Sales Discovery Call: Steps, Checklist, & Qualifying Questions

Sales Discovery Call: Steps, Checklist, & Qualifying Questions

Over 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit for what you sell – this means if you’re not qualifying your prospects correctly in the discovery call – you’re leaving time and money on the table.

Your discovery call is hands down the most important conversation you have in the sales process.

The discovery call either makes or breaks your relationship with the prospect. You can’t move forward in the sales process without this step, and it depicts all future steps going forward.

Below, we look at step-by-step processes, checklists, and questions for salespeople that’ll help identify good fits vs. time-wasters.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is a Discovery Call?

A discovery call is the first conversation a sales rep has with a prospect after they show initial interest in a product or service.

Discovery calls are important to leverage a better understanding of the prospect, their business, pain points, and needs. This call helps shape all future conversations and sets the tone for your relationship.

The purpose of a sales discovery call is to determine whether your solution and the prospect are a good fit for one another. Your goal is to either qualify or break up with the prospect, so you’re not wasting either of your time.

calendarSchedule calls with easeEliminate the back-and-forth: Send customizable links that sync to your Outlook or Gmail calendar

6-Step Process to Execute a Strong Discovery Call

With the importance of discovery calls, it’s smart to have a standard process in place. This way, you ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

Here’s a 6-step process that ensures all the boxes are checked.6-step process to execute a strong discovery call

1. Lock Down Your Qualification Criteria

First and foremost, lock down your qualification criteria. The discovery process can’t begin without this step.

Best-fit leads are first identified by demographics like company size, revenue, and maturity, which are outlined in the ideal customer profile (ICP).

Leads are then further qualified by behavioral data through discovery questions. So before you jump on a call, make sure your initial criteria match up.

discovery call qualification criteria: ideal customer profileRemember: practice makes perfect. Never underestimate the power of role-playing in sales.

Role-playing with a manager can bring a new perspective and insight into your strategy. Collect feedback to improve outcomes and fine-tune your qualifying questions.

It’s also beneficial to record your calls (with permission) and listen back to pick up on moments that could have gone better and identify ways to improve.

2. Do Your Homework

Never pick up the phone without doing your homework. There are tons of information just a click away on Google that can substantially shape your call.

You’ll either 1) enter the call with tailored questions and a better understanding of the prospect/business or 2) be able to disqualify the prospect before the conversation even takes place (which will save you both time and frustration).

Also, you don’t want to be that salesperson who asks questions that are already answered online. It not only wastes time but diminishes your credibility.

Here are three simple steps to follow:

Step One: Check Your CRM

Quickly scan to see the lead source. If your prospect has ever engaged with your marketing content (eBook download, landing page visit, webinar sign-up, etc.), you can reference this on the call.

Also, look for notes on past interactions with other sales team members and the outcome of those conversations.

Step Two: Hit the Company Website

Go to your prospect’s company website and visit each of these four critical pages:

  1. About Us: Story and core values, leadership, investors, look for similarities or alignment
  2. Careers / Open Positions: Skills needed/ open pain points, team titles
  3. News: Announcements, events, funding (reference in convo)
  4. Blog: Topics, learn what’s top-of-mind at company

Step Three: Look at LinkedIn

First, check their LinkedIn profile to see if you have any mutual connections. Executives (who are often your decision-makers) respond positively to referrals 84% of the time.

Next, take a quick look at their profile and recent activity. Look for a title change, updated experience, likes, group discussions, awards, etc. This will give you insight into their role and responsibilities, plus personal values and interests. Use these to spark conversation and form connections.

Make note of any 1) recent career highs or 2) similarities you share with this person. Here’s why:

  1. Complimenting personal accomplishments during a sales call creates subconscious, positive attitudes of you and your company. In fact, research shows that even when prospects are aware of flattery being used as a sales tactic, they are still left with an implicit positive impression.
  2. Similarities draw people together — especially in B2B buying decisions. Sharing even a coincidental similarity with your prospect, such as having the same first name or having attended the same school, can increase their willingness to buy from you.

