Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What’s in a Name? More Than One Might Expect – Consider “Discovery” vs. “Qualification”

The process of gathering information about customers’ situations is variously labeled “Discovery”, “Qualification”, “Analysis” and other terms.  Interestingly, the name used by your organization may encourage or discourage the effectiveness of the process.

Consider:  “Qualification” is (often) about putting boundaries around a sales opportunity:  “Is it adequately qualified?”  This may yield a limited set of answers to questions such as:

-          “Does the customer have a problem – have they admitted “pain”?
-          “Is there budget allocated?”
-          “Is there a time-frame in mind?”
-          “Do we know the pathway to purchase – who will make the decision?”
-          “What alternatives or competitors is the customer also considering?”

The answers to these questions tend to focus inwards on getting the deal done for the vendor.

“Discovery”, on the other hand, is all about exploration, and suggests images of uncharted waters, novel vistas, new viewpoints and ideas.  Discovery is a process of asking questions – that may lead to more questions.  It should be perceived as a “Archimedean Spiral” of exploration, covering more and more territory (look it up:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedean_spiral). 

One nearly consistent attribute of very successful sales people (those who consistently make or exceed their numbers and are a pleasure, generally, to work with…) is their ability to perform broad and deep discovery.  They ask “Why, who, when, where, what, and how” questions.  They plumb for details and search for high-level drivers.  To paraphrase a famous outdoors equipment company (The North Face), they never stop exploring.

Interestingly, people who are known as Discoverers or Explorers are often perceived as heroes – those who opened new worlds or brought new knowledge to light:  Captain James Cook, Louis Pasteur, Madame Curie, Captain James T. Kirk (even fictional explorers may be heroes!).  Contrariwise, the list of heroic people who were known for qualifying or putting boundaries around things may be much shorter!

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