The 6 Moments of Truth for Sales Effectiveness – Part 4

You are here

Mike Kunkle

Review of Parts 1-3

In the first post in this series, I wrote about:

  • The top-producer analyses I’ve done over the years and what I learned from the top 4% and the remaining 16% (of the Top 20%).
  • The resulting “6 Moments of Truth for Sales Effectiveness,” at which these 16-Percenters excel.

In the second post in this series, I wrote about:

  • The power of Prospecting done well and how to do it more effectively. 

In the third post in this series, I wrote about:

  • The power of preparation, with Sales Call Planning.

The 6 Moments of Truth for Sales Effectiveness

© 2018 Fast Lane & Mike Kunkle

In this post, we’ll discuss the next of the 6 Moments, Discovery.


Discovery is a big topic, one on which entire books have been written. It’s foundational to all flavors of consultative selling for B2B complex sales environments, including the adaptive sales methodology I endorse and most-often prescribe for selling advanced technology solutions (especially IoT and Industrial Internet solutions).

Some in the sales profession consider the act of discovering what is important to prospects or clients and understanding their challenges, opportunities, needs, and requirements to be the most basic skill in selling. After all, this is taught in every sales 101-type course on the planet, right?

In contrast, top producers see sales discovery as a strategic thought process and a series of tactical skills, almost elevated to an art form. In the right hands, discovery becomes a competitive differentiator.

So, on one hand, I agree that discovery seems basic, or perhaps at least foundational. Other than Prospecting (creating enough interest to have a sales conversation in the first place), the practice of discovery is the foundation on which everything else is built.

The better you understand your buyer – their situation, challenges, opportunities, concerns, perspectives, business needs, personal motivators, how they are measured, what they value, desired outcomes, their timeframe, budget, obstacles, political allies and detractors, and more – the better you can develop a solution that is relevant, compelling, and creates value.

Sales Discovery is a Massive Performance Lever

I’ve studied top sales producers for over 15 years now. I want to be clear that I don’t have research data to support this next statement – but I believe it to be true and have seen much anecdotal evidence of it:

“Improving the Sales Discovery skills of average sales producers is the single biggest lever you can pull to improve their sales performance.”

There are certainly examples of other inhibitors to performance that prevent sales growth. For example, if a rep truly understands their prospects’ needs but doesn't have a great product, or they can’t communicate or present a solution well, or can’t negotiate or close. If a rep is getting decent results, though (meaning they’re average – middle of the pack), and needs general improvement across the board, this is one of the best places to start and typically offers excellent gains.

The Situation Assessment Framework

Here is the framework I recommend for Discovery for complex B2B selling at senior levels.

While this model can be customized for any specific business, the elements should be relatively easy to understand and are mostly universal at this surface level. I’ll mention a few things specifically:

  • Under Plans and Initiatives in the Future State Factor Analysis, people often ask why I include “Related past initiatives & outcomes” here, in the section about the desired future. It’s a judgment call, but I find it works best here because it’s a discussion about what’s been done in the past (not currently) to arrive at the desired future state. Sometimes these past projects produced some positive result, but not enough. Sometimes, these past efforts did not produce results, either due to selecting the wrong solution for the problem or poor execution of the right solution. Both provide important context about the desired future state, which you should know before recommending your solution (especially if your solution is close to a past effort, which was a good solution choice but was executed poorly and is being judged as something that “didn’t work”).
  • A “No Decision” status, or staying with the status quo, occurs as frequently in some industries as losing to a competitor. In the Analysis section of the Current State Factor Analysis, that’s why it’s important to discuss, understand, or get your decision makers thinking about the risks of doing nothing. Conversely, in the Future State Factor Analysis, it’s important to detail what could prevent success of the efforts to reach this state (in Six Sigma, this is referred to as Failure Modes and Effects Analysis or FMEA).
  • In the Impacts section on both sides, most average sales reps do not explore these metrics or factors deeply enough. Whenever possible, especially with financial and operational metrics, you should attempt to “peel the onion” and “dollarize” them to add depth and weight to these factors. (For example, saying, “You want to avoid missing quota again” is quite different than being able to say, “You missed quota by [A%] last year which translated into a [$B] miss. This year, you are already [C%] behind your YTD goal, which is [$D] behind plan. Given your average sales cycle, if you don’t address this issue and accelerate revenue by [month], this could result in a quota miss of [E%] or [$F].) It’s the continued exploration and willingness to dig deep and ask the difficult questions that will enable you to close the gap between those examples.
  • These factors and the various buying process exit criteria (what each decision maker needs to see, hear, feel, understand and believe in each stage of their buyers’ journey to feel comfortable moving forward to the next stage of the process with you) may vary by buyer. This can be true for their business needs as well as any personal needs.
  • I typically consider Opportunity Qualification (another of the 6 Moments) to be part of this framework, but since I broke that out as a separate “Moment,” I will share that next time.


This should give you a great start toward rethinking your approach to Discovery. When you get in the habit, you’ll find it takes less time than you thought and the rewards are outstanding. If you need help exploring the deeper details of this framework to develop a specific questioning approach and then implementing this effectively to improve the performance of your sales force, reach out and let me know – we’d be happy to guide and support you.

In the next post in this series, I’ll take a closer look at modern Opportunity Qualification methods.  

Start Transforming Your Business Today

What's Stirring in the
Brains Of Our Experts

Digital Transformation Specialist

David Mantica

VP Sales and Marketing

My Technology Perspective

In his early career David had experience working around WAN solutions and services including DSL, Frame Relay and ATM.  On top of the experience David did presentations, product management and marketing on Voice over IP. VoIP become David’s primary expertise and he spent a great deal of time on supporting professionals as they dealt with the ever changing standards and solutions in that space including Computer Telephony Integration issues, H.248 and H.323 (SIP).

Digital Transformation Specialist

Alan Lee

VP of Business Development- Storage/OS

My Technology Perspective

Alan’s focus has always been on creating successful partner/customer relationships by seeking to understand their issues and identifying business solutions to solve them. Through years of experience in working with technical partners using education and services as change agents, he brings a breadth of knowledge to bear on the digital business transformation requirements of today’s businesses.     

Free Resources and Tools to help
with your Digital Transformation

Resources | Insights

Digital Transformation Inc becomes Fast Lane Digital

Chuck Terrien

When we created Digital Transformation Inc. (DTI) two years ago we were in the process of our own digital transformation.

Jun 07, 2018

Why are all the horses in the barn?

Rob Batten

Why are all the horses in the barn? I use this phrase often when working with sales management during transformational engagements.

Apr 11, 2018