Here’s a pre-call research checklist to help you get started. discovery call pre-call research checklistWhen the checklist is complete – determine if the prospect is still qualified – and if so, you’re more than prepared for a productive call where you have plenty of resources to lead questions and conversations in the right direction.

3. Confirm Agenda & Build Rapport

In order to start a robust conversation with questions and honest answers, you need to build rapport at the beginning of the call.

Your first initiative of the discovery call should be to run through the agenda with the prospect. Then make sure to ask them whether there is anything else they’d like to discuss. This shows that you view the call as a 2-way conversation and you want the call to be just as beneficial to the prospect as it is to you.

  1. What will make this a successful meeting for you?
  2. I’d like to discuss X, Y, and Z areas. Before we get started, what else would you like to cover in this meeting?

After this, try mentioning something found through your research.

An essential tip for starting a good sales conversation is to enter the call with a custom sentence you’ve found through your research. Whether that’s congratulating them on a recent accomplishment, mentioning a current company announcement, referencing an article or post they wrote, etc.

Discovery Call Spreadsheet

Build out a spreadsheet to enter your discovery calls with connection-builders that’ll help build rapport right off the bat.

Here’s an example of a prospect research spreadsheet for your discovery calls:  discovery call: build rapport Next, find a connection.

Building rapport relies on a connection. And the most effective way to connect with others is on a personal level.

Remember, the person on the other end of the call has a life outside of work. If you can find a way to connect with them personally, the call will go much smoother and feel more natural.

Interested in the spreadsheet above? Grab it for free below.

Free Template for Your Prospect ResearchThis customizable template will help you organize all prospect research in one place.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Here are open-ended questions that will spark conversation in your discovery call:

  1. Is it true what they say about living in [city/state]?
  2. I see you live in  [city/state], have you ever tried [restaurant/local attraction]?
  3. I’m actually thinking about visiting [city/state] soon, what are your top recommendations?
  4. I noticed you went to [college/university], I actually have a friend who went there, they said it was really [x]. How did you like it?
  5. I noticed on LinkedIn you participated in [sport/hobby], I used to play as well, what position were you?
  6. In your LinkedIn summary, you mentioned you love [x]. How long have you been doing that?

This helps to show the prospect that you’re interested in them and open up conversations where connections can be built.

By doing so, you also help the prospect feel more comfortable with you which will undoubtedly improve the rest of your conversation.

4. Discover Pain Points

A rule of thumb for your discovery calls: always listen more than you talk.

Remember, at least 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit for what you sell.

The point of the discovery call is to learn as much about the prospect as possible – a successful discovery call centers the conversation around the prospect and their pain points.

Numerous studies show the power of the talk-listen ratio. Saleshacker found that the highest yielding B2B sales conversations hovered around a 43:57 talk-to-listen ratio. On average, top sales professionals speak 43% of the time and listen 57% of the time.

discovery call talk-to-listen ratio

The best way to make sure your prospect talks more than you do is to ask questions. But you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions.

Your goal is to ask open-ended sales questions that involve in-depth explanations so you can grasp as much information as possible to tailor your sales pitch around them.

discovery call: open-ended vs. closed-ended questionsBy asking questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” you encourage dialogue. This dialogue allows sales professionals to uncover pain points, identify interests, and gain visibility into the company.

The information you retain with this dialogue is essential to the discovery process and your future relationship with the buyer.

5. Prescribe the Ideal Solution

If the prospect is a good fit, you’ll understand their pain points. Now it’s time to emphasize these pain points and prescribe your offering as the ideal solution.discovery call: types of pain points If you can’t do this, then your solution isn’t the right fit. But don’t cut yourself short, the discovery call is the time to recognize this, which is a job well done.

Since you’ve listened to the prospect speak about their pain points for a large portion of the call, you’re now equipped with the information you need to explain why and how your solution will solve these problems for them.

