TALKING SALES 85: “The cornerstone of the successful sale“ – Tony Bonanno

Discovery                   “Good quality discovery opens the door to good quality sales” – Discussion with John Smibert


In this conversation Tony Bonanno postulates that, if there was only one key skill on which a salesperson could focus, it should be ‘Discovery’.

TB Pic 300x300 Sept 2015Tony explains that good quality, well thought through and well-founded ‘discovery’ will ensure we develop a deep understanding of the customer’s business purpose, what they’re currently doing to achieve it, and what’s getting in the way.  It’s only then that we  learn the value that is needed to take them on the journey they need to go, and we’ll be able to decide “Can I help them?  Yes – now I’m in sales mode.  No – shake hands, stay friends, move on.”

Tony then goes on to discuss what discovery entails and how we should go about developing our capability to conduct an effective discovery process.

He sums up with “It’s all about the dialogue, it’s all about that conversation. If that’s not done well the result is poor quality discovery which leads to a poor sale, or perhaps no sale. Good quality discovery opens the door to good quality sales.

See the interview below for more ‘discovery’ insight from Tony.

Tony Bonnano is a thought leader in sales management, sales growth and behavioural change

See more of the ‘TALKING SALES’ series here


John: I’m delighted to have Tony Bonanno with me again! Welcome back, Tony!

Tony: Thanks, John!

John: You’ve got a lot of experience and have seen a lot of things that good salespeople do. If I was really to put you on the hammer right now and ask you what’s the one key skill that would make a difference to most salespeople, if they focus just on that one skill?

Tony: It would have to be discovery.

John: Discovery.

Tony: Good quality, well thought through, well-founded discovery.

John: Why do you say that?

Tony: Well, if you don’t understand three things… what is a customer’s business purpose, what they’re doing to achieve that, and what’s getting in the way, you can’t sell them…

John: Can I add a fourth to that?

Tony: Please!

John: And if they do achieve it, what the value is to them.

Tony: Absolutely, and that’s where discovery comes in. Because when you do good quality discovery you will learn all of that, you will learn the value that is needed to take them on the journey they need to go, and you’ll be able to decide “Can I give it? Yes – now I’m in sales mode. Can I not give it? No – shake hands, stay friends, move on.” Alright?

John: Oh yes, 100% agree with you. I think discovery is underrated by a lot of training organisations and salespeople, and they focus on things later in the sales cycle, like negotiation and close, which in my mind really become very minor things if you’ve done discovery well.

Tony: Well, if you have to negotiate and when you come to close, you should be doing so based on what you learn through discovery.

John: Yes, and it becomes easy, doesn’t it?

Tony: Otherwise what are you doing? You’re trying to close on features and benefits, or something that you think is important that the customer doesn’t necessarily see eye to eye with.

John: We’re in total agreement, discovery is an absolute key skill we need to… So, tell me about discovery? How do you need to develop that skill? What does it entail?

Tony: Well, obviously there’s the basics of being able to ask the right questions at the right time and follow them through and drill down until you strike some oil with those particular questions. You need to understand purpose and pain through that, you need to understand the importance of the various issues that you are being privy to. You need to quantify those, because in quantifying those particular issues you will learn whether or not there is expected value, and also being able to derive what a customer might be prepared to spend to solve a particular problem, and when you’ve done those things then you can work out “How would I move forward?”

John: Okay. That’s a lot for a salesperson to learn and be capable of. You’re really, from what I’m hearing – and I think I’ve heard a lot of people say it – a salesperson actually needs to be a domain expert in the field in which they’re selling.

Tony: They do.

John: Okay. So, you’re saying you can’t sell if you’re not a domain expert?

Tony: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, being a domain expert adds value to your discovery, because you can ask more insightful questions.

John: Okay. And I guess if you’ve got the right sort of pre-sale people, you bring them along to help you with the domain expertise you need.

Tony: Another option.

John: Yes, okay.

Tony: A good salesperson is one who can engage with the customer, and through good quality discovery earn their trust.

John: And a really good salesperson does have domain expertise – and has projected a personal brand if you like, a knowledge – and the customer’s aware that they have value that they can bring to the table.

Tony: Yes, that works together.

John: And then discovery becomes a good dialogue.

Tony: It’s all about the dialogue, it’s all about that conversation. If that’s not done well… I mean, I’ve said many times that poor quality discovery leads to poor sale, or perhaps no sale. Good quality discovery opens the door to good quality sales.

John: That’s a great way to finish this discussion – you’ve nailed it!

Tony: My pleasure – thanks, John!

John: Thanks, Tony!



More interviews with Tony Bonanno:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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