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Short Circuit The Sales Process: Lead With A Hypothesis

You don’t have time to ask a prospect how you can help them. They expect you to know the answer before you even introduce yourself.

The Sales Discovery Call is a luxury many sales professionals don’t get to use. It’s an effective tool, because it helps you understand your prospect’s business. The typical anatomy of a discovery call includes:

  • Why they’re talking with you
  • Issue identification
  • Who is involved in their decision making process
  • What other options they are considering

But not all prospects are willing to give you the time—especially at the start of the sales process. They’re looking for answers and proof you can help them before they’ll invest time in you.

Instant search shapes buyer expectations

Buyers have been conditioned to expect information quickly. If Google can predict your search as you’re typing, then sales people should be able to predict the buyers’ needs too.

The expectation may not be reasonable or realistic, but it exists. The buyer is asking, “Why should I pay attention? What will you do for me?”

You’ve got to demonstrate that you understand your prospect, and can point out solutions to problems they may or may not have considered yet.

Lead with a hypothesis

Sidestep the Sales Discovery Call, and lead with a hypothesis.

A hypothesis has 3 parts:

  1. A question: Are you facing the following situation, or experiencing these symptoms?
  2. An example: A company like yours went through a similar situation.
  3. A solution: This is what we offer, and how we helped them solve the situation.

The hypothesis is a qualifying question. Are you facing this issue or situation? If so, I can help you solve it. Would you like to talk further?

Qualify if the problem exists first

Qualify if there’s a need for your services first. You don’t need a lengthy discovery call to determine if the need for your services exists.

Leading with a hypothesis helps to short circuit a convoluted discovery process, and gets right to the point:

Do you need me, yes or no? If yes, here’s what I can do. If no, please keep me in mind if you have a need for my expertise [insert your brand positioning and category here].

And don’t fear hearing ‘No.’ A well placed hypothesis will stick with your prospect, and they’ll call you first when the time is right.

  • This is a great article Jeremy.  It speaks to the ADD world that most executives live in today and the overwhelming amount of information they’re bombarded with.  As a vendor it’s no longer just about how to make yourself stand out, but how do you make yourself stand out quickly.
    So first it was product pitching that was dead, and now it’s the far superior (to product pitching) Miller Heiman approach of let me ask you a bunch of diagnostic questions find the pain before I start to sell to you approach, that’s being compromised, because it takes too long to execute in today’s information overload ADD world.
    So to go back to the beginning of your article Jeremy, in my opinion, it may be unreasonable for a prospect to expect you to know their needs, but it is completely realistic for the prospect to expect you to understand  what problems you solve or goals you help companies like theirs achieve and for you to have two or three specific questions that quickly determine if that prospect has those problems or unachieved goals.  And even better if those problems or unachieved goals are linked directly to your competitively differentiated value prop (because why would you be looking for prospects that any of your competitors could do just as good a job at addressing their needs)
    So, in my opinion,  bus dev is no longer about product pitching or examining a prospect until you a find pain, it’s about knowing the pain you address (ideally better than anyone else) and looking for prospects who already have that pain.
    The fact that most senior executives spend most of their time looking for ways to solve problems or acheive currently unachieved goals, makes this approach consistent with who executives at your prospective customer are currently consuming information.
    My two cents.
    Regards, Jim Barnet