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The ultimate guide to a successful discovery call

A discovery call is your first chance to wow your prospects. Leave a strong first impression by prepping for this initial phone conversation.

By Molly Murphy

Published September 4, 2020
Last updated October 8, 2020

Have you ever asked someone for their phone number but then stressed about that first call? It can be daunting to pick up the phone and call a stranger, but it’s the only way to get to know someone.

Discovery calls are the same way—somewhat daunting, but critical to building relationships with leads. They’re your chance to get to know the prospect and introduce them to your business. Learn all you can about discovery so you’re set to leave a strong first impression on new leads.

What is a discovery call?

A discovery call is the first conversation with a prospect after they show initial interest in your product. It’s your opportunity to get to know the customer to see if they could be a good fit for your business.

That vetting is worth your time: a 2019 Marc Wayshak study found that 50% of prospects will not be a good fit for what you’re selling.

Discovery calls also give you the chance to ask questions about your prospects’ needs and goals. This information is helpful later in the sales process, when leads are warmed up and ready to hear about your product. Instead of giving a general pitch, you’ll be ready to explain how your business could help solve their specific pain points.

No pressure, but this is the call that sets the tone for the rest of the relationship. Let’s get it right.

4 steps to running a great discovery call

With so much at stake on discovery calls, you need a foolproof process for running these conversations. Use these four steps to make sure all of your bases are covered.

Do your homework

Do your homework

Learn as much as you can about a potential client before your discovery call. This research will help you make the most of the call with meaningful questions.

  • Research the lead’s business on Crunchbase, your customer reporting tool, and their company website to get a feel for the company’s structure and larger goals.
  • Research the lead on Google, social media, and LinkedIn to find a trait you share with them. Are you both originally from the Midwest? Do you share a business connection? The lead is more likely to trust you if they find you relatable.

Use the research you gather to build a call agenda that includes questions about the company and the person you’re talking to.

Set a clear agenda

Set a clear agenda

The first five minutes of a discovery call sets the tone for the rest of the meeting. Start by quickly reviewing your agenda so it’s clear to your prospect that you respect their time.

  • Introduce yourself, your company, and your role in the company. Don’t be afraid to use humor to make a connection and break the ice.
  • Share the goals of the meeting to manage expectations. You might say,“This call is for us to get to know your company and your goals. At the end, if we think it’s a good fit for both of us, I’ll schedule a follow-up with my sales team to talk to you about next steps.”

Keep your intro short and sweet. This prospect is new to your company, so they aren’t ready to hear a detailed explanation of your brand.

Two-way conversation

Ensure two-way conversation

Data shows that top-performing reps talk roughly 50% of the time during a discovery call. The ideal talk-listen ratio can vary, but, generally, you should be listening as much as you're talking.

  • Avoid asking questions that the prospect can answer with yes or a no to help them expand on their thoughts. Instead of asking, “Are you happy with your current CRM?” ask, “What issues do you have with your current CRM?”
  • Validate pain points that leads share so they feel understood. Try a phrase like, “Wow, it sounds like your team is really struggling with [insert pain point], and you really care about making this right for them.”
  • Don’t run through your questions like a robot. Work them into the conversation naturally, and allow plenty of time for discussion in between each one. Your potential customer should feel heard and understood, not grilled.

If your mouth gets dry from talking so long, it’s time to let your prospect have a turn. Keep the conversation balanced so you have a chance to learn about your leads.

Positive sign-off

Have a positive sign-off

Leave the prospect with a good feeling about your company by the end of the call. Even if they don’t choose to use your product, they can still generate positive buzz about your company and send connections your way.

  • Share how your product has helped similar businesses in the past. You want leads to be able to see themselves in the story so they can imagine how your product would benefit their company.
  • Summarize the prospect’s pain points to show that you clearly understand their business. Underline how your company can work to solve those problems.

If the prospect seems interested, schedule a follow-up sales call before ending the conversation.

8 discovery questions to ask every prospect

Discovery calls are a chance for your prospect to get to know you. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for you to determine whether they’re a good fit for your business.

Ask these questions to tackle both fronts:

1. What goal is your business trying to achieve right now?

Not every potential customer is going to have goals your product can solve—and that’s okay! Gauge whether your product is a good fit for their company by asking this question.

2. What are the main roadblocks to reaching that goal?

Understanding where the prospect has struggled in the past will help you decide how to explain your product to them. Say, for example, you’re selling CRM software, and your lead says that past tools they tried were too confusing to implement. In that case, you could highlight your product’s ease of use to reassure the prospect.

3. What is at stake if your company doesn’t reach this goal?

Encourage leads to come to terms with the consequences of not using your product and they’ll be more likely to realize its value. Leads’ answers will also help you get a sense of how urgently they need a solution.

4. Who is involved in picking your software?

If the prospect is the sole decision-maker, your challenge is to win them over. If they are a part of a group of decision-makers, you’ll need to brainstorm how you might appeal to that wider audience.

5. What other software has your company tried to use?

Use this question to understand where competitors both fell short and exceeded expectations. Based on this history, you can determine the standards your product needs to meet to keep this prospect happy.

6. What is your budget for achieving this goal?

It might feel early in the customer relationship to talk about money. But if you don’t know what the prospect is willing to spend, you can’t assess compatibility.

7. Do you have any concerns about our product that I can address?

Give your lead the opportunity to share any hang-ups they have about your product. They’re more likely to have a follow-up call if they have a chance to talk through these objections and hear why your product is still valuable.

8. Can we go ahead and schedule a follow-up with one of our sales reps?

Always offer three times for them to choose from instead of leaving it open-ended. If possible, try to get the prospect to agree to a time on the call to minimize back-and-forth scheduling.

Download our discovery call questions today

Not every company’s goals and needs are going to match yours, and that’s okay. The key is to figure this out as early as possible so your time (and the lead’s time) isn’t wasted down the road.

Asking strong discovery call questions is critical in gauging compatibility. That's why we’ve created this free printable question template. Use this resource to make sure every call includes the information you need to evaluate prospects.