This article and cheat sheet summarizes the Radically Authentic Discovery (RAD) Method, which drives customer engagement, insights and revenue. RAD was developed by Bob London over the course of conducting 2,700+ B2B customer discovery conversations.
Have you ever been in a customer discovery session and it’s just… not going well?
If you’re in Sales or Customer Success, you’ve definitely had those discoveries that leave you feeling overwhelmed with a big customer wish list, turning your follow-up into a whole new side hustle.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. After sitting through over 2,700 customer discovery interviews, Bob London identified some crucial trends between the best conversations. Bob started codifying these discovery links and has now helped multiple companies improve their positioning, differentiation, branding, and customer relations.
Especially in today’s world of constant business change, if you’re not listening, you’re in trouble.
That’s why Catalyst partnered with customer discovery expert, Bob London, to unlock his 10 radically authentic and disruptive (RAD) discovery secrets for you. Below, you’ll find Bob’s top findings for Sales and Success, including a full cheat sheet (with bonus tactics) available to download at the end 🥳
The 4 myths of customer discovery
Bob attests that in his 2,700+ conversations, myths that we often believe have been completely shattered. Let’s set those four things straight.
MYTH #1 - We’re good at listening.
For all the talk about customer discovery and social listening, studies have shown that vendors aren't actually doing a great job at this. According to RAIN Group, discovery and listening rank as two of the top three purchasing influences out of nine—discovery being number one, bad discovery being number two and listening as number three.
Even though these appear like sales statistics, these issues affect everybody in the organization, especially Customer Success who must deal with it after.
Why is this such a persistent problem? Let’s start with the data.
You can’t listen if you’re talking. After studying over 1,000,000 recorded sales calls, Gong data suggests the top performing reps talk less than half the time. Even more, the bottom performing reps talk almost three quarters of the time on calls.
Thinking is the enemy of listening. Studies show our brains think four times faster than people talk. That’s why you often find yourself thinking of a pitch when someone has only said half a sentence; you naturally complete sentences in your head using assumptions. Of course, take note of those ideas when they come! But stay focused on listening when the customer has the floor.
We focus too much on ourselves. Customer calls often have too many slides focused on too many features and statistics. These things are important to your company, but are they really important to the customer? Be mindful of the fact you are in discovery.
MYTH #2 - Everyone wants to be an expert software user or customer.
Have you ever heard someone with buying power say “I want to be an expert in ABC solution”? Unless they are a developer or admin–and even then–the answer is probably a unanimous no.
The majority of your customers, especially those who sign the contracts, are experts in their business, not your product. If your customer conversations solely focus on product adoption–without showcasing the business value and impact you’re delivering–your champion might not have a leg to stand on when it comes to advocating for your renewal.
“This might sound unconventional, as many advertisements claim to make customers the heroes, but customers have much more going on in their lives and businesses than just our software. Nevertheless, we can leverage this understanding to our advantage.”
- Bob London, Customer Discovery Expert
MYTH #3 - Meetings must strictly adhere to tightly scripted agendas.
To get ahead of something: we advocate for meeting agendas. The real problem is how rigid your agenda is and how much you apply pressure to stick to it.
Bob has witnessed countless customer conversations be more candid and honest when certain parts or entire meetings lack rigid agendas. He advises having a general agenda to set the tone and guide the conversation, while leaving time to go with the customer’s flow. This creates an atmosphere of “unstructured play”, where people feel more creative and free to muse about their biggest wants, dreams, and fears.
As a listener, you will also be less distracted from building an authentic connection when you remove excessive slides and a rigid structure.
Buyer Response Lengths and Closed Deals Correlation
MYTH #4 - If it’s important, they’ll tell you.
Here are some more common beliefs for you:
- If there's silence, keep talking.
- If you have ten slides and everything is settled by the eighth, you have to keep presenting the last two.
These are myths. You should not be filling the space; you need to leave space for your customers to talk. We will give you tips below and in the cheat sheet on how to improve your listening skills.
The 10 secrets to getting RAD (Radical Authentic Discovery)
At last, let’s get to the best news of your day! We have created these myths that build a wall between us and the customer. That means that we have the power to tear it down.
