In today's connected world, the art of sales has changed dramatically. Online marketing has significantly reduced the need for those awkward cold calls we all used to have to make in the dark ages!
Today, your online marketing has brought prospects to you and reduced the need to search for them.
As prospects move through your sales funnel from awareness to conversion, there comes a point where they have expressed more than a passing interest in your company, service, or products.
This is where the discovery call comes into play.
What Is a Discovery Call?
Discovery calls are calls you schedule with prospects to learn about them and start hammering out a solution to their problems.
Sales talk comes only once you’ve determined that they’re qualified and that you’re qualified to meet their needs.
It's the first contact you'll have with a prospect after conversion, and it's probably the most important step in the sales process.
The key is to dive deep and avoid some common mistakes.
Why Is the Discovery Process Important?
A discovery call can set the entire tone of your relationship with that prospect both pre-and post sale.
It's the point where you learn about your prospects' needs, pain points, and business organization and how you can craft solutions to meet those needs.
In a world where authenticity and a genuine connection are more important than ever, a discovery call is easiest for everybody. A great call gives you a chance to put ego aside and build real rapport using your active listening skills.
Done right, they also give you all the information you need to hit a home run.
Setting Discovery Call Goals
Discovery calls play a major role in the success of your sales team. A well conducted discovery call can perform a positive service for both your sales team and your prospects.
Let's look at some things your reps can do to determine if a prospect is a good fit for your company and how you can develop the solutions they need to close the sale.
Validate Your Pre-Contact Research.
Online marketing offers you the ability to know more about a prospect than ever before. Thanks to analytics, you can begin to develop an understanding of a prospect long before initial contact.
You're able to see where they came from, what content they engaged with, where they traveled on your website, and much more.
Based on their email address, you can conduct a web search and visit their company website to gather information before you ever pick up the phone. This allows you to have a much deeper understanding of their needs and business.
During a discovery call you should ask questions to validate your research to get a deeper understanding of the organization. With validated research you can better tailor a solution to meet their specific needs.
Identify a Prospect's Needs and Goals.
By delving into their needs and goals, you'll have a better understanding of how to approach a prospect in relation to your product or service. This can open their eyes to the benefits that working with you has to offer.
Alternatively, if a prospect's goals are not aligned with your solution, you can confidently disqualify the lead and move on to a more appropriate prospect.
Define a Prospect's Pain Points.
Goals are important, but understanding and clarifying a prospect's pain points can help you to tailor your pitch and explain how your product or service can turn those pain points into strengths.
By defining their pain points, you can hone in on what they are doing to overcome them, the setbacks they've faced, and what seems to be working.
Establish the Value You Can Offer.
Once you understand a prospect's goals and pain points, the next step is to begin to provide tactical suggestions that illustrate how your product can fit the prospect's needs as the strive to reach their goals.
A tactical suggestion can also build trust, credibility, and authority, and it shows them the value of having you on their team.
Suggest Solid, Positive Next Steps in the Relationship.
By the end of your discovery call, you should have qualified if the prospect is a good fit. Now it's time to take a proactive approach and suggest clear next steps to help them reach the close.
Instead of hanging up and waiting for them to get in touch, you should be suggesting and taking the next step during your initial call, for example scheduling a product demo. Open your calendar and make the appointment before you hang up.
As you can clearly see, the discovery call is a critical first step in building a lasting relationship, trust, authority, and value for your prospect.
On the flip side, it's the best way to qualify that your prospect is a good fit for your business, which can save a lot of time and effort.
How to Prepare for a Discovery Call
The worst thing you can do when you arrive for your discovery call is be unprepared. Every call requires some legwork beforehand. There are a few key things to focus on while you prepare.
Adopt the Inbound Mindset.
Remember, you're not pushing for contracts and credit card numbers out of the gate. While the ultimate goal is to close a sale, your top priority with this first prospect call is to start building a positive relationship based on trust and honesty.
Research Your Qualified Lead (and Their Competitors).
This is one of the most time-intensive aspects of preparing for your call, but it's essential.
Research the lead's website, their behavior on your website (like what content they're consuming and what offers they're downloading), their biggest issues, what their competitors are doing, and anything else relevant to the conversation you're about to have.
Make this step even easier by aligning your sales and marketing teams. Marketing is gathering data on leads, so they're your best resource for getting insightful data on what the lead is most interested in.
Create an Agenda That Includes Questions.
One of the worst feelings you can have is hanging up the phone only to realize that you forgot to ask an important question.
Save yourself this heartache by writing out every question you want to ask. Keep them open ended so they give you details you need to know before moving forward.
