11+ Expert Tips for Better Sales Discovery Calls

by Michael Hanson | Apr 20, 2021

Discovery. It sounds exciting, right? Learning new things, exploring new strategies – what’s not to love about discovery?  

When you work in sales, though, discovery takes on a whole different meaning – we're of course referring to the discovery call. 

What is a Discovery Call?

A discovery call is your chance to get to know your prospect a bit better after they have shown initial interest in your product/service.

The discovery call is a great opportunity for vetting your prospects early and making sure they’re a good fit for your company. A discovery call is perfect for asking crucial questions about your prospects’ needs and goals.

 

But while the discovery call is a routine part of the sales process, it can go wrong if you’re feeling stressed, unprepared, or unfocused. 

With the right tools and approach though, sales discovery calls can help you build new relationships, strengthen your communication skills, get a better understanding of potential customer needs, and ultimately win new business. 

Below, we’ve put together a round-up of discovery tips from sales and marketing experts. Take a look, then incorporate these into your future sales discovery calls.

 

#1 - “Prescription Before Diagnosis is Malpractice” 

It’s important that you don’t go into the call with a preconceived notion of how you can support the client. If you start offering solutions immediately, you may not be able to get a good understanding of their problems. 

Dan Smith from Winning by Design points out that customers usually don’t even want to hear an off-the-cuff solution from you. Instead, they want to create an emotional connection and determine whether they can trust you to help them. 

 

 

Be Clear on Challenges

 

#2 - Dig into Challenges

While a sales discovery call should be upbeat, you don’t have to steer away from problems or concerns in an effort to keep the call all sunshine and rainbows. A great way to get better information from your potential customer in a sales discovery call is to be upfront about industry challenges. 

According to Marc Wayshak, founder of Sales Strategy Academy, by sharing common industry pain points and how your company has helped clients overcome them, you can make it easier for potential customers to open up to you. 

Typically, interested prospects agree to connect because they’re experiencing a need that their current processes/services aren’t addressing. 

 

When you make universal struggles relatable to them, you in turn make it easier for them to open up and discuss their frustrations candidly. And, after digging into that information and feedback, you can better understand the role they’d like your offering to play.

 

#3 - Say 'No' to Yes or No Questions 

According to Rachel Williams, Sales Director at Calendly, yes or no questions should be off the table during your sales discovery discussions. 

Instead, ask questions that encourage the prospect to share information with you and continue building the relationship. For example, instead of asking, “Do you use a CRM to manage email marketing?” Say, “Tell me a little about your current email marketing programs.”

 

#4 - Resist the Urge to Coach

Social media advertising strategist Marya Jan recommends ignoring the urge to turn your conversation into a coaching session. If you’re genuinely listening to your customer, you may feel excited when you connect on a topic, and you may be ready to share your abundant wisdom and knowledge. 

But the discovery call is about gathering information as a means to determining whether you’re a good fit; it’s not necessarily about providing a full strategic framework for the client (and, if you do that, they may not be as motivated to pay you for your services in the future, either). You can empathize and connect without giving away the farm. 

 

#5 - Give It Up for Free 

While you shouldn’t give up your entire business strategy, Dan Sincavage, Chief Strategy Officer at Tenfold, says you shouldn’t be afraid to give your potential customers a little bit of insight or problem-solving for free. When you’re talking with a prospect about their problems, offer access to a tangible solution for an issue they’re facing. 

 

Git It Up for Free

 

By showing your willingness to address their pain points right away, you’re building trust and creating a foundation for a lasting relationship. Giving away a morsel of advice and support at the beginning of the relationship may pay great dividends as the potential customer’s loyalty to you grows.

 

#6 - See If You Can Disqualify Them

A discovery call is the first step to a sale – that’s often true. However, according to Ryan Shelley of SMA Marketing, every discovery call doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a sale. 

If you take time to ask questions and understand the prospect’s issues and needs, the call can help you to bring them on board. 

Alternatively, it can also help you to determine whether they fit your ideal buyer persona. If information surfaces during the call that shows you might not be a fit, it’s a better use of everyone’s time and resources to be honest about it instead of dragging it out. 

 

#7 - Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Budget 

It’s been ingrained in many of us to avoid talking about money until the last possible moment. However, according to Ryan Wright at ClearPivot, doing that can actually be a disservice to both your team and your prospective client. 

It doesn’t make any sense to invest everyone’s time into meeting and exploring a product if your pricing/expenditure expectations are tens of thousands of dollars apart. 

If you feel uncomfortable addressing budget straight on with a question on expectations, you can also lead into it with questions about their work with similar agencies, services or vendors in the past. This approach can give you an idea of whether they’re expecting a similar pricing model for your services. 

