Discover the Magic of Sales Discovery Calls with These 6 Simple Steps

BY:  Rebecca Herson
July 12, 2021
Updated on May 21, 2023

Table of Contents

Forming a solid connection with a sales lead involves more than just making a phone call and presenting your pitch. Getting to know a potential client and their needs with a discovery call helps engage them and set the stage for future success without the unnecessary sales hype. Check out a recorded discovery call simulation at the bottom of this post.

Sales discovery calls represent one of the most important parts of a successful sales process.

  • They allow your salespeople to learn more about the customer’s pain points
  • They establish a solid connection between the seller and key decision-makers
  • They begin the process of setting up the salesperson and your company as an authority in the marketplace
  • They effectively set up the rest of the sales process

Here are some simple steps you can share with your sellers can take to ensure that their discovery calls have the best chance of success.

1. Preparation is the key to success for sales discovery calls

Find out all you can about a potential client before you ever pick up the phone.

More than 50% of prospects aren’t a good fit for what your company is trying to sell, according to recent research. Doing initial research into the sales lead helps determine whether the prospect is a good match for the products and services your company offers.

Start by reading the company’s website and social media accounts. Then search for recent news articles about the company.

  • What are their core competencies?
  • What is their position in the marketplace?
  • What are their sales levels?
  • Have they had an acquisition or merger recently?
  • What pain points appear most urgent and in need of solutions?
  • Which solutions can you offer the company to cure what ails them?

If the salesperson doesn’t fully know the background of the company they’re about to call, the impact will most likely fall flat. By building a profile of the prospect, they’ll be more prepared when making the discovery call.

Next, it’s time to develop a plan for the call. The successful salesperson should develop a clear idea of what they want to cover during the discovery call and zero-in on questions about the specific company and its needs.

2. How long should a discovery call take?

The length of a sales discovery call depends on the complexity and price point of the solution the company needs. For smaller price points, expect to spend about 15 minutes on the phone. Higher-ticket items or those with a longer sales cycle could take up to an hour to discuss.

While product demonstrations should be saved for a follow-up call, the potential client may insist on one. Your salespeople should take this into consideration when planning the call agenda.

More important than watching the clock during the call, however, is to form a connection with the person on the other end of the line.

3. How to form a connection quickly on your sales discovery call

The first few minutes of your discovery call sets the tone for the entire discussion. Salespeople should begin the call by introducing themselves, the company, and their role at the company. Then thank the potential client for taking the time to speak with you. Finally, explain the call’s agenda and emphasize that the top priority is getting to know their company and its objectives.

Throw in some humor, if that’s your style, or even a short personal anecdote. This can help break the ice and establish a connection. The key is to make the connection short and sweet. After all, the primary purpose of a sales discovery call is to learn about the potential client’s challenges, solution needs, and plans for the future.

The salesperson has researched the company ahead of the call, but it’s important that they not come across as too cocky or a know-it-all – let the potential buyer share information about the company which could be even more accurate and detailed than what is available publicly.

By weaving in the fact that the sales rep has done their research, together with an openness to learn more (“I saw in Newsweek that your company recently acquired such-and-such company – how has that been going for you”), the sales rep can build rapport and come across as authoritative.

4. Ask these questions during the call

When making a discovery call, sellers should make sure to ask as many of these questions as are relevant (without overwhelming the call participant!), which help provide valuable information and selling points for follow-up calls:

  • What are your daily activities?
  • What metrics are you responsible for?
  • What are your company’s goals for the quarter or the entire year?
  • What challenges do you or your company face in achieving those goals?
  • What are your company’s thoughts on a solution to those challenges?
  • Is there a priority level to getting each of those challenges solved?
  • Do the challenges need to be solved within a given time?
  • Does your company have a budget set aside for providing solutions?
  • Who else is involved in coming up with a solution to these challenges?
  • What improvements are you hoping to see once solutions are implemented?

What about discussing pricing during the discovery call? It’s best to save this for the follow-up call, but your salespeople should be ready in case the client needs the rates up front; certainly if they are in the process of preparing a budget to solve the challenge you are speaking about, providing pricing figures at this stage could ensure that they are able to purchase your solution.

Just coach your salespeople to provide a pricing range so they understand that rates depend on product configuration, number of users, etc. If it’s a catalog price list, it’s a more straightforward answer.

One of the most important functions of a discovery call is to assess the needs of the potential client, so it’s critical to ask open-ended questions. Simple yes or no answers won’t give your salespeople the information they need to craft effective solutions for the follow-up call.

Remind your sales reps to let the potential client explain their pain points in as much detail as possible before mentioning your company’s solutions. In-depth discussion about your company’s solutions will be covered in a follow-up call later. During the discovery call, they are there to mostly listen and learn, enabling a firm connection between you and the potential client. The most important sales skill to use in a discovery call is listening.

5. Additional discovery call tips to keep in mind

To maximize your salespeople’s effectiveness during the discovery call, give them these additional helpful hints to keep in mind:

  • Be enthusiastic but don’t push too hard too soon, otherwise a potential sale can quickly go down the drain.
  • Avoid using technical jargon that might confuse a client or even insult their intelligence.
  • Actively listen and avoid interrupting.
  • Avoid a one-size-fits-all call approach. Each client’s needs are different, demanding customized treatment.
  • Ask if the company has spoken with other solution providers about solving their challenges and who those companies are. But don’t discredit other companies; that will instantly lower your credibility with the company.

6. Why discovery calls are so important

A discovery call done right helps your sales reps set a streamlined path for the rest of the sales process. It also allows them to present themselves and your company as a knowledgeable and authoritative voice in the marketplace.

A discovery call done wrong can stop a strong sales potential in its tracks. So, remind reps to do their homework, build a connection quickly, ask the right questions, and listen, listen, listen!

How to use Second Nature to practice sales discovery calls

Our AI sales coach – Jenny – doesn’t just ask you questions, she can answer them, too! Your sales reps can work with Jenny as often as they want to brush up on the types of questions they may want to ask their sales prospects. The interactions are recorded and analyzed automatically, so your reps can use the practice to improve on their own, before they get to the real call.

Their managers can also zero in on trouble spots and then work one-on-one with reps to help them polish their sales conversations. You can see a sample discovery call simulation that I did with Jenny earlier today, below. I did make a mistake, though, and slipped into selling mode towards the end of the call – check it out.

Learn how Second Nature can help better prepare your sales team, including discovery calls.

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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