Connect your prospect’s pain points to specific features and explain how the solution will solve these.

This is a great time to offer case studies or testimonials of similar companies that struggled with similar issues but have since solved them with your solution.

Relate the case study to issues discussed, discuss the ROI customers are currently achieving, and have these close by for reference.

discovery call: ROI

If the discovery call goes well and the prospect is qualified, it’s time to bring it to a close with some strong and notable points.

Confirm that your solution will solve the prospect’s challenges that were brought up in conversation and give a quick indication of why, without over-pitching.

Leave the conversation on a high note, looking forward to the demo where you’ll show the prospect hands-on what you discussed.

6. Schedule Next Steps

Never hang up the phone without discussing the next steps. This step is crucial to put the wheels in motion.

Recommend what you think the next steps should entail and ask for their opinion.

If the discovery call goes as planned, schedule a demo so you can show the prospect how your product or service will solve the pain points and problems raised during the conversation.

And as soon as you hang up the phone, schedule the meeting before anything else.

Also, don’t forget about the follow-up email.

30 Discovery Call Questions

The questions you ask during your discovery call will shape the productivity of the call and the overall outcome.

Here are some questions to help you separate hot leads from time-wasters through important topics.

Understanding the Prospect and Team

1. Walk me through your typical day-to-day activities in your role.

2. What metrics are you responsible for?

3. What are the different roles on your team and how many are in each position?

4. What does your team’s current process look like?

5. What’s holding your team back from achieving your goals?

Understanding Business Problems

6. What’s the business problem you’re looking to fix with this solution?

7. How are you currently handling this problem?

8. How have you tried to resolve this problem in the past?

9. What challenges have you faced in the past when trying to solve these problems?

10. What’s prompting you to do something about this now?

Understanding Competitor Standing

11. What other solutions are you evaluating?

12. How far are you in your evaluation process?

13. How do you feel we compare to the other solutions you’re looking at?

14. Has your company considered or used a solution similar in the past? If so, what happened?

15. How is your current solution meeting your expectations?

16. With your current solution, what’s going right and what’s going wrong?

Understanding the Decision-Making Process & Timing

17. What steps do you need to take in order to make a decision and purchase your chosen solution?

18. Who else on your team should be involved in this process?

19. What is your timeline for making this decision?

20. What types of time constraints are you working with?

21. When would you ideally like to implement a solution for the team?

Understanding Budget

22. What’s your process for securing the budget for this initiative?

23. Do you have a budget allocated?

24. Who is responsible for budget?

25. Who is in charge of financial decisions?

Understanding Roadblocks and Moving Forward

26. Do you have any worries that are holding you back?

27. Do you foresee any pushback from your colleagues against the solution?

28. Which areas of our solution do you still have questions about?

29. Do you have any further questions that we didn’t touch on this meeting?

30. What are you thinking about for the next steps?

Although there are numerous questions above, let’s be clear – pick and choose the most important questions to ask. Don’t interrogate your prospect.

When going into the discovery call, decide on the main topics you want to touch on. Focus on these and ask questions accordingly, don’t go overboard.

Remember, various studies show the top reasons deals fall apart – budget, timing, and decision-making being the top 3. That tells you to address these issues sooner rather than later.

discovery call: reasons deal fall apart

What are the main pieces of information you want to learn about the prospect? Stick to those and form a sequence.

Evaluate & Reflect – Learn From Every Discovery Call

As stated above, it’s important to always reflect and improve. Similar to many aspects of sales like cold calling, you should always be looking for ways to improve.

With permission, record your discovery calls. This will help you pinpoint elements that cause confusion or uncertainty and leverage tactics that generate the best results.

Recordings allow you to access what went well and what can be improved. The recording also allows you to take more thorough notes about the conversation to guide you through the rest of the sales process and future interactions.

The best thing you can do the next time you talk to the prospect is reference pain points and discussion points brought up in your discovery call.

Your discovery call sets the pace for the rest of your sales process, so make sure you have a strong process in place.

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