The Blockbuster Discovery Meeting!


What are you trying to achieve in that all-important first meeting?

Here is a STORY METAPHOR that may help ...


The Discovery Meeting. The first meeting with a potential client. I think it's the most important meeting in business. If it goes well, you might have a new client for decades. And if it goes badly. You've probably got nothing.

Most of those books over my shoulder teach questioning frameworks. Ask this question… then this question, then this question. When I teach salespeople how to conduct a discovery meeting, there's a couple of pretty serious problems with that approach.

One is understanding the correct intent. And it's not apparent in those (questioning) models. And the second is most salespeople struggle to follow those models.

I'd like to introduce the concept of a STORY MEETING - a different way to think about the discovery meeting, that first critical meeting. And I want to introduce a metaphor. I'd like you to imagine yourself (the salesperson) as a MOVIE DIRECTOR.

You are the movie director and you're looking to see if you can make your client THE STAR of your new movie. But why should a famous actor even meet with you the movie director? Well, if you think about it, there's only two reasons. The first would be, you've had a lot of successful hits in star's genre.

So you have some SUCCESS STORIES. OR, you've got a great idea - a great PLOT idea that they could star in. And that's the equivalent of an INSIGHT STORY.

So you get the meeting with your INSIGHT STORY or your SUCCESS STORY. And now you're going to consider your job in the meeting is to get that movie plot. To flesh-out that movie that you're going to make with your client.

You probably remember that there's four parts to a business story. We've got a setting, complication, a turning point and a resolution. But the movie you're going to make has four different names to the parts. The setting is called the BACK STORY. You need the backstory and then we need to SAVE THE HERO from dying. Because in a movie the hero nearly dies three or four times. So that's the complication. Then the hero SUCCEEDS the hero wins the battle and finally we have the LEGACY, what's… what's the follow on sequence.

When the star of the movie is sitting on the porch at the end in that last scene. With his bride or with one of his children. Looking back at that victory and thinking, yeah, that's what it meant. That's the legacy. That's the legacy of the hero’e success.

So we need to get those four parts. We just need to have four conversations within the discovery meeting. We'll start with the backstory and the way we do that is by telling our personal story mixed with that company story. That's the normal story we would tell first and we tell that story to ask the question - "What about you? How did you become a movie star? get into your role? How did your company get to where it got to?"

We exchange stories to get the backstory.

Then I normally coach you to skip the complications and talk about the success. How is success going to look? Then we can come back and look at the ways the hero could nearly dieAnd introduce our LIGHT SABRE, our special tools, those MAGIC KEYS that will prevent the hero from dying in this story.

And then we need to talk about the legacy. In the big picture where does it fit in with their whole company? What's it gonna mean a couple of years or five years down the track? And what would that mean for their career?What would be the legacy of this project that we're going to do?

... this movie that we're going to shoot?

So those are the four parts. If you can remember the four parts of the story. You can remember the four parts of the conversations that you to have. Of course, there are going to be questions. But really we're thinking about this as a natural conversation in four parts. We don't have to get the four parts in the right sequence. We can put the story back together afterwards.

And the beauty of this is that the proposal that we write is simply that story - It's the movie plot. That's the proposal. The best proposals read like a movie. Furthermore, we tell that story back to our boss When the boss asks how did the how did the meeting go? Most bosses, I can tell you, I was a sales manager for 20 years and most of my clients share this frustration - The salesperson comes back from the meeting and cannot answer the basic questions about the client situation.

But you can!!… You can lay out the entire plot - the backstory, how they going to win with your products and services and what it's really going to name for their company. That story is going to help you get the critical resources that you need internally to be able to deliver that project. Furthermore, your client, on receiving your story, your plot, will be able to share that story within their organization and persuade the other stakeholders. Maybe people that you don't even meet. So that people are being persuaded to make this movie. They like that plot because you put it in a story format that they can understand.

So when you think about the discovery meeting, think about being a movie director,and making your client the STAR!

The movie director and the star of the movie are on the same social level. You're not "helping" or trying have a "relationship" which is what a lot of people think that sales is about, that puts you at a low social status and you're not a detective using questions like an inquisitor to find out logically why they must buy from you, or someone challenging them and pretending you know more about their business tahn they do. That's above them on a social level.

