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Discovery Call Formula: Checklist & Questions to Qualify Prospects

Discovery Call Formula: Checklist & Questions to Qualify Prospects
Jenny Keohane
Jenny Keohane

Jenny Keohane

14 min read0 reads
Prospects, Sales Calls, Sales Prospecting 


  1. First, What Is a Discovery Call?
  2. 1. Strategic Prospecting – Lock Down Your Qualification Criteria & Practice
  3. 2. Discovery Call Research & Checklist – Always Do Your Homework
  4. 3. Build Rapport Instantly – Confirm Agenda & Find Connections
  5. 4. Discovery Call Questions 
  6. 5. Prescribe the Ideal Solution – Address Their Pain Points & Present a Solution
  7. 6. Schedule Next Steps – Always Schedule Before The Hang Up
  8. Evaluate & Reflect – Learn From Every Discovery Call 

Over 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit for what you sell – that 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.

Let’s look at a discovery call formula for salespeople that’ll help identify good fits and time-wasters.

In this guide we’ll review:

First, What Is a Discovery Call?

A sales discovery call is a two-way conversation between a sales rep and a prospect.

Discovery calls are important for leveraging a better understanding of the prospect, their business, pain points, and needs. Which will help shape all future conversations.

This step is imperative to the sales process and can’t be overlooked.

What is the Purpose of a Discovery Call?

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

It’s important to get it this step of your sales process right – let’s walk through some steps to ensure effective and successful discovery calls, every time.

1. Strategic Prospecting – Lock Down Your Qualification Criteria & Practice

Your qualification criteria will give you the insight you need to qualify the right leads effectively.

It’s important to lock down this criteria such as your ideal customer profile (ICP) before anything else.

Define a qualification checklist that includes company size, industry, revenue, etc. Having your qualification criteria set in stone is imperative to the discovery process and ensures you avoid cold calling poor prospects.

Here’s an example:

Define Your Ideal Customer Profile Before the Discovery Call

Discovery Call: sample ideal customer profile

It also helps to jot down qualities indicating the prospect isn’t a good fit or middle-grounds so your team can prioritize correctly.

Lastly, top sales professionals know how important it is to strategize.

With discovery calls being the most crucial factor of the sales process, you should never underestimate the power of practice and role-play.

Role-playing with a manager can bring a new perspective and insight into your strategy. Get feedback and make improvements to better your outcomes and fine-tune your qualifying questions.

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

2. Discovery Call Research & Checklist – Always Do Your Homework

Always do your homework before you dial. This pre-call ritual will help you deliver the most value and keep prospects’ attention.

Pre-call research has plenty of advantages. The first is that you may be able to disqualify the prospect before the conversation even takes place. Depending on your qualification criteria, the answers you need could be clicks away on Google.

Also, you don’t want to be that salesperson who asks questions that are already answered online. Go into the conversation with the most beneficial questions so you’re not wasting time.

Pre-call research also helps you enter the conversation with a better vision and have a tailored message from the get-go.

Here’s a checklist to help you get started:

Pre-Call Ritual – Make a Checklist

Discovery Call: Pre-call research checklist

Pre-Call Ritual – Make a Discovery Call Checklist

Here are three simple steps to follow:

Step One: Check Your CRM System

Quickly scan to see the lead source. If your prospect has engaged with your marketing content in the past (landing page visit, eBook download, webinar sign-up, etc.), you can reference this on the sales call. Also, look for notes on past interactions with other sales team members and what (if anything) happened.

Step Two: Hit the Company Website

Go to your prospect’s company website and hit each of these four critical pages before you call:

  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 his/her 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, recent 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 his/her willingness to buy from you.

When 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.

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3. Build Rapport Instantly – Confirm Agenda & Find Connections

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 to starting a conversation is always 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 highly effective discovery call spreadsheet:

Discovery Call: building 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.

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 spark a conversation where connections can be built.

This will help the prospect feel more comfortable with you for the rest of the call, which will improve the outcomes of the following step – asking questions.

Don’t be Afraid to Stray from Your Template

An effective discovery call script can help ensure you reference all of the key pain points and challenges but you should also have the confidence to personalize your approach on each call you make.

4. Discovery Call Questions – Diagnose the Prospect’s Needs

The rule of thumb for a discovery call should always be you 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 for you to learn as much about the prospect as possible – a successful discovery call is centering the conversation around the prospect, their pain points, and how your solution will help them. This mindset will give you more insight to effectively qualify or disqualify them.

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-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.

Here are some questions to help you separate hot leads from time-wasters through different 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 

  1. What’s the business problem you’re looking to fix with this solution?
  2. How are you currently handling this problem?
  3. How have you tried to resolve this problem in the past?
  4. What challenges have you faced in the past when trying to solve these problems?
  5. What’s prompting you to do something about this now?

Understanding Competitor Standing

  1. What other solutions are you evaluating?
  2. How far are you in your evaluation process?
  3. How do you feel we compare to the other solutions you’re looking at?
  4. Has your company considered or used a solution similar in the past? If so, what happened?
  5. How is your current solution meeting your expectations?
  6. With your current solution, what’s going right and what’s going wrong?

Understanding the Decision-Making Process & Timing

  1. What steps do you need to take in order to make a decision and purchase your chosen solution?
  2. Who else on your team should be involved in this process?
  3. What is your timeline for making this decision?
  4. What types of time constraints are you working with?
  5. When would you ideally like to implement a solution for the team?

Understanding Budget

  1. What’s your process for securing the budget for this initiative?
  2. Do you already have a budget allocated? Who sets the budget?
  3. Who is in charge of financial decisions?

Understanding Roadblocks and Moving Forward 

  1. Do you have any worries that are holding you back?
  2. Do you foresee any pushback from your colleagues against the solution?
  3. Which areas of our solution do you still have questions about?
  4. Do you have any further questions that we didn’t touch on this meeting?
  5. 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.

5. Prescribe the Ideal Solution – Address Their Pain Points & Present a Solution

If the prospect is a good fit, you’ll understand their pain points and prescribe your offering as the ideal solution.

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 has 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 – Always Schedule Before The Hang Up

Never hang up the phone without discussing the next steps. I repeat, never hang up the phone without discussing the next steps.

This point 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.

calendarEasily schedule your next callSend a customizable link that syncs to your calendar

Evaluate & Reflect – Learn From Every Discovery Call 

As stated above, it’s important to always be reflecting and improving.

With permission, record your discovery calls. This will significantly help you pinpoint elements that caused confusion or uncertainty and leverage tactics that gave you 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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