Seth Godin published one of his mind-dismantling blog posts earlier this month: Search vs. Discovery. In the post, he was drawing a clear distinction between the two. In Seth’s words, “search is what we call the action of knowing what you want and questing until you ultimately find it. Discovery, on the other hand, is what happens when the universe helps you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for.”

There it is in a nutshell. If you believe that inbound marketing will generate all the possible prospects that will be interested in your product, then Prospecting is dead!. You are telling yourself that search alone will be the silver bullet. You are telling yourself that if I produce sufficient relevant content and tell a compelling story, then the world will beat a path to my door. The world being defined as 100% of the relevant people who may be interested in my product.

You are saying, I don’t believe in Discovery. Now of course building great content, to enable your product to be found by prospects who are searching, is a wonderful idea. In exceptional circumstances the content might even perform the role of Discovery. It might help you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

But the only effective way, even today, of executing Discovery, of helping someone encounter something they didn’t know they were looking for, is Prospecting.

However if you are going to be successful at Prospecting in today’s world, you will need to learn a new set of skills. You will need to be skilled at executing diagnostic questions and to understand what the answers mean. You will need to uncover for each prospect:

  1. What are the issues preventing the prospect from optimizing his/her performance?
  2. What are the consequences of doing nothing?
  3. Why is this a priority for the company?
  4. How can the prospect find the money to alleviate the problem?
  5. Why is your product a credible solution to this problem?
  6. Does it make sense for you and the prospect to invest time to make it happen?

This ability needs to be taught to a new generation of sales professionals. In fact developing the ability to ask insightful questions is a great idea for any form of conversation! So keep your prospecting skills alive, develop great conversational habits or there is a great danger we will only discover what we are searching for!