Top Tips for Selling Value Outcomes, Not Products: Discovery

Our last blog provided three tips on embedding an outcomes-based culture in your sales team. We explained how to prepare your prospects and team to use value outcomes during the sales process.

This article is the second in a series where we provide top tips to embed an outcomes culture in your sales team. Each blog focuses on a different stage of the sales process. 

This article focuses on the first stage of this process: discovery. This is when the salesperson and prospect uncover and align on the business’s challenges. We’ll explain why performing good discovery is critical, what it involves and provide three tips for getting your whole team to perform good discovery consistently and at scale.

Why Good Discovery is Critical?

Performing good discovery is critical because it forms the basis of the entire customer relationship. Getting it wrong costs your business money, wastes your sales team’s time and makes your business less efficient. 

Good discovery also helps to make your sales pipeline more predictable. If you know how good a fit your solution is for the customer’s challenges then you’ll be able to predict how likely you are to proceed to each new step in the sales process.

The problem is that only around 20% of salespeople do ‘good enough’ discovery. A good discovery process will empower sellers and prospects to define success outcomes and build value assessments collaboratively—rather than the seller leading the prospect. 

We’ve previously explained that there are 7 levels of discovery skills that allow you to achieve this. Here’s a summary of them:

  1. Understand the business challenges or pains the customer is facing.
  2. Deeply explore the business challenge or pain by asking more questions.
  3. Find out who else is affected by the business challenges they have discovered.
  4. Quantify the impact of KPIs.
  5. Educate customers on how your solution can overcome their unique business challenges.
  6. Explore the psychology that drives the customer’s decision-making and adapt their conversation.
  7. Approach discovery as a methodology.

Most salespeople only hit levels two or three, so they never truly understand the customer’s challenges or connect their solution to these challenges. Level five is ‘good enough’—the minimum you need to achieve to start selling value outcomes. If you want your sales team to perform excellent discovery, they’ll need to hit levels six and seven.

Tip 1: Personalise Challenges and Value Outcomes

In our previous blog, we advised that salespeople should come to every discovery meeting with a value hypothesis—an assumption of the challenges facing the customer’s business. This is formed by mapping your experience with similar companies. 

But as you engage with the prospect and other stakeholders, you should aim to turn your hypothesis into a personalised success record. It should represent their view, not yours—you are just a guide. 

Here are some ways to personalise the success record during conversations with business stakeholders:

  • Always add newly discovered challenges and KPI outcomes: These are important for the prospect but might have been missing from your value hypothesis. You should also adjust KPIs that you already have.
  • Capture the prioritisation, or importance, of different challenges and KPI outcomes: If the customer provides several challenges and KPIs, it’s important to find out which ones are most important. 
  • Always use terms that the prospect uses: For example, don’t say ‘churn’ if your customer says ‘turnover’.
  • Ask the prospect about their expectations: Once you’ve uncovered customer challenges, it’s time to find out what KPIs will show that you have achieved them. A good way to do this is to ask ‘what would be a good result for you?’ If the prospect doesn’t know or has very large or too small expectations, you can refer to your experience and say: ‘This is what we expect based on our experience.’

Tip 2: Prioritise and Keep It Simple - Especially with Financial Value

Many salespeople use complex value calculators to prove their solution’s value to prospects. But doing so focuses them on price, which can lead them to go for the cheapest option.

Focusing on understanding the customer’s business challenges and only using numbers where relevant will help to differentiate your solution and keep things simple for you and your prospect.

Encourage your salespeople and prospects to prioritise: If you have a long list of KPI outcomes, then the prospect may only remember some of them in the future. This can dilute their value. By asking them to list their five most important challenges and KPIs for each, your salespeople can focus both the customer’s mind and their proposal.

Not all KPIs to be financially quantified: Some KPI outcomes cannot be easily translated into monetary impact, or have a more impressive qualitative impact. Where this is the case, don’t try to force a financial significance on them.

Value selling isn’t just a financial exercise: Value selling is about solving business challenges and establishing the business impact of doing so. Many deals will require some form of business case, but they rarely need complex financial evaluations—focus on telling the value story instead.

Tip 3: Use Outcomes Alignment as a Catalyst to Engage the Whole Buying Group

The number of stakeholders involved in B2B sales decisions is always increasing. Each person will have different opinions on their requirements. 

Here are two tips for aligning your buying group:

  • Aim to achieve a common vision and goal: Focusing on value outcomes can help align customer stakeholders by guiding them through the decision-making process. 
  • Going high and wide: In other words, speak to a greater number of stakeholders at a more senior level—this will help you gain the access and consensus you need to win the deal.
  • Use questions to invite new stakeholders: The person or people you speak to in your initial discovery conversation won’t be able to answer every question. Find out who would know the answer and use this as an opportunity to get them involved in the discovery process.

Next: Solution and Proposal Phase

Good discovery is vital to the success of value selling. The tips in this article will help your sales team to start selling at level five and above. 

Our next blog will provide three tips on improving your solutions and proposals. Or you can check out our our kit of assets to make Selling Value easy.

If you’d like to learn more about how we help B2B subscription-based companies to realise an outcomes-based culture, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Contact us at

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