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About the Author:

Tom Josephson (LinkedIn) oversees the Solution Consulting team at TCP Software. He’s been in SC leadership for five years after years as an SC. Before that Tom was a middle and high school teacher.

This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.

Introduction

As I stated in Part 1 of this series, you win and lose deals in discovery. And SCs need to be empowered to lead discovery with their AE co-owners as strategic, equal partners.

But as a leader, how do you systematically ensure every individual contributor on your team achieves mastery in their discovery skillset, without it becoming a full-time job for you and your frontline managers?

Based on my years of experience as a teacher and Solution Consultant, I devised a Discovery Certification curriculum and system for my team.

Here’s the framework we used to increase win rates by over 40%:

Establishing a Discovery Certification Program

To preserve bandwidth, Solutions Consulting leadership should own initial program design, then leave training to frontline managers: a train-the-trainer model.

Ideally, certify SCs during onboarding, with continued reinforcement in enablement sessions. We start SCs with a lesson on how to do discovery at TCP, paired with a book, Doing Discovery: The Single Most Important Element of Software Sales and Buyer Enablement Processes, by Peter Cohan.

Their task is to look for connections between that training and the reading and discuss with their manager. This will help them build industry and product knowledge while training discovery skillsets.

Embody the NBA Coach Mindset

Next, acclimate your team to receiving critical feedback in a controlled setting: roleplays. This will build SC confidence and allow managers to assess potential. Show Solution Consultants exactly what good looks like and be clear in your expectations and instructions.

Do a few practice roleplays to build confidence, but be completely honest with your feedback. Feedback needs to be hyper-specific and actionable but blunt, i.e. “In this moment, you asked X question, but ask Y question instead and here’s why…”

Don’t sugarcoat or qualify. It’s important that you maintain high standards. Think of yourself as an NBA coach. Everyone on your team is incredibly talented and experienced, but they can’t skip practice.

Don’t lower the hoop for new players; help them build the skills to jump higher.

An individual is given up to three practice scenarios that mirror the certification before finally certifying. The practice scenarios are critical; if the manager/coach/mentor realizes an SC isn’t ready, don’t set them up for failure. The certification should be a slam dunk.

Once SCs are certified, they are continually evaluated on the same rubric, multiple times per quarter, but based on live call performance.

Create a Scorecard

We grade SCs on multiple dimensions, based on what makes sense for our business. For each dimension on which an individual is evaluated, they receive a quantitative score (1-10) and a qualitative comment justifying the grade.

The comments help them understand what and how to correct, while the number indicates the severity of the error to help them prioritize areas of improvement. The number also provides a tangible goal. Many Solution Consultants are competitive, if not outwardly, then against their own performance. Give them a number to beat.

We grade SCs on several more specific items under the following four broad categories. In order of importance:

1. ValueDid you demonstrate the value of the discovery call? Did you highlight product value vs. feature function? Did you generate excitement for the demo?
2. Conversational MechanicsDid you use filler words? How did the conversation flow?
3. Demo-ReadinessDid you get the information needed for a custom demo (tech specs, etc.)?
4. Sales MethodologyAre you following the steps and philosophy of our sales process?

It’s key that managers score SC conversations (live or roleplay) immediately after the call for data quality and specificity.

Track Progress

Every Solution Consultant in my org has a discovery scorecard updated regularly. Frontline managers maintain individuals’ scorecards, and create a summary scorecard to present upline, that reflects how their team progresses.

Everything in our SC org truly starts and ends with these discovery scorecards, and they are a critical factor in evaluating SC performance (alongside win rate, number of demos, etc.). We’ve found that this allows us to judge individuals’ performance more holistically and accurately.

Every SC is evaluated on the same criteria with the same rubric and scoring standards, and all of the KPIs work together to roll up into larger management decisions.

Individual contributors value the feedback, because it gives them a written record of progress that they can use to advocate for career advancement. Managers with 3 direct reports shadow 1 discovery call every week for each SC. Those with 5 reports do 2 per month. It’s time-intensive, but the results speak for themselves.

Celebrate Wins

As previously mentioned, since implementing this program, my team has increased win rates by 42%. And Sales leadership took notice. 

Due to the massive success of this initiative, our SC leadership is now tasked with scaling our discovery coaching process to the entire Sales org.

Looking forward, PreSales leadership will own the Discovery Certification program but not be directly responsible for follow-through on training. SC leaders will train and certify their Sales counterparts, who will then train their direct reports.

Further Reading

To learn about the philosophy behind our approach to discovery, read Part 1 of this series.

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