Selling Power Blog

News & Insights for B2B Sales Leaders

February 7, 2022

The New Discovery

By Skip Miller, President, M3 Learning

With travel still in limbo, sales meetings still being done virtually, and demo-to-close ratios dropping to all-time lows, it’s not surprising that sales teams are finally looking at what happens in the discovery step of a sale.

Some companies are changing their discovery process and getting some remarkable results. Here’s what they’re doing.

Start with bite-sized meetings

The old way, you had to travel to the prospect in person, you had an hour, and you were under pressure to make the most of it. The goal of discovery used to be:

  • Why buy anything?
  • Why us?
  • Why now?

It all centered on finding out if they had a need for your stuff, and if you had a solution to fit.

That’s why when you were done, your goal was to understand what your solution was, how much it was going to cost, and when you were going to close.

It wasn’t close to perfect, but it’s what happened, since you didn’t really want to make another trip.

With virtual meetings, the rules have changed. You have 30 minutes, max (Why do you think TED talks are 18 minutes?). You need to break up discovery into bite-sized chunks, and it’s usually now multiple meetings instead of one.

Of course, since they are virtual, that’s not a problem, and if the customer agrees to these, you get a sense of how qualified they are too.

A screenshot showing three different approaches to a discovery call.

Not only does this take less overall time, but you have a fully engaged client, who feels heard, and you are working on potential options that could fit their budgets.

Prepare with customer chair questions

Instead of presenting or giving a demo in the discovery meeting, you now need to think like the customer. What are they thinking about that you don’t know?

  • What is causing them to make a change? Not what’s causing them to look at you.
  • What is the size of the problem?
  • What are the outcomes they are looking for?
  • What happens if they don’t make a change?
  • When did they want to start the change that you can be a part of?

Most of the first discovery step should be about them and what they are trying to do. At the end, they should feel heard, and you should feel good about setting up the next step. It’s not about you yet. You do not want to be a solution hunting for a problem.

Understand dual value propositions

There are always two value propositions. The executive one, which we call above the line (ATL), and the person/team that will be using what you are selling, which we call the below the line (BTL) buyer.

A screenshot showing the old way of looking at a value proposition.

That would be typically a mix of ATL and BTL buyers, and that’s a recipe for disaster.

A screenshot showing the new way of looking at a value proposition

Next steps

With this new discovery process in mind, it allows your next steps (demo, trial, POC) to be validation, rather than education. The prospect can take ownership of the solutions being discussed, rather than just understand what you are saying, but have no clue what’s in it for them.

This will shorten your sales process, ensure you have a qualified prospect, and get to a decision quicker.


By staying with the old way of discovery and not adapting to virtual selling and buying, you will be trying to fit that square peg into that round hole. Adapt to what the buyer is doing, not your old successful habits, and you’ll see a remarkable uptick in your sales.

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H. G. Wells

Headshot of Skip Miller

Skip Miller is the author of seven sales and sales management books including Selling Above and Below the Line. You can reach him at, or go to his website at