by Tim Conder, VP of Customer Success at Bolstra
Why is Discovery important?
While Discovery is incredibly informative for a XaaS vendor, it’s important to remember that it’s a moment of vulnerability and truth for a customer. When a customer is willing to share their business model, their pain points, and their needs with you, they are demonstrating trust that you will be able to help them ease their pain and reach their desired outcomes. Sales teams learn a lot during the courting relationship with a prospect, and Customer Success teams rely heavily on their Sales counterparts to extract information, consolidate it, and then share it at Handoff in a seamless fashion so that customers feel that they are known and understood. Good Discovery informs, builds trust, and paints a vivid picture of the future relationship.
Who needs to know this?
Discovery typically happens during the sales process and again once a customer is handed over to Customer Success. It’s important that both Sales and Customer Success teams know what is (should be) covered during Discovery, and that information that’s gleaned during Discovery sessions is shared fully between teams. Most customers will share more information as the relationship grows, so keeping Discovery information current is part of the process of gathering and sharing Discovery intel.
Putting Discovery in context.
If Discovery is truly a relationship-building process, then heading into it requires some background knowledge. (You wouldn’t begin dating someone you didn’t know anything about – right?) Both Sales and Customer Success should know the landscape of their (prospective) customers. This includes knowledge of the industry/vertical (inclusive of specific problems your solution typically helps solve), historical context of the customer themselves, and intel about competitor inroads (when possible). Using this information as a backdrop for personalized Discovery will fortify both sales efforts and onboarding by demonstrating that you know the vertical and are relevant in it.
Basic guidelines for conducting Discovery that sets customer success up for success.
Discovery conducted during the sales process is basically a way of determining whether or not a company is a good fit for your product. However, that same information (if the company is a good fit) serves as the foundation for a customer profile that Customer Success teams will need to understand if they are to hit the ground productively at handoff. Sales teams want to know things such as who is going to make the buying decision and the company’s budget for a solution.
Customer Success teams are more interested in understanding the problems and pains the customer is having: how big is the problem, what compelling events have defined the problem, and how long has the customer been grappling with the problem.
This information may not be revealed through an official Discovery session, but it will likely come out during the sales process and should be documented and fully communicated with the CS team.
As sales teams move through the sales cycle, they learn a lot about their future customers that CS teams want/need to know. While it’s impractical for CS teams to be present during the courtship, it can be beneficial for them to be brought in near the end of a sale. We actually recommend bringing them in when there’s no more competition, and the details of the relationship are being discussed. This way the CS team can meet and understand the customer first hand and, more importantly, participate in defining the solution. Whether CS is represented during the sales process or not, they will want information that’s gleaned during the sales cycle, such as:
- What use cases are most interesting to the prospect, and why?
- Note: screen shots of configured demos form valuable insights to share with the CS team.
- What additional issues/concerns is this company hoping to address with the purchase of your solution?
- Note: sometimes this is just a mention that comes up, and isn’t fully vetted during the sales process, but it still is valuable to share with the CS team.
- What internal dynamics (sponsor, responsible buyer, end user, etc.) can you identify that sheds light on potential risks or gaps within the organization?
Documenting answers to all of these questions and sharing that information across the organization (from sales to delivery) is what comprises a meaningful Discovery methodology.
What do we learn through Discovery?
Conducting solid Discovery sessions with prospects who become customers is extremely valuable and important in building a relationship with them. In fact, this relationship-building exercise can be the most important thing you do with your customer – and it happens before they ever sign their contract. Doing it right not only informs your team of the value of the (prospective) customer, but also sets the tone for a trusting relationship where your company is poised to help their company solve an important problem. Even though customer motivations and desired outcomes may (and will likely) shift over time, organizational communication is vital to effective Discovery.
Read more about the Blocking and Tackling of Customer Success.
Tim Conder is the VP of Customer Success at Bolstra. Prior to joining the leadership team at Bolstra, Tim had his own Customer Success consulting business, eServeo, where he built a comprehensive set of best practices around the full customer lifecycle – from acquisition to onboarding to renewals. These practices have formed the foundation of Bolstra’s platform and assurance service offerings.