Round one of sales puts you and your prospect in the ring together with a discovery call. Amicably, of course.
From the point a lead surrenders their contact information to a form on your website, they officially enter themselves into your sales funnel as a prospective customer. However, before they get to that point of making a purchase, you need to get to know one another.
In the world of B2B sales, buyers and sellers are hoping to enter mutually beneficial business relationships for the long run, making it necessary for both parties to get to know each other well enough to feel comfortable entering it.
What is the purpose of a discovery call?
A discovery call offers the opportunity for both the buyer and the seller to get to know the other person and determine whether or not they can provide a needed value or benefit.
For the buyer, it’s a solution that will resolve a current business problem. For the seller, it’s a customer that will offer a lifetime value greater than the cost of acquiring them.
How to conduct a discovery call
For an outbound-centric sales strategy, sales reps are going to be making the first move to conduct a discovery call. In this case, the goal of the call, on their end, is to qualify the prospect, gauge their interest levels, discover their pain points, and place them in a priority bucket based on their likelihood of making a purchase.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to start selling during your discovery call. There’s plenty of time to make that happen during another interaction. Focus on getting to know the prospect and figuring out if this is a relationship worth investing in.
If the prospect asks about your solution, give them the information they’re requesting. But instead of giving the same sales pitch to every prospect, it’s best to sit on the information you just gathered, work it into your value proposition, and offer a personalized experience for each customer.
To do that, start with a discovery call. Here are some tips for making it worthwhile for you and the customer.
1. Do your research
If you’re the person making the discovery call, it’s your job to make it as productive as possible. The best way to ensure that happens is by conducting thorough research on the prospect you’re contacting. That way you can properly structure the conversation and plan out some questions that will help you fill in the gaps of missing information.
Throughout your research, you should be looking for a few different categories of information that will help you understand the customer and sell to them as effectively as possible.
The first area of research is background information on the company. Find out their mission, vision, and values.
Knowing what’s important to the organization, from both an ethics and productivity standpoint, will help you find ways to appeal to them. Also, gauge the personnel within the company, the organization’s structure, and any projects they’re currently working on – especially those your solution can help with.
The second round of research should include digging for information that can reveal whether or not this prospect is a good fit to be your customer. Pick out any red flags that tell you this prospect won’t be able to offer your organization any value.
If you realize that your solution won’t be a good fit, don’t stress. It’s better to remove unqualified prospects from the funnel as early on in the sales process as possible so you can focus on more promising leads.
Through both of those inquiries, get the wheels turning about a potential business challenge they might be experiencing and how a feature of your solution can relieve it.
There are going to be plenty of details about your prospect that you won’t be able to find during your research. No problem. That’s what the discovery call is for. However, it’s crucial that you go into the conversation with as much information regarding your prospect as possible. And where gaps exist, plan questions in advance.
2. Find the right script
Next, you have to pick a script to use for the duration of your phone call. Your approach should never be selected at random.
The sales call script you decide to use should always be determined by your current relationship with the customer, the number of times you’ve contacted them, and their place in the buying process. For example, you wouldn’t want to say the same thing to a prospect who you are following up with than another who you are reaching out to for the first time.
When picking a script, keep your end goal of the conversation in mind. Is it to qualify the lead? Establish rapport? Find a connection?
A good script will always include the following three items: your name, your company’s name, and at least one detail about your solution. Again, you don’t need to worry about offering a complete sales pitch about your product, but without a preview, the prospective customer won’t have anything with which to move forward.
It’s important to note that while scripts exist to offer guidance during your discovery call, you should not be using them to fill in the varying blanks for that customer and read it off like a robot. Instead, look at the script like an approach to the conversation, and adjust areas that need to be personalized for that particular conversation.
Over time, it’s important that you evaluate scripts to pick out those that are serving their purpose and those that are falling short. As you become more confident in your discovery calling abilities, you can even add your own bit of style to the scripts.
3. Show your personality and establish rapport
Believe it or not, prospects can hear you being distracted by something on your computer and slouching in your chair as you speak to them. And they won’t like it, either.
Your prospects are going to match your energy levels. If you come off bland and uninterested, it’s not likely the other party will want to move forward with your business. Nobody wants to do business with a sales robot who says the same thing to each customer.
However, if you come excited to talk and even more eager to listen, they’ll pick up on that level of interest. And it doesn’t have to be all business chit chat. Make it more about the prospect rather than their money.
Talk about a connection you found during your research. Ask them where they’re located and what they like to do for fun around there. These appropriate personal questions will help them see you as a person, not a sales rep, building the necessary trust and rapport the business needs.