No, you're meeting as equals, you are the director and they are the - star and you're gonna do this together.

And that's the right - it's the right social status to have in the discovery meeting, and it's much easier to remember the Hollywood movie and the four parts of the movie, that you need to have a conversation about to conduct a great discovery meeting!

Tell me what you think in the comments. I'd love to hear what you think, I'm Mike Adams.

The Leads are Weak! Telling Half the Story

Mike’s Article in Smart Company


““The leads are weak!”

“The <expletive deleted> leads are weak??? You’re weak!”

This exchange between ‘salesman’ Jack Lemmon and his boss Alec Baldwin in the classic movie Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) is repeated every time salespeople are presented with a lead list from a misguided marketing campaign. Are the leads weak or is the salesperson weak? Maybe both.

Here is how to use stories to both improve the leads and help the salesperson close them. There are only two types of lead and you must have a story lure attached to each. Prepare the stories before you start the marketing.

Insight lead

Your marketing campaign highlights an insight that your company has about your client’s market or business — something they do not know or appreciate but would profit from if they knew.

The problem with insight is, by definition, it’s not obvious. If it was obvious, it’s not insightful. But a direct challenge with the insight ‘facts’ is unlikely to be accepted because your clients are pretty sure they know how to run their business. So how does one present a non-obvious challenging idea to a client that knows what they’re doing?

The answer is in the insight story. That’s the story of how your company learnt the insight. It’s also called the researcher’s story. We tell the researcher’s discovery journey, describing the research setting, the false leads and trials, then the Eureka moment of discovery and finally explain what the discovery means. With this story, your client will co-experience the insight, understand it and accept it.

Success lead

Nothing attracts buyers like stories of people like them, that succeeded. The success lead is created from a success story — that’s a story of someone like your buyer, that succeeded with your products and services. To use a success story, it’s critical your marketing campaign targets buyers that can identify with your success story.

But a success story is not a case study. The classic three-part case study starts with your client in a terrible situation, your company rides in on your white horse and fixes the problem, and then you have a happy client. That case study format is terrible for generating leads because you will have made your company the hero, and future buyers do not identify with you, they identify with people like themselves.

The hero of your success story must be the client that succeeded with your help — you are just the guide! Start the story with your client, then introduce the challenge they were faced with. Then describe how they met your company and the plan you gave them. Finally, explain how your client avoided failure and achieved success. A well-told success story lets your future client experience your service before they buy.

Now that you have developed your lead stories it’s time to plan how marketing and sales can tell the story together in a coordinated way. The trick is in the way you create story curiosity.

Telling half the story

In many B2C sales situations, the objective of the marketing campaign is to get a conversation with a potential buyer. Marketing gets the conversation appointment and sales has the conversation to make the sale (or not, if it’s a poor fit).

The key to getting the appointment is curiosity, and the ‘half story’ creates intense curiosity.

‘To be continued …’ is the phrase that gets you yearning for next instalment of your favourite TV series. Netflix has created a $150 billion business from ‘Next episode starting in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1′ seconds…

By telling the setting and complication events of either an insight story or a success story, you’ll attract the right buyer and get them wanting to know more. That’s exactly what salespeople need — the right buyer-type wanting to know more.

How should the salesperson approach the lead? Again, with half the story.

‘I’m calling you because you expressed interest in <this setting> and this <complication> …’ The setting and complication will either be insight or success story events.

Notice we are not leading with the resolution of the story. That’s what most salespeople do. Think: ‘I’m calling to talk about how client X saved $200,000.’

That’s leading with the story resolution and that kills curiosity and screams ‘saleperson alert’!

Stories align marketing and sales

Neither the leads or the salesperson will be weak if they collaborate with strong stories. The new year is a prime time for selling. Is it time to align your marketing and sales departments with stories to take full advantage?

Mike Adams

Mike circle.JPG

Mike is the co-founder and chief storyteller at The Story Leader and author of Seven Stories Every Salesperson Must Tell. He has managed sales teams in the UK, Russia and throughout Asia for international corporations such as Schlumberger, Siemens, Nokia and Halliburton and has sold over a billion dollars of products and services over his career.