Selling Power Blog

News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

December 11, 2019

How to Master the Sales Discovery Process and Get Powerful Results

Time and again I hear from sales leaders that most B2B sales professionals on their teams don’t know how to articulate a value proposition.

I like to ask these leaders, “What does ‘value’ mean?” I can tell you, I have yet to get the same answer twice.

Now, that’s not too surprising, because value is in the eye of the customer. In other words, the customer defines what value is.

The Customer Defines Value 

If that’s the case, then how are you supposed to figure out what value means for each potential customer? You start solving that equation during the sales discovery process.

The ideal way to determine precisely what value means to each buyer is to ask high-impact questions (HIQs) during discovery. This requires salespeople to be curious. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. The only way to learn is to ask questions and listen well.

The sales discovery process is the means by which you obtain the information required to create personalized value – and personalized value is the only true way to differentiate. Discovery helps you get to why the individual is buying – not just why the company needs to make the purchase. Understanding the reason your customer wants to make a purchase will then help you understand what’s valuable to him or her.

Three Ways to Identify Value during Sales Discovery 

High-performing sales professionals elevate discovery to an art form. They focus on three important actions throughout sales discovery that position them to identify and create differentiating value:

  1. Do thorough research.
  2. Ask high-impact questions (HIQs).
  3. Practice active listening.

Let’s examine each action in more detail.

Action #1: Thoroughly research your prospect. 

Effective discovery begins with thoughtful research. At bare minimum, leverage the usual suspects (Google,, LinkedIn, and your prospect’s company Website).

High performers know to also look at sites like Glassdoor, Reddit, Twitter, and various buyer forums. Research will show the customer that you’re prepared. It will also help you ask targeted, meaningful, and relevant questions, which will help you gain credibility.

Action #2: Ask high-impact questions (HIQs). 

When you’re trying to uncover what matters to your customer, you have to be deliberate about the types of questions you ask. HIQs are a powerful type of question. Think of them as open-ended questions on steroids.

HIQs help you probe deeper and uncover more information. The magic of these questions is they allow space for the customer’s emotions to emerge. Understanding emotion is crucial, because people typically buy based on emotion – then rationalize the purchase using logic. HIQs are questions that would make a terrific therapist or psychiatrist jealous. Remember, psychologists are trained to bring out human emotions.

Here’s the great news: It’s fairly simple to create HIQs! Here are some phrases to help you frame your HIQs:

  • “Can you describe…?”
  • “How do you think about the issue of…?”
  • “Can you tell me more about…?”

For any specific customer, use your research to fill in the blanks. For example, if your prospect is facing a competitive threat, you could ask, “Can you tell me more about how you plan to differentiate your offering from XYZ Company’s newly launched offering?”

#3: Practice active listening. 

After you’ve asked these probing questions, listen. Active listening is crucial to building customer trust.

As sales professionals, we can sometimes be guilty of not really listening to our customers because we are trying to figure out our response. People know when you are listening on a shallow level; it makes them feel like you don’t care. It’s important to be conscientious of this and remind yourself, in the moment, to return your attention to the customer. People love to talk about themselves. More than that: They love feeling heard. We humans have a tendency to equate how much we matter to someone with how well they listen to us. Take some time to learn active listening skills – they will positively change how your customers interact with you and how they perceive you.

Personalize Your Customer Interactions to Deliver Value 

When you know what the customer feels is valuable, you are ready to personalize your interactions and messaging to deliver that value. Think about what they have shared with you and what matters to them on a personal or emotional level. What can you do to help them achieve what they hope to? Make that happen. Differentiation lives in the way you address the customer’s unique personal goals, needs, and wants.

Sales discovery is the key to unlocking the information – emotional and rational – that will help you create something meaningful for your customers. Remember: You can’t create personalized value if you don’t do a thorough discovery and understand your customer’s heart and mind. Top performers know the secret sauce: The human-to-human connection helps you deliver personalized value, win the deal, and win customers for life.

Want a complimentary sample sheet of HIQs designed to draw out your customers’ emotional and rational needs? Email me at with the subject line “discovery questions” and I’ll send you one.

Headshot of Anita Nielsen

Today’s post is by Anita Nielsen, bestselling author of Beat the Bots: How Your Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career. She is a sales enablement consultant and performance coach with over 20 years of experience in B2B sales and support and is also the president of LDK Advisory Services, LLC. As an advocate for salespeople, Anita is dedicated to coaching and equipping them for long-term success. Selling Power magazine named Anita on its list of Top Sales Enablement Consultants in 2018 and 2019.