Anthony Stillman, our GYDE365-Design Product Development Owner, has over 20 years’ experience working for Microsoft Dynamics partners in a variety of senior pre-sales and solution architecture roles. So, he understands better than most the struggles that can often be faced in gaining a thorough understanding of a prospective client’s business in order to propose a solution that convinces them to move forwards with Dynamics 365. Drawing on his experiences, Tony shares his valuable insights into how to optimise the traditional approach to the all-important ‘Discovery’ phase. The information in this piece is useful even if you are not directly involved in the ‘pre-sales’ phase of a Dynamics 365 project, so we’d encourage everyone to read on.
For anyone involved in the world of Microsoft Business Application pre-sales, there’s no doubt that they will have faced this familiar scenario. A prospect is passed over from a salesperson to them and they have just a short amount of time on-site with the customer to (a) understand their business, (b) gather requirements for a new implementation, and then, (c) provide a project estimate and prepare for a product presentation for the next meeting. Sound familiar?
So, where to start? What is the best approach? How to prepare? How should the Discovery sessions be run?
Fear not! Below are my well-tested tips for optimising the pre-sales ‘discovery’ phase of any Dynamics 365 opportunity, which will help you to win more business.
BEFORE DISCOVERY WORKSHOP(S)
Tip 1 – Do your research
Before setting foot in a prospect’s office, invest the time in researching the potential customer and the challenges they are likely to be facing. Some useful tools include:
- Google/Bing – this enables you to glean a huge amount of useful information very quickly
- ChatGPT – can provide you instant insight in a structured format, although bear in mind that the information may not be completely up to date
- Governing body websites – get a deep dive into a client’s industry and common pain points
- LinkedIn articles – explore content written by a prospect’s employees to understand the personal motivations and interests of key individuals that you may encounter
The detail gained from using these tools can give you a strong indication of how well Microsoft’s applications will overcome their challenges and meet their future needs.
Tip 2 – Get your prospect to complete a pre-visit questionnaire
Give the prospect a little bit of homework that will enable you to understand their business even better. Send them a short, high-quality set of questions that the prospect can quickly and easily respond to. Focus on key aspects, such as:
- Project scope
- Key team members
- Business pains and objectives
- Project goals
- Current application landscape
- Future business plans
- Industry trends
And once you get their responses, cross reference them with your own research and ensure they align.
Tip 3 – Avoid car park preparations
We’ve all done it, even if you don’t work in pre-sales. Sat in a supermarket car park (or worse a company’s visitor car park) an hour before the meeting, laptop on your lap, trying to gather last-minute information about them! It’s crucial to remember that advanced planning is key to success. While it can sometimes be difficult and time-consuming, it’s vital. A prospective customer will soon notice if you haven’t done the necessary preparation!
A great tip is to dictate any notes you have already made into your phone’s voice recorder and listen to them on the journey to the customer site.
Tip 4 -Have questions prepared for a pre-discovery call
The more work that can be done ahead of a ‘discovery’ meeting, the more time you will have to dig deeper into key elements when you are on site. Even if you have had the prospect answer a short questionnaire, consider arranging a short ‘pre-discovery’ call with them to clarify points made or ask additional questions. When I worked in pre-sales, I always had a set of questions ready to go, such as:
- What are the key pain points of each department head?
- What business problems keep them awake at night?
- What management information do they absolutely rely on?
- Do they have any process flow diagrams they can share?
- What other projects are on-going in the business?
- What are their key numbers: customers, supplies, projects, products, site, employees, etc.?
DURING DISCOVERY WORKSHOP(S)
Tip 5 – Ensure your Discovery sessions are effective
OK, this section is really several tips in one, but here goes. My recommendations for the discovery workshop(s) themselves are:
- Try and have one-to-one or one-to-few workshops with each department rather than one long discovery workshop with multiple department representatives. They tend be more focused, honest, and open, allowing you to uncover more real issues.
- Have a pre-defined set of personalised questions, starting with high-level and strategic, and moving down to more granular detail.
- Ensure the key questions are highlighted, so you do not miss essential information.
- Bring along industry-specific questions to make sure you have all bases covered.
Having reusable, questions pre-prepared has many benefits. You always have something to ask, and you can prepare for new Discovery sessions much faster. Another key benefit is that you can appear knowledgeable even in areas that you are not and still glean very useful information.
Tip 6 – Make sure they do most of the talking
If you’re doing most of the talking in a discovery workshop, something isn’t right, so managing these sessions effectively is crucial. Try and ensure the conversation is purely about their business and their needs. At this stage, avoid talking product or solutioning (i.e., defining their desired solution) wherever possible. Save that for later in the sales process. A great question that I always asked at the end of every Discovery session was, “Is there anything you feel that we have missed or that you would like to highlight?”. You’ll be amazed at how much additional insight this question can get you.
AFTER DISCOVERY WORKSHOP(S)
Tip 7 – Always document your findings
From each Discovery session, ensure you capture the following key information for each person you have spoken with:
- What are the current pains they face?
- What are the gaps between their requirements and their current software functionality?
- What would be the ‘quick wins’ in both their eyes and yours?
- How is a new solution going to benefit them personally?
- Is what you have to offer aligned to what they require?
Sending an email to each person you were in a discovery workshop with thanking them for their time and sharing your findings with them for review will ensure they are correct and complete. As this is the first piece of formal work you deliver, ensure what you send is of high quality.
AN EVEN BETTER APPROACH…
If you take the traditional approach to the ‘Discovery’ phase of a future Dynamics 365 project, the tips given above will help give you the optimal chance of securing a deal. However, with the use of technology, you can now automate a number of these pre-sales activities, improve client satisfaction even more, and further boost your win rates.
GYDE365-Qualify and GYDE365-Discover, two of the applications from Seer 365, can completely transform the traditional Dynamics 365 sales process.
GYDE365-Qualify helps partners to speedily and effectively qualify new sales opportunities and provides each prospect with a ballpark project estimation and high-level Microsoft Dynamics 365 compatibility assessment for just a few minutes of their time.
Once initial qualification is complete, GYDE365-Discover enables detailed prospect requirements to be quickly and accurately gathered using an online tool. An automated report is then generated, providing the prospect with a full breakdown of their system requirements, a detailed fit/gap analysis of those needs against out-of-the-box Dynamics 365, plus detailed licensing, cost and project duration estimates.
An end-to-end Discovery process that would previously have taken months to complete can now be completed in just a few weeks, if not days. Less workshops, simpler requirements gathering and greater transparency for both the prospect and the Dynamics 365 partner. It can completely replace the need for face-to-face discovery sessions, reduce the need for so many sessions, or supplement face-to-face discovery sessions. You decide.
Want to find out how our GYDE365 platform can help transform your business? Book a short demo
Written by Anthony Stillman
Anthony Stillman is our GYDE365-Design Product Development Owner and has worked at Seer 365 since shortly after it was founded. Anthony has a wealth of experience working with Microsoft Dynamics 365 partners in a variety of senior pre-sales and solution architecture roles. He spends his time developing our GYDE365-Design platform, ensuring we evolve along with our partners ever-changing needs and requirements.