Recently, a customer interviewed had nothing except disparaging comments about the client’s team, the solution, and presentation. It appeared, from the customer’s point of view, nothing attempted by this sales effort came close to the mark. The complaints ranged from a presentation wherein the questions could not be answered to a solution, which was missing entire aspects requested in the RFP.

In a standard sales opportunity followup meeting, that would be the end of it. This customer’s comments would be aggregated with others who have been interviewed, and this information would be presented as a final and complete summary of findings.

In blissful ignorance the client would have missed a key component and enforced policies around training the sales team on how to properly present and the solution team on attention to detail in the requirements. A lot of wasted time and effort on both the stakeholder’s and team’s side.

Look Beyond the RFP Requirements

What occurred in this particular instance was after receiving the customer’s side of the story, the client’s stakeholders and sales team were invited to participate in a Discovery session (sales debrief). When the sales team was allowed to respond, it was discovered all RFP requirements were met in creating the solution response.

The team was adamant nothing in the requirements were overlooked and the response contained a solution which met the need. However, what may have led the customer to believe portions were missing was due to the fresh relationship with one of the client’s partners.

This client had a list of partners in the region for those instances in which they could not provide all of what was being required. When instances of special client need arose, the sales team was required to utilize this list of partners to meet it. The difficulty came in that due to a short customer timeline, the sales team had never even met this partner prior to contacting them for providing a solution.

Buyers look for partners who are open to suggestions, demonstrate flexibility, and align with the buyer’s vision.

Setup Frequent “Meet and Greet” Meetings with Vendor Partners

In fact, the team only had a short time to meet the new partner before their turn came to present. Because of this minimal contact, when it was time to actually give the presentation there was no synergy. The sales team and partner were all but strangers to one another and could not fluidly respond to the questions asked. This left the impression of an incomplete and risky solution as was evidenced in the customer’s interview.

The action item, which ultimately came from this Discovery session, was to require a meeting with the sales team and a partner on the regional list each month in order to develop relationships prior to the sudden customer need.

Without providing the stage for open discussion between the client stakeholders and sales team, this information may have never come to light. Many times it boils down to something simple; if you don’t know what you’re shooting at you’re never going to hit your target. In some instances, such as this case, the answer really does come down to who you know.

7 Tips for a Successful Discovery Session

  1. Gather Buyer feedback. Make sure it is in a form that others can review.
  2. Identify debrief participants. Based on feedback, who needs to attend?
  3. Have all participants come prepared. Review buyer feedback before debrief.
  4. Identify major advantages and disadvantages. These will be the symptoms you want to diagnose.
  5. Assign a note taker. Who will document root causes, best practices and action items?
  6. Have a documentation plan. How will you document so you can aggregate?
  7. Put together an action item follow up plan. How will you follow up on identified actions?