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What Is a Sales Discovery Call? (+How to Run One Successfully)

April 29, 2019

Every closed-won deal starts somewhere.

And in most cases, that somewhere is on a discovery call. Before a prospective buyer can become a sales qualified lead, a sales rep needs to find out if there is strong potential for that buyer to turn into a paying customer down the line. This part of the sales process is incredibly important as it distinguishes the legitimate buyers from the ones that might not be a fit. So, how do you execute a successful discovery call?

Before we get into the specifics, let’s define the term. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of a sales discovery call and share tips on how to make them effective.

How to run a successful discovery call

Aside from any correspondence via email, the discovery call is usually the first time that the buyer and sales representative are having a formal conversation. It’s important to make a good first impression, provide real value and determine if moving forward makes sense for both parties.

In the digital age, buyers are armed with more information and resources than ever before. It’s likely that this person has done their research and knows more about your business than you think. Remember that the goal of this conversation is to determine whether or not the buyer is qualified to move forward in the sales process. If they already know a lot about your business, then this call needs to be all about them.

Do your homework

Before the call, you’ll need to do some prep. First, figure out how this lead got to you in the first place. Did they submit a lead form? Did they request to be contacted for a product demonstration? Finding this information first will give you an idea of the type of conversation they are expecting to have.

Next, you’ll want to do some research on the buyer and their company. This can be as simple as pulling up their LinkedIn profile or browsing their company website. You’ll want to get a general idea of what their role is and what their company does. The buyer will appreciate that you took the time to do some research and learn a bit about their organization prior to the call. 

Set the agenda

It doesn’t matter if you’re an entry-level employee or a CEO, everyone is pressed for time. Nobody wants to sit through a meeting with no clear purpose or objective. That’s why you should preface every discovery call with a set agenda that details exactly what you’ll be talking about. While this might seem simple, it can have a big impact. This shows the buyer that you value their time and know how to run a productive meeting.

To set the agenda, include a bulleted list of points that you plan to cover during the call on the calendar invite. This way, the person or people on the other end know what to expect before jumping on the call. When you’re on the call, briefly introduce yourself and go over the agenda. This is as simple as outlining the purpose of the call, what you plan to go over, and mentioning that there will be time for questions at the end.

Ask impactful questions

Asking the right sales qualifying questions is key to running a successful discovery call. A good sales rep will ask the basic qualifying questions, but a great sales rep will go beyond that and ask questions that are more impactful. Buyers have heard the questions laid out in the BANT framework countless times and are expecting this call to go just like all the others they’ve been on before. To stand out, you’ll want to rephrase your questions in a way that require the prospect to dig deeper and provide more detailed answers.

Below are some examples of impactful questions to ask on a discovery call:

  • Have you ever purchased this kind of solution before? If yes, how did it go?
  • What other big projects are you working on this quarter? Which are the highest priority?
  • What are the main responsibilities in your role? Are there any blockers you face on a regular basis?

Asking these types of questions still gives you insight into budget, authority, need and time. However, you’re positioning the questions in a way that prompts the buyer to open up and share more details about themselves and the role they play within their organization. In short, it’s much more smooth than asking someone, “do you have the authority to buy from us?”

tips for running a sales discovery call

Identify pain points

In sales, the term pain point refers to an obstacle or challenge your prospective buyer is experiencing that stands in the way of achieving a desired result. For example, if the person on the other end is a demand generation marketer, their major pain point could be that they aren’t generating high quality leads for the sales team.

The reason you want to identify your buyer’s pain points is to determine whether or not your solution will be able to help relieve them. If the buyer has unrealistic expectations of the value your product or service can provide, then you’ll know that it’s best to walk away because they are not fit to buy at this time. On the flip side, if they share their pain points with you and you know your solution can solve them, then you know this lead is qualified to move forward in the sales process.

Outline clear next steps

Whether or not the buyer on the other end is qualified to move forward or not, it’s still important to outline clear next steps. If they meet all of your qualifying criteria and are interested in proceeding, you’ll want to communicate what the next step is and if there are any action items they must complete on their end. It’s likely that the next step for a qualified lead will be another call to go more in-depth about the solution. Be sure to find a time that works for them, and send another calendar invite as a placeholder. As an additional courtesy, it’s helpful to send a follow-up email that summarizes your conversation and re-iterates next steps.

Remember that if the buyer is not a fit to buy right now, it doesn’t mean they can’t become qualified at a later time. If you determine that a lead should not move forward in the sales process, be sure to answer all of their questions and set up a time in the future to follow-up with them and check back in.

Make the conversation your own

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to predict the outcome of a discovery call. However, you can do your best to be prepared and lead a conversation that is as authentic as possible. Everyone has a different style of selling, so don’t be afraid to make each discovery call your own.

Sales jargon can be confusing. Brush up on your vocabulary by learning the difference between a lead and a prospect.

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