Discover First, Prescribe Later

Discover First, Prescribe Second (or Third, or Fourth, or ….)
Imagine walking in to the doctors office and, instead of opening your medical records, taking some vital signs, looking in your ears (what ARE they looking for, anyhow?), and hearing your story, he or she just hands you a prescription and says “Everyone has the flu right now, you must too.  You need this medicine.  Take it.”
Would you fill the prescription (assuming it wasn’t for “medical” marijuana)?
Would you go to that doctor again?   How would you feel?
Now, imagine meeting Jim.   He’s a sales leader for
Being with THE leading firm in Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud (THE hot stuff these days!),  Jim’s seen all the pain points in a wide range of customers.  His solutions ARE the best.
They have JPMorgan and Walmart on their customer roster.  With those two names they MUST have a great product, right?
Why don’t YOU know of them already?  He’s sure that YOU have problems that HE can solve.  All you need to do is listen to him.  He talks constantly.  Every one of your intelligently probing questions, honed from years of experience so that you can understand his offering in terms that make sense to you, are deflected so he can tell you more about his successes.
What do you do?   Unfortunately, some people are in awe of Jim and bite on his approach.  Most people, however, don’t like Jim.   They tune him out.  Jim reflects on the call and how stupid you are for not calling him back.   You reflect on the call and shake your head, thrilled that it’s over and vowing to never take his call again.
Don’t be Jim.
How can people know my pain walking in the door?  Why do they feel a need to paint me into a corner where I must have their stuff?  After all, a good product sells itself.  The trick to selling it is to get out of the way by making people feel comfortable with you, educating them at their level and, in the process, building a relationship.
How do you do that?   My experience is that the successful salespeople DISCOVER FIRST and, only when they understand me, my company, and the situation, prescribe LATER.
Discovery is a way of building your own knowledge base about a prospect or customer while at the same time building a relationship of trust.   It is not a questionnaire, it’s a conversation at a measured pace.
Get to know them, just like you trust your doctors when they get to know you.   You have to educate them on your product or service, but do so in chunks.  I don’t know too many people who aren’t interested in learning something new.  They just don’t want it delivered via a Beer Bong.   They have to taste it, savor it, see if it’s what they want and not just get drunk on it.    If you do it right, they will be so educated and comfortable that they’ll write their own prescription!
The best sales interactions I’ve had are with people who look to really understand me and my situation while also allowing me to understand their offerings.   That happens through an engaging discussion where, if nothing else, you make a friend, expand your network, hone your conversational skills, and grow your knowledge base.   It’s a win/win regardless of the sales outcome.    At some point in that conversation we both realize that (1) it was nice meeting and we part ways wishing each other good luck with our pursuits or (2) there’s a potential match of need and solution and we should take it to the next level.    If you’re going to the next level, that’s where you can start testing prescription OPTIONS within the trusting foundation you’ve built on your way to a long-term mutually-beneficial relationship.
Try it.    You might like it.    And…. DON’T BE JIM, please!
by Mr. CIO On-Point
Mr. CIO OnPoint currently serves as a CIO in the technology industry.   OnPoint comes from a long IT background, starting in end-user support and advancing through infrastructure, application, and consulting roles to CIO and cross-functional executive leadership.  OnPoint has served in companies of all sizes in a range of industries.  OnPoint is active in IT industry organizations, contributing thought leadership in the IT profession, advising emerging companies, and offering his expertise to support emerging IT leaders and youth pursuing careers in IT.  After being frustrated for years with ineffective sales approaches, OnPoint contributes case studies here to help salespeople be more effective at approaching CIO’s in a way that allows them to make their value proposition clear and start  meaningful mutually-beneficial relationships.    He also provides examples of what not to do.   Unfortunately these examples happen way too often.
Share Button

Watch Out for this Presentation Pet Peeve


It is about 20 minutes into a “pitch deck” meeting and the salesman has yet to ask a question or engage with us.  Has he even taken a breath?  We are still hearing about His company history, His clients, His product, and His success.  I stopped caring and started answering emails on my iPad about 12 minutes ago and he has not even noticed.

Why are we all in the room? Is it…

  1. To finish the PowerPoint presentation regardless of all obstacles?
  2. To bestow a lifetime achievement award on his company?
  3. To test a new form of torture?
  4. To determine if he has a solution that meets my needs?

If you answered anything but D, you likely helped him write the presentation and it will fail.  It would also put you in the unfortunate majority of presentations I see.

In general, people remember the first and last things you say or do (something called “primacy” and “recency” effects) and most of the middle is a blur.  Additionally, people (prospects!) want to be engaged, tell their story, and find a solution to their problem.

Logic and experience would tell us that if you merge those two ideas above, that sales meetings should lead off and close with engagement.  It looks something like this:

  1. Ask questions to verify that you understand the prospect’s key needs and then show specifically how you can solve them.
  2. Only present or speak to what is relevant to the needs.
  3. Know your material and value so well that you can jump straight to the important stuff.  Your pitch deck should be backup and not the focus & objective.

Open and close with engagement and dialog.  You will be more successful.  After all, you can’t sell anything to me if I stopped paying attention 12 minutes ago.



Mr. CMIO is a 20 year veteran in IT who has done almost every role in applications, infrastructure, and management.   Most of his adult working life has been in the financial services industry where he does constant battle to keep regulators and auditors from making things harder and worse.  After dealing with regulators and auditors, sales people don’t scare him and he’d really like them to actually help him.

Mr. CMIO has twice created the CIO role for public companies and is known as a mentor and coach who has developed other senior IT executives.  He is active in industry and community organizations developing the next generation of leaders.   In the last 5 years, he has taken on the additional roles of running business process improvement, new business launches, and chief marketing officer (CMO).  He is part of the new breed of cross-functional IT executive.  Don’t try to trick him or go around him, it only makes you look bad and he tells his friends about you.  Work with him and he will work with you.


Share Button