Also, prepare some follow ups in case they're not clear with their responses.
This sounds silly, but it makes a huge difference. Your enthusiasm can be contagious. By showcasing positivity and bringing a good energy to the call, you're lightening the mood and getting them excited too.
Remember, they are likely coming into the call with their guard up. So break through that with plenty of smiling and engaged body language (even if it's an audio phone call and not a video call).
What to Do During a Discovery Call
You get that notification from your calendar when the clock strikes [insert meeting time here]. Since it's your first time fielding a discovery call, you probably get those butterflies in your stomach.
But your preparation should curb those nerves a bit. This way, you're able to focus on what matters most while you have your prospect on the horn.
Lead With Positivity.
Carry that enthusiasm you generated beforehand into the call from the get-go. Start off on a positive note.
It's far too common to kick it off complaining about the weather. Instead, bring some awesome vibes to begin the conversation.
Remember, there are plenty of preconceived notions about salespeople and sales calls. Make it known that you’re not here to push; you’re here to ensure fit.
As the flywheel framework teaches us, the focus isn't just on closing deals. You should be focused more on building and maintaining positive relationships.
Ideally, you're going to close this deal and keep this client for a long period of time. This call is the first real impression prospects get of your company, so establish trust and honesty immediately.
For example, if their budget doesn't fit or if your services aren't comprehensive enough for their needs, speak up about it. Otherwise, you might overpromise and underdeliver, forever souring the relationship (and your reputation).
Keep Your Notes Handy.
That agenda you wrote, the one with all the questions you need answers to, is your best friend during the call. Even if it's a video call, you want those notes close by for quick reference.
Without notes, you might forget to ask a pertinent question or miss a crucial talking point.
Put Your Active Listening Skills to Practice.
One of the most valuable skills you can develop in sales is active listening. This goes beyond just nodding along.
You should also reflect the content and the emotion you infer during the call back to the prospect. This confirms that you hear them correctly and can step into their shoes and share their perspective.
Lay Out the Next Steps Before Hanging Up.
I know, as the call is winding down to an end, you just want to celebrate completing your first discovery call. But don't rush the hang up.
Provide specific, simple next steps before you say goodbye. If they prove to be a strong lead who is ready to close, give them a timeline of your follow-ups.
For example, say that you're going to email them a recap of the call, along with a few content resources that can better help them address their biggest pain points.
What to Do After a Discovery Call
Just because you hung up doesn't mean your discovery call is completed. The follow-up stage is arguably the most important.
Once you wow them during the call, you want to further prove your value and credibility in a few simple ways.
Always Lead With a Specific Purpose.
Your follow-up email needs to be concise, informative, and clear. Start your email with a brief description of why you're contacting them.
For example, you could say you're sharing your takeaways from the discovery call, or you're informing them about an upcoming company event you think they would enjoy.
Just lay it out so they know right away that the email will benefit them in some way.
Empower Through Education.
Ideally, your company will have a strong body of content assets you can share. You should curate a list of educational resources that address the lead's specific needs and pain points.
This shows that you go above and beyond and further establishes your authority and trustworthiness. Provide specific details on why each resource would benefit them.
Without any context, they might shrug off your list of links. With some details about each resource, they should feel excited about reading through your resources.
Schedule Your Follow-Ups.
Don't just reach out when you have the time. Instead, build out a follow-up strategy that consistently provides them with value. Space out your emails so you don't bombard them too much. But you definitely want to stay top of mind.
15 of the Best Discovery Call Questions to Ask
Of course, your prospects are busy. Especially in the B2B world, they are probably in a time crunch. They are facing big decisions that involve more stakeholders than ever, and they’ve probably already put in a fair bit of research.
They don’t have time to play 20 questions – so it’s vital to make each one count.
Deploy these questions at your next discovery call and see the difference:
1. Tell Me a Little Bit About Your Company.
Ok, so question one isn't technically a question, but starting with this open-ended statement can usually encourage the prospect to open up right from the get-go.
And, given the chance, most prospects love to talk about themselves. A "question" like this gets you off on the right foot by putting their needs front and center.
Plus, this is a great jumping off point to learn the prospect’s thought process and let them guide the conversation.
2. What Problem Are You Trying to Solve?
With a qualified prospect, you probably already get the basic outlines of the problem. Still, it is vital to avoid coming in looking like a “know it all.”
When you get the problem statement from the horse’s own mouth, you are also helping your prospect think creatively about it. You can also determine within five minutes if your solutions are likely to be a good fit.
3. How Would Solving for Problem XYZ Help Your Business?
Once you learn about the struggles the company is having, find out the positive implications of solving their problem.
