How to increase sales by selling discovery

Your discovery process could be a sign your business is improving

Do you ever feel like you put too much work into creating beautiful, personalized proposals for your clients? Even if you close more than half of them, writing proposals takes time – not just writing, but waiting for responses and following up. I used to do this for both my businesses, but once I made the shift to selling discovery, everything changed as I was able to increase sales to the level I wanted them to be at.

How I used to propose for business.

When I first started out, this is how my new business process would look during the proposal phase:

  1. I would have two or three great calls with my prospect, getting to know them and their business, always asking questions.
  2. Once I felt I understood their pain and had a solution I would present a detailed proposal with 3 solution options.
  3. I’d close more than half of them with no more than one revision to the proposal.
  4. I would set up a follow-up campaign with the others to try to re-engage them over the span of about 3-4 months.

The ones I didn’t close ate up a lot of time, as each follow-up campaign was customized, but I just kind of accepted that as part of the process.

But there was a problem with this approach. I wasn’t creating enough value for the majority to want to continue working with me.

How my proposal process works now.

I realized I was spending too much time presenting an understanding of their business and 3 options for how I could support them in achieving their goals.

This wasn’t valuable enough. I wasn’t giving them anything that could help them right away.

Another, bigger, problem for me – I was spending way too much time and not getting paid for it.

So I started charging $2,000 for discovery.

Focus in on selling discovery
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Sales increased once I focused in on selling discovery.

Now I have an initial call, maybe two to build rapport.

I usually know pretty quickly if what we do at Leadstream can help them and so I say, here is what it looks like if we work together:

“For an initial activation fee of $2,000, we look at everything about the current way you use LinkedIn for sales. Your profile, your presence, your messaging, your targeting and your daily routine. The process takes 1-2 weeks and you basically get access to all my experience using LinkedIn, applied to your business. The idea is that if you can use my recommendations to secure 2-3 sales meetings, then this process will pay for itself. If we then choose to continue working together, we’ve got the strategy in place for your outreach campaign.”

Why it works.

This works beautifully for us, because the insights I offer almost always result in at least 1 or 2 instant opportunities through LinkedIn (I say almost, because you have to put the work in, which is also why I’m confident the prospect will move forward with the full service – execution is hard).

That is value pricing at work.

The key here is to make the output of this discovery process insanely valuable. You have to be prepared for a handful of prospects to walk away happy with what you gave them.

But since you’re charging for this, it’s a win-win.

It will shorten your sales cycle by quickly identifying the people who see your value and are willing to invest.

There are two more reasons this works:

  1. Clients are used to paying for discovery – think about your last visit to the doctor. You don’t walk in there knowing what you need. Neither does the doctor. That’s why you have a consultation first, which you pay for.
  2. Discovery removes the risk for both parties – you both get to spend 5-10 hours learning what it’s like to work with each other. You both get value from it, and by the end of discovery, you have a pretty good idea if you want to move ahead and work together for 100’s of more hours.

How to create your own irresistible discovery offer.

A map for creating your own discovery offer
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I believe there are 5 key components of your opening offer to help you increase sales by selling discovery.

1) Deliver real value.

Don’t use this as an opportunity to charge for spec work that will only be valuable if you end up working together. Give them something of real value. If you’re a coach, consider offering a customized plan with one or two quick wins after a deep-dive coaching session. If you’re a web designer, consider offering a sitemap and wireframes of what a site could look like. If you’re an SEO consultant, consider offering a full SEO Audit with personalized recommendations. In my corporate training agency, Curious Lion, we offer a curriculum outline with learning outcomes that our client could use to build the training course themselves.

2) Make your discovery scope broader than what they asked for.

Take a holistic view at their company. Look for ways you can provide value and insights to them beyond just your area of expertise. This has a number of obvious benefits:

  • you will develop a better understanding of their business,
  • you will both gain perspective on how your service fits in,
  • you will position you as an expert, and
  • you create more value for your customers.

3) Tie your offer into a business goal of your prospect.

Our discovery process at Leadstream results in an approach that will give 80-90% of our prospects a LinkedIn boost and 2-3 new sales meetings within 30 days. Sales opportunities are the number one thing they come to us for. Use your initial calls to figure out what this is for your prospects and frame your offer around this. Ask open-ended questions. Get them to tell you what they desire the most, in their own words. Then use these words to reflect back to them how your offer can help them get there.

4) Over-deliver.

Delight your customers and they will always want to work with you. Under-promise when you sell the discovery, and then over-deliver on the execution.

5) Set a price.

Put a value on the years of experience you have delivering your product or service. A helpful way to think about this is in terms of your prospect’s business goals (point 3). For us, I know 2-3 sales meetings are easily worth $2,000 for the clients I want to be working with. You could also offer to apply the amount you charge as a credit to your larger offering if the client continues to work with you for a bigger project.

Final thoughts on how to increase sales by selling discovery.

The key to creating an irresistible discovery process and increasing sales is to ensure it creates massive value for your client, even if they don’t hire you after.

You can afford to open-source your ideas as long as you maintain the executional expertise. If the client was going to do it all by themselves, they would already be doing it.

Remember, knowledge is only a force multiplier; it has no value until combined with action. If your prospect finds your strategies useful, they’ll probably be interested in your help putting them into practice.

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Your discovery process could be a sign your business is improving
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