Buyer discovery is a crucial piece of any B2B sales process. How can you set prospects and customers up for success if you don’t know what’s going on in their world?
However, few do it really well – or even think about continuing discovery past the first call.
Great discovery (uncovering pain points, asking tough questions, deeply understanding your buyer’s world) should happen at every step of the sales process, with all stakeholders involved.
We asked Bryan Caplin (CRO at Nayya), Mike Palmer (Sales Lead at Harmonic AI) and Ben Pearson (Head of Sales & GTM at Navattic) for their advice on what great buyer discovery looks like, and how sales leaders can empower their reps to up-level their discovery game.
Get their tactics and watch the full masterclass below!
🔍 Why discovery matters at every stage, with every stakeholder
Discovery is a key piece of the B2B sales process, helping reps:
- Make the buying process easier for prospects
- Build stronger customer relationships
- Accelerate deals
- Disqualify leads that aren’t a good fit
We’re often ingrained to think about the sales process in a linear way, with all the stages (discovery, demo, proposal, pilot, etc) neatly laid out.
But in reality, sales processes are rarely linear. They’re much more fluid and dynamic: new stakeholder groups added, timelines extended, steps skipped or completed early or overlapping with each other.
“The problem with thinking about sales in a linear way is that reps will tie specific actions to those stages in the funnel, and what actions need to be taken at each step,” says Mike.
Which means that discovery often becomes a one-and-done step at the very beginning of the sales process.
Things move fast in the B2B world, and especially if you have a longer sales cycle, your buyers might experience changes at their organization, with their competitors, in the overall economic climate, etc. that impact their value props or challenges.
It’s also common for new stakeholder groups to be introduced later in the sales process – stakeholders who might have completely different values and pain points than your initial champion.
That’s why it’s key to meet your buyers where they are and embed discovery at every stage of your sales process, with every stakeholder involved.
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💪 How to up-level your team’s discovery game
Use call recording software to analyze your conversations
Tools like Gong or Chorus are great for coaching, helping you analyze your team’s calls with buyers and showing areas for improvement – including the ratio of talking to listening.
“Sales isn’t about talking, it’s about listening,” says Ben. “Listening is the #1 most important piece in discovery – all my best calls are the ones where I’m not talking as much as my prospect.”
Recap what you heard during the last call
At the beginning of each call with your buyer, quickly repeat what you heard them say on the last call, and ask them to confirm whether it’s still true or if anything needs to be changed.
Value props, pain points, etc. can easily shift throughout the buying process, and you need to make sure what you last heard is still resonating across their team.
Do account mapping & persona mapping
Be proactive when you have a new opportunity by understanding and mapping out all the players who might be involved (account mapping).
Based on your historical deals, look at which teams are typically involved and who the decision makers might be. Confirm with your champion and learn about their internal buying process. Then you can proactively get in front of all the key stakeholders to share information, instead of being on the defensive.
On an individual stakeholder level, persona mapping is key to understanding your buyer’s world. Which types of users / use cases do you have in the opp? What are their typical day-to-day challenges and pain points?
Being comfortable with speaking your buyers’ language and understanding their world empowers your reps to ask deeper, more meaningful questions.
❌ Common discovery pitfalls to avoid
Never revisiting what you heard during the first call
Don’t cling to the first thing your champion told you. You should continuously be revisiting and re-validating your buyer’s pain points and value props, even if not much time has passed. You never know when things might have changed at their organization!
Checking off a standard list of questions
It can be easy for reps to check off a standard list of questions during discovery, especially before they’re comfortable with their ICP. The problem with that is reps are often so focused on the next question they need to ask that they forget to truly listen and respond to their buyer in the moment.
Sales leaders should avoid prescribing reps a long list of specific questions to ask during discovery. Instead, coach reps on the high-level themes and pieces you’re trying to uncover. Focus on the end goal – understanding your buyer’s problems, desired state, and timeline – and coach on tactics for getting there, even if the questions look a little different each time.
Being afraid to ask tough or direct questions
“Anyone can ask straightforward questions like ‘What keeps you up at night?’” Bryan says. “Go a level deeper to really understand the full spectrum of things your buyers are struggling with.”
Many reps are afraid to ask tough or direct questions because they’re afraid of getting a “no.” But it’s extremely important to ask those questions so your deal can progress or so you can disqualify it.
Even if your product doesn't end up solving their problem, you can still help your buyer by being honest and providing alternate solutions – and you'll win extra credibility through that transparency.
When your reps are genuinely curious about your buyers' challenges and focused on being as helpful as possible throughout the entire buying journey, their discovery game will be much stronger.
Get proven playbooks from top B2B startups to see how they're building repeatable, buyer-centric sales processes.