 

#8 - Learn Who the Players Are 

A discovery call is about gathering beneficial information, and one of the most beneficial things you should learn is who will be at the decision-making table. You need to know whether your current contacts (the people you’re building goodwill with) are the end-all of the process, or if you’ll have additional people and perspectives to contend with. 

According to Neil Patel, 6 to 8 people are typically involved in the B2B decision-making process. You’ll want to know whether you have technical leaders, accountants, marketers, etc., helping to make the decision, so you can be prepared to answer targeted questions and have your own experts available and on call for more detailed follow-ups.

 

#9 - Consider Not Picking Up the Phone

While “call” is in the name of a discovery call, there are plenty of other ways to begin reaching out, making connections and gathering information. Depending on your prospect pool and your bandwidth, social selling may also be a good fit for your business’s discovery process.

 

Social Selling-1

 

According to Omar Al-Masry of Sales Beyond Email, LinkedIn messages are taken as seriously as phone calls and can give you an additional avenue for making connections, providing relevant content, and engaging with immediacy.

 

#10 - Educate First 

According to Tom Jenkins of CloudTask, a first sales call doesn’t necessarily have to be about the sale or about moving on to the next highest person in your prospect’s chain of command. It can and should be about educating and building a relationship. 

Connecting and offering educational resources can earn an easy yes from your prospect. Then, you can offer to contact them in a few days to follow up on any questions they may have after reviewing. This gives you an easy way to ensure another conversation and to continue building trust and loyalty. 

 

#11 - Don’t Fumble the Handoff 

Once the sales discovery call is completed, it would be nice if you could depend on the customer to just be ready to sign on the dotted line and score the new client. 

This, however, is the first point where customer experience can either make or break your deal. 

Show your prospect that you’re listening, then cogently address their concerns with follow-up content or conversations. According to Taylor Dolbin of LucidChart, a sales discovery call should be followed by the appropriate handoff of information. Your potential client doesn’t want to repeat their issues over and over to each sales rep, business development professional, and customer success team member they encounter. 

Create a process for a smooth transition between groups. If you’re working with an outsourced sales team, your business relationship manager will have experience building these processes and can help you create the proper flow of information between teams. 

 

Sales Discovery Call Questions from The Experts

Below is a list of the best questions as determined by top experts and sales influencers with over 20 years of experience.

These questions can help you gather important information about your prospects. Remember that it’s not better to ask more questions, but to ask the right questions.

  • Through your website, I got to know that your company is into [what do they do]. Could you please elaborate a little about it?

  • What are your goals and priorities for this year?

  • What’s holding you back from reaching them?

  • Could you tell me a little about your current process?

  • What are you looking to improve?

  • Many companies in your industry are facing [issue] are you too going through the same issue?

  • The [change] in your industry has affected most of our clients. Are you too affected by it?

  • What will happen if you do not address [specific problem]?

  • Have you taken measures to address the problem?

  • Have you set aside any budget to address the problem?

  • Are you looking for any solution to address the problem?

  • Have you explored any product so far?

  • What are your primary roadblocks in implementing a solution?

  • Which components matter most when figuring out which tool is best for you?

  • How have decisions like this been made previously in your company?

  • Who all are involved in the decision-making process?

  • Tell me about your company’s goals—financial, organizational, operational, etc.

  • What would a successful outcome look like for you?

  • Who else would be involved in choosing a product/solution?

  • What is the budget around this particular process/solution?

  • Do you have specific criteria for your solution?

  • How can I make implementation easier?

  • What prompted you to have this conversation with us?

  • What is it you like about your current solution and want to keep in future?

  • What costs are involved in your situation now?

  • How much will it cost if you do nothing?

  • What do you think the benefits of implementing this solution will be (e.g. revenue, cost savings, productivity)?

  • What’s your timeline for finding a solution to the problem?

The right questions will help you have a better understanding and vision of your prospects’ needs and pain points.

 

Better Calls = Better Relationships

If you’re wondering whether improving your sales discovery process takes additional time and effort, it does. Thankfully, however, dedicating resources to understanding your clients’ needs more thoroughly pays off. Better sales discovery processes mean better calls, relationships, and partnerships. 

An outsourced sales team can help as you work to build your ideal discovery call process. Outsourced sales teams have expertise and experience when it comes to making those early connections with prospects (including through educational calls and social selling), and they’re committed to working seamlessly with in-house sales teams to build handoff processes and knowledge transfers. 

Are you responsible for sales in your organization? Any special training tips you’ve used to make your sales discovery calls more effective? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below: 

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