Enter: the Radically Authentic Discovery (RAD) toolkit, the framework Bob developed after more than 2,700 discovery conversations. We’re excited to share ten of Bob’s top secrets for you, with bonus tactics included in the cheat sheet at the end. Get ready to grow your relationships (and wallet) starting now 🚀
1. OPEN YOUR DISCOVERY APERTURE
Similar to a camera lens, you must broaden your view of customers. This means building a value framework that extends beyond basic customer needs. Below is an example of a value framework with a clear line down the middle.
👉Below the line is how you protect your business by meeting basic needs.
👉Above the line is how you actually grow your business by meeting unexpected needs. This is where you need to dig deep and allot more time for discovery.
TIP: Use a jobs-to-be-done framework to help you determine your value framework.
2. STAY ABOVE THE DISCOVERY FOLD
Focus more discovery on unexpected needs as outlined above. The obvious/basic discovery questions should be used as a foundation, but use more time to go much deeper in two ways:
- Unexpected Individual Needs: Where do you help customers shine in their job? If all your competitors talk about increasing their team’s productivity, play bigger than that.
- Unexpected Organizational Needs: Where do you drive real innovation in a company? If customers believe that your solution will answer their future needs and/or propel them ahead in the market, you’ve probably already secured the renewal.
Customers are not explicitly coming to the table with these asks. We must mine for them.
3. QUIET YOUR MIND
Set aside time to intentionally quiet your mind before the meeting, with tactics included in the cheat sheet at the end!
4. BE AUTHENTIC (DON’T JUDGE)
Be the student, not the teacher. You must listen openly and patiently without expressing information you believe is superior or correct.
5. DON’T SOLVE OR SELL
There will be time at the end to circle back and offer solutions. Make a note of it and keep listening in discovery. Focus on probing further instead.
6. EMBRACE SILENCE
This one is simple: go on mute. It is a great way to force yourself into a new habit. Each time you click to unmute, you’re adding an extra step to intentionally check yourself before speaking.
👉Want to practice these skills? Call a friend or loved one. Ask them questions. Minimize speaking. Practice listening in your personal time with the people you care about most.
7. GO WITH THEIR FLOW
Don’t abruptly shift topics for your own interests or needs. Allow the customer to truly flush out their thoughts and then ask second-level questions.
8. ASK DISRUPTIVE QUESTIONS 🔥
Once you've expanded your aperture and gained insight into your customers' aspirations, it's time to ask disruptive questions—the types of questions that get someone to think differently about their regular experiences.
Let’s jump right in with two examples of a great disruptive questions and two examples of poor ones:
✅Out of your entire job description, what’s the one thing your company is absolutely counting on you to get done this year?
✅What’s the biggest thing that has surprised you since you signed the contract?
❌What keeps you up at night?
❌If the renewal were today, would you renew?
To spot trends, the poor questions are too open-ended and triggering. They put the customer in an awkward position and are overly personal. On the other hand, the good questions follow a clear format as follows:
- Have a hook which should be a common term (e.g. signed contract) that focuses the customer on the discovery topic.
- Have a twist using different words (e.g. biggest surprise) that help disarm the customer.
- Ask about three key discovery areas: their business, job or customer experience.
- Are framed from the customer's perspective, rather than your own.
9. AVOID LISTS
This applies to the discovery question formatting above and should act as a general rule of thumb when speaking to customers. Never ask for lists. Always get the customer to determine their priorities for you.
As you can see, the questions above ask for the biggest or one thing. Don’t leave a call with guesswork or a massive follow-up. Efficiently get to the bottom of their top goals and challenges.
10. DISRUPTIVE IS NOT DISCOMFORT!
Most importantly, disruptive does not equal discomfort. The goal is to be radically authentic. Ask questions that showcase your intellect, curiosity and care beyond other vendors.
The outcomes of following these ten secrets include:
- You successfully engage the customer by moving past surface-level interactions as a mere vendor.
- You help differentiate yourself while simultaneously disarming the customer to be more candid and honest.
- You appear more authentic about how you care for their well-being as a human and the success of their business.
The final word: are EBR/QBRs effective for relationship building?
We are going to leave this one up to you! Catalyst and Bob London have placed bets on the QBR (Quarterly Business Review) or EBR (Executive Business Review) being no longer effective in today’s environment.
But hey, in the spirit of discovery, we want to hear from you first. Help us shape the future of EBRs by answering this 5-min survey, with the chance of being featured in our upcoming report! Stay tuned for more.
Now, go grab your RAD Discovery cheat sheet including👇
- Tactics to implement these 10 secrets into your every day
- 6 disruptive questions you can start using now