Marketing & Sales

The Hidden Depths of Discovery in Sales

Uncovering the Real Issues


Meet Cody Strate: A Revenue-Driven Tech Marketer and Thought Leader




The Hidden Depths of Discovery in Sales
The Hidden Depths of Discovery in Sales

In sales, what you see on the surface is often just the beginning. While prospects may share their immediate pain points, the real issues often lie hidden beneath the surface, eluding both the prospect and the salesperson. What if the pain they tell you about isn't the real problem? Dive into the depths of discovery to uncover the hidden challenges that truly matter. Keep reading to learn how mastering this skill can transform your sales approach and lead to genuine solutions.

In sales, discovery is more than just a preliminary step; it's the key to truly understanding your prospects and addressing their needs. While prospects often express pain points related to their business challenges, the issues they voice are frequently just the tip of the iceberg. The real problems often lie beneath the surface, eluding both the prospect and the salesperson. This article revisits the importance of deeper discovery, focusing on how sales reps can unearth these hidden issues to provide genuine solutions.

A cartoonish image depicting the chaos of thoughts fears and problems going through a customer's head

The Surface vs. the Subsurface

When prospects discuss their pain points, they usually highlight the symptoms of their problems, not the root causes. These surface-level issues are important, but they are often manifestations of deeper, underlying problems. For example, a prospect might cite declining sales as a major concern, but the real issue could be a lack of employee engagement, outdated technology, or ineffective marketing strategies.

The Importance of Deeper Discovery

Going Beyond the Obvious

Effective sales discovery involves probing beyond the obvious problems that prospects initially present. In my experience, 90% of sales reps only dive about 10% deep with their customers. They tend to keep the conversations at a surface level, focusing on the most apparent pain points without exploring further. This shallow approach prevents them from fully understanding the client's real issues and aspirations, ultimately limiting their ability to offer genuine solutions.

When sales reps fail to dig deeper, they miss the critical nuances that make all the difference in a client's decision-making process. For example, a prospect might mention that they are experiencing declining sales. A typical sales rep might stop there, offering solutions aimed directly at boosting sales numbers. However, without understanding the underlying causes—such as a lack of employee engagement, outdated technology, or ineffective marketing strategies—the proposed solution might only provide a temporary fix rather than a long-term solution.

To truly serve clients, sales reps must venture beyond the surface. This means asking the right questions, actively listening, and paying attention to subtle cues that suggest deeper issues. It's about recognizing that the initial problems mentioned are often symptoms of more significant, underlying challenges.

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” - Thomas Berger

By embodying this philosophy, sales reps can transform their approach. Instead of accepting surface-level answers, they can delve into the prospect's situation, uncovering the root causes of their problems. This deeper discovery process allows for more tailored and effective solutions, building stronger relationships and fostering trust. When sales reps understand the real issues, they can provide solutions that not only address immediate concerns but also contribute to the prospect's long-term success.

Behavioral Psychology Insights

Behavioral psychology provides valuable insights into why prospects might not fully disclose their real issues. Often, they haven't fully explored their problems themselves or are unaware of the underlying causes. One relevant concept is "cognitive tunneling," which describes how people focus narrowly on specific problems while neglecting other important information.

"Under stress, individuals tend to focus on a narrow subset of information, often overlooking critical details." - Wickens, Gordon, & Liu, An Introduction to Human Factors Engineering

Cognitive tunneling can significantly affect decision-making processes, especially in high-pressure situations where immediate issues seem most urgent. In sales, this means prospects might mention the most apparent symptoms of their issues but miss the underlying problems driving those symptoms. For instance, a prospect might talk about declining sales, but the real issue could be rooted in poor employee engagement, outdated technology, or ineffective marketing strategies.

By understanding cognitive tunneling, sales reps can improve their discovery process. Instead of accepting surface-level answers, they should probe deeper, asking insightful questions that encourage prospects to reflect on and reveal the true nature of their challenges. This deeper understanding allows for more tailored and effective solutions, ultimately leading to stronger client relationships and greater success in sales.

Techniques for Effective Discovery

  1. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage prospects to elaborate on their challenges. Questions like "Can you tell me more about that?" or "What do you think is causing this issue?" can reveal additional layers of information.
  2. Active Listening: Pay close attention to what is said and what is left unsaid. Body language, tone of voice, and hesitation can provide clues to deeper issues.
  3. Empathy and Understanding: Build rapport and trust with prospects. When they feel understood and supported, they are more likely to open up about their real concerns.
  4. Use Reflective Techniques: Paraphrase and reflect back what the prospect has shared to confirm understanding and encourage further discussion.
"People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons." - Zig Ziglar

Uncovering the Real Story

The real story lies in the problems and pains that prospects don't initially reveal. It's the salesperson's job to uncover these hidden issues and address them effectively. By doing so, you not only provide a better solution but also build a stronger, more trusting relationship with your prospect.

Linking to the Series

For more insights on the importance of deeper discovery in sales, check out our series summary on Humanizing B2B Sales: Mastering the Art of Discovery.


Deeper discovery in sales is crucial for uncovering the true issues that prospects face. By going beyond surface-level problems and exploring what lies beneath, sales reps can provide more effective solutions and build stronger relationships. Remember, it's not just about addressing the pain points that are voiced but also about discovering the hidden challenges that truly need attention.

By applying these techniques and insights from behavioral psychology, sales professionals can master the art of discovery and drive meaningful, long-lasting success in their engagements.

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Meet Cody Strate: A Revenue-Driven Tech Marketer and Thought Leader




The Hidden Depths of Discovery in Sales