What impact can it have on their business? By understanding this, you'll get a better idea of the motivation behind overcoming their challenge and how you might be able to help them in the future.
4. What Caused You to Address This Problem Today?
Full disclosure: We first started to hear this at the local chiropractor’s office.
Like the first-time patient at the chiro’s bench, your prospect probably suffered with this problem for a while before deciding it’s time to make a change.
Understanding the motivation – like market changes or executive strategy – can help you key in on potential partnerships.
5. What Metrics Are You Responsible For?
While there are lots of variations on this question, some of them are a little too broad. “Tell me about your role,” for example, is likely to leave prospects feeling like you haven’t done much research.
On the other hand, asking specifically about metrics can be a light bulb moment. Each business has their own, and you can relate your solution to bottom line results.
6. What Do You Think Could Be a Potential Solution? Why?
This is the mirror image of the popular discovery call question, “What solutions have you tried so far?”
The problem with that question?
First, the answer could be none. Second, picking at the shortcomings of previous solutions is a long way to go to get the information you really want.
With this question, you can align your responses to what the prospect feels is most important.
7. What Would a Successful Outcome Look Like?
While you try to decipher whether the prospect is right for you, you should also be wondering whether you’re right for him or her.
Listen carefully to this answer, and think back to the other clients you’ve worked with. Is the desired outcome really plausible?
If not, letting the prospect down gently is preferable to having them turn mean when they’re unsatisfied in six months!
8. Do You Have Written Decision Criteria for Choosing a Vendor?
Written criteria helps you and the prospect in countless ways. The obvious reason is that you can line up your features and benefits with the criteria.
As useful as that is, though, it’s only part of the story.
Written criteria shows the enterprise as a whole is more serious about the choice. The sales cycle is likely to be shorter and more professional because making a decision is an urgent priority.
9. (If Yes to Question 8) Who Compiled These Criteria?
Criteria doesn’t always come from experts, especially if this is the first time the business has done this kind of purchase. Criteria can come from the wrong part of the business or an executive sponsor whose bird’s-eye view omits critical details.
One example: Criteria for an HRIS system might come from IT because it’s cloud-based, even though the principal stakeholder should be HR.
If your discovery calls uncover a mismatch between the criteria and the reality, you have a big job ahead of you. You can position yourself as a trusted adviser by helping your contact see what the shortcomings and pitfalls of their approach might be – but it takes longer.
If it happens frequently, consult with marketing to be sure you’re attracting the right prospects.
10. Have You Ever Made a Purchase Like This Before?
If your prospect has no formal criteria, consider the possibility that this is a new endeavor for them.
Many prospects will be upfront about this, but some may not even realize it’s helpful information. As with number nine above, this puts you in the situation of building trust on the long term by helping your prospect fashion worthwhile decision criteria.
11. In the Past, How Are Decisions Like This Made Internally?
You might not always be talking directly to the decision maker during a discovery call. It could very easily be a liaison just gathering information to bring back to them.
Because of this, it's always important to understand the path you'll need to take to get in front of the right decision makers. That way, you'll know how to make an impression and even elicit responses from a prominent authority figure.
12. What Made You Jump On the Line Today?
Clearly they need some sort of help or information, so find out what convinced them to hop on a call with you. It's best not to infer based on their answers to your other questions alone, so be sure to ask them up front: Why are you here?
Based on their response, you can gather more insight into the solutions you might have for them.
13. Do You Currently Have a Plan in Place to Achieve a Solution?
The answer very well may be no.
Knowing whether they have a strategy in place gives you a bit more insight into how they're considering tackling the problem, and it also builds trust between you and the prospect.
They'll appreciate your acknowledgement that they are competent and professional.
You'll also be able to make better, more relevant suggestions that align with the plan that they already have in mind.
14. Do You Have the Necessary Funding to Achieve a Solution?
You're a business, so eventually money is going to enter the conversation. You shouldn't feel awkward about it; they're expecting you to discuss budget estimates.
Knowing the resources that they're willing to expend on a solution is important in qualifying them as a potential customer.
Like we mentioned earlier, if they can't meet your prices, then you don't want to promise value that you can't deliver on.
15. How Can I Help Make This Easy?
When all is said and done, a good discovery call hinges on the idea you genuinely care about your prospect’s success.
Kindling one little spark of sincere personal connection may be all it takes to make you a preferred vendor. If not this time, next time. Use this question to give your prospects permission to lay it all on the line and be honest about their concerns.
Done right, a discovery call is exciting for you and the prospect: You both get to take concrete steps toward your goals. Use these questions to position yourself as an expert who truly cares.