Knowing that there is a person on the other end ready to have a productive business conversation will help you build trust and rapport with the customer. And if there’s one thing you want from your customers, it’s their trust.
Your prospect might not be revealing the most interesting or exciting details in the world, but any tidbit of information they give you is valuable. Make sure you are sufficiently keeping track of the conversation using customer relationship management (CRM) software, which will store and manage the interactions you have with any prospect.
4. Ask your questions and listen intently
Now it’s time for the meat of the conversation: the qualifying questions. As a sales rep, the goal of a discovery call is to learn as much about the prospect as possible. And a sub-goal of that is to determine if they are a good fit for your business and filter them accordingly.
If you’ve done the appropriate research, you should have a solid lineup of qualifying questions ready to begin with. On top of that, the prospect might share business details that inspire some additional ones as well. As long as they are productive to the conversation, ask away.
Here are some basic discovery questions that will likely be relevant to the conversation for your discovery call:
Can you tell me about your company?
Can you tell me about your daily activities?
What metrics are you responsible for?
What are your goals for the quarter/half/year?
What challenges are you facing in achieving those goals?
What do you think would be a solution to that problem?
Do you have a timeline/plan for implementing a solution?
Is there a budget for that plan?
Is there anyone else involved in this decision?
What are you hoping to see improve once you find a solution?
All of those questions should give you the information you need to properly qualify the prospect and then some.
While you want the discovery call to be a two-way conversation, you should be asking a good amount of questions. During Gong's analysis of 519,000 discovery calls, they found a positive correlation between the number of questions the rep asked and the success of the call.
Keep in mind that you aren’t just asking those questions to be polite. To do your job correctly, you need to listen carefully to every detail your customer reveals about themselves. It’s possible that, although it’s still early on in the customer journey, the prospect might give off a buying signal, and you don’t want to miss that.
Do your best to pick up on nonverbal cues as well. A customer’s tone, the language they use, and their interest levels are incredibly important to notice as well.
5. Identify the customer's pain point
Identifying the customer’s pain point won’t exactly be a direct action you take during the discovery call, but it’s something you always need to be thinking about.
Even though one of your questions should involve challenges that the customer is facing, it might not be their overall pain point. For example, if the prospect says they’re having a hard time managing their own leads, tracking customer information, and communicating with prospects, their pain point might be that they are lacking an all-in-one system to help them do that.
Based on that pain point, identify areas of opportunity where you can relieve it. For the example above, if your business sells CRM software, that’s a home run.
It’s possible that your prospect hasn’t yet recognized their pain point. If this is the case, they might realize it if you intensify that pain point a little bit. Ask them how many customers they’ve lost from poor lead management and how much those potential deals were worth. Talk about how their challenges are negatively impacting the entire sales team.
It’s crucial that you uncover your customer’s pain point(s) for you and them, and work that into every conversation you have with them until you close the deal.
6. End with the next steps
Now that challenges, problems, and pain points have been uncovered, you want to create a plan for the customer so they see you as a solution. If they want to hear more right now, utilize your sales collateral and do your best to customize it for that particular prospective customer.
In the early stages of the buying process, one of the best things you can show them is social proof of how similar businesses have had positive experiences with your business.
The discovery call likely won’t end in you making a sale, and that’s to be expected. If the prospect at hand seems like a good fit and they’re interested in moving forward, plan a future engagement.
Using the information from the discovery call, personalize a sales pitch that appeals directly to that customer. Prove to them that you were listening and that your product can offer them a resolution.
As a sales professional, it’s also your responsibility to recognize when the relationship isn’t meant to be. It’s okay to walk away.
7. Evaluate your performance
Completing your discovery call is a great first step towards closing a new deal with a customer. However, like with any business process, evaluation and optimization are necessary steps.
After a predetermined amount of time conducting discovery calls with this approach, you need to analyze the results. Look at the qualifying information you gathered about your prospect.
Does it give you all of the details you need to understand if they’re a good fit for your business and offer a customized experience? What about the success rates of scheduling a future meeting with the prospect? Will that conversion rate support your sales closing ratio?
Your discovery call sets the expectation for the rest of the buyer’s journey. And if it isn’t pleasant, you can kiss the deal goodbye. Finding ways to optimize for your customer base is crucial. Remember that a good time to evaluate can be at the end of a month, quarter, or half, or when your business introduces a new product or service.
Discover with intention
Discovery calls involve multiple missions for a sales rep. They want to establish a point of contact with the customer, get to know their pain points and qualify whether or not they are a good fit for the solution. That’s a lot to get done, but if you do it right, it’ll all come naturally.
Once you find your workflow, you’ll be making calls pretty quickly. Make sure to automate where you can with an auto dialer.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 based in Burlington, Vermont, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)
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