why? There are a lot more stakeholders and influencers involved in a complex B2B sale than ever before.

According to CEB Group (now Gartner), the average number of stakeholders and influencers involved in a complex B2B sale is 10.6. That is up from 5.4 stakeholders from just 5 years ago. My personal favorite is the .6 stakeholder. Do they have 6/10 of a vote in the final decision? But I digress…back to discovery and discernment.

That means you have over 10 sets of needs, priorities and agendas to capture and fully understand as a sales rep. Some would even say that you have 10 decision makers to win over in your sales pursuit. Often, there are conflicting priorities between these stakeholders. How do you satisfy all of them? I’d submit that this very daunting challenge is where the opportunity lies. You can actually bring sales mastery to the table and make a real difference.

Just a brief note on the distinction between qualification and discovery. Qualification is a discrete step in your sales process to determine whether or not the prospective customer is a fit for your solution and worth investing your precious resources in a sales pursuit. Qualification always takes place in the very early stages of a sales dialog with a prospect. Typically there are some well established sales qualification criteria in place that serves as a litmus test for what your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) looks like. In short, an ICP is what a likely winnable sales opportunity aligns with.

Discovery is an ongoing process. It starts with the very first interaction with your customer and IMHO never ends. What do I mean by that? Well, we live in a SaaS subscription based world. That means that renewals, absorption and expansions are the lifeblood of our business. Your average Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) has a material impact on the very valuation of your company. In some cases, you may actually lose money or break even the first year or two of your relationship with a new customer. You may not actually start making a profit in a customer relationship until years 3 or even 4 in extreme cases.

Back to the importance of discovery and discernment. What do I mean by a B2B sales Discovery Efficiency Rating (DER)? It means that companies and sales leaders should measure, refine and constantly strive to improve their sales discovery and discernment process execution with customers. The following is a short list of factors that would be involved in a sales DER:

  • How long on average does it take your sales team to engage all of the key stakeholders and influencers involved in the decision process and learn their priorities, needs and agendas?
  • How long on average does it take for your sales team to fully understand and navigate the procurement process?
  • How often are you earning access to power and actually meeting with your Economic Buyer?
  • How quickly can your sales team find a strategic initiative or a compelling event that your solution can naturally align to and support?
  • How adept is your sales team at finding any and all “Blockers” in a sales opportunity? And how adept is your sales team at neutralizing Blockers or winning them over?
  • Does your sales team have an efficient process for proving value and building the business case (i.e., ROI tool) to secure budget for your solution? Do you have a well defined value engineering methodology that you execute with customers?
  • How accurate is your sales team at forecasting the deal value and the actual close date?
  • How good is your sales team at competitive positioning and differentiating with customers?
  • Does your sales team provide a frictionless buying journey for your customers?
  • Does your sales team efficiently leverage your company’s resources?

I could keep going all day long on this. Suffice to say that a well executed sales discovery and discernment process (or your DER) yields huge sales results and improvements in:

  • Shorter sales cycle lengths
  • Larger deal sizes
  • Higher forecast accuracy
  • Higher win rates
  • Larger CLVs

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “Efficient” is: Especially capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials) or productive of desired effects. Isn’t that precisely what we want from our sales teams?