18 Steps to a Successful Discovery Call + Free Discovery Call Checklist
You’re on a journey, and you don’t even need to leave your newly remodeled home office.
You’re about to discover whether a new lead in your sales pipeline is a good fit for your product.
Discovery calls can sometimes seem like just one extra step that slows down your time to close. But, what exactly is involved in an effective discovery call? How is it related to qualification? And how do you run a discovery call that brings value to both parties?
Don’t worry: you’re about to get the lowdown on all things discovery. Ready to get started?
What is a Discovery Call?
Here’s the kicker: when you fail at discovery, your whole sales process goes down the toilet.
Why? Because this is probably the first call with your prospect, and this initial conversation will stick in their minds as their first impression of your brand.
From this point on, they’ll either view you as an annoying salesperson or a trusted industry expert. They’ll see your product as either a waste of money or a real solution to their problem.
Which one do you want to be?
By the end of the discovery call, both you and your potential customer should have a clear understanding of whether this is a good fit or not.
Lead Qualification vs Discovery Process
First things first–there is no universally accepted definition of discovery vs qualification. These sales activities overlap considerably, so sales leaders should define what discovery and qualification mean within their unique sales process.
At Close, this is how we view discovery and qualification:
Discovery is a process, not an event. It’s more than just discovering a prospect’s pain points or making sure they're a good fit—it’s about the initial steps of developing a long-term relationship and building rapport with prospects.
Sales qualification is a stage within the discovery process. This is where reps ask qualifying questions to decide whether the prospect is a good fit for the product and sales process.
Remember, it will probably take a few calls and emails to finish the whole discovery process and fully understand the prospect's needs. The amount of time you invest in the prospect will depend on the average LTV for this customer profile and the expected close rate.
So, how do you run an effective discovery call?
5 Steps to Prepare for a Discovery Call
We’ll take you through each step to set yourself up for the perfect sales discovery call. Let’s start with 5 specific actions to take before the first call.
1. Do Intelligent Research
Your lead’s time is valuable (and so is yours.)
Show you respect the time they’ve taken out of their day by avoiding repetitive, unnecessary questions.
Go through the lead in your CRM. Has your company interacted with this lead in the past? What information did you collect, or was automatically collected from a form? Have they downloaded specific resources on your site? Were they ever previously in the pipeline with your sales team?
Next, learn more about this lead by doing research online. This could include:
- Connect with them on LinkedIn (if you haven’t already), and look at their profile and past posts. If you have a mutual connection that you can involve, even better: 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral.
- Learn about the company on Crunchbase, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.
- Use sales intelligence tools like ZoomInfo, Apollo, or LinkedIn Sales Navigator to dig into the finer details of the lead, their company, and their position.
While you can’t spend hours on research for each new lead that enters your discovery process, you have a general understanding of the person and the company they work for.
The goal is basically to avoid asking questions that you can easily find the answers to online.
2. Pick a Discovery Call Script That Builds on What You Already Know
By now, you should have enough information to determine:
- Whether this lead fits your ideal customer profile
- The main challenges they face
- Specific industry-related needs they may have
- Where they are in the buying process
Of course, it’s impossible to write out an exact structure for your discovery call; you’ll need to listen to the prospect and adapt to their responses during the conversation. However, you can use the information you’ve gathered to choose a discovery call script or talk tracks specific to their situation.
First, set a clear goal for the conversation. Where do you want the process to go after this call?
Second, choose a few essential questions you need clear answers to. What do you absolutely need to know by the end of this call?
Next, pick three key ideas you want the lead to take away from the conversation. Remember, this call isn’t a sales pitch, so the most important ideas aren’t about your product. Instead, highlight a certain pain point, tell a story that sets the stage, or clarify the importance of the next steps to create a stronger sense of urgency.
With those goals in mind, it’s time to choose your key questions.
3. Choose the Discovery Call Questions That Align With the Buyer's Journey
When picking qualifying questions to add to your discovery call script, keep in mind where your prospect is in the buyer's journey.
Are they aware they have a problem, but unsure of how to solve it? Are they clear on what they need to do, and in the final stages of evaluating their options? Are they unaware of the pain point entirely?
If they’re in the awareness stage, ask questions to identify the root causes of pain, such as:
- What’s your current process for dealing with [challenge]?
- What solutions are you currently using? What’s working/not working with that solution?
- If you don’t find a solution that works, what will [process/team] look like in 6 months?
- Why is this a priority for you right now?
However, if the prospect is aware of the solution they need and are just evaluating options, you need to ultra-focus on that area of the buying process. You might use questions like:
- What are the must-have features you’ve decided on?
- What kind of results do you expect to see with a new solution?
- When do you expect to see those results?
- What other solutions are you looking at? Why those?
Align to the customer journey to find the root of what your prospect wants to talk about, rather than bumbling through a list of ‘required’ questions.
Protip: Check out our list of qualifying questions and add the ones that make sense for this prospect.
4. Schedule With Common Sense
You book a discovery call, and the prospect confirms. The day comes, you call, and no one answers.
One way to avoid this is to get smarter about how you book discovery calls. Look at your calendar before you set the appointment, and think about when your prospects are more likely to be busy and lose track of time. For example, Monday mornings, the morning after a holiday, or Friday afternoons are probably out. But it could include other times that are specific to your target market (such as the end of the quarter for sales teams.)
Schedule smarter by using your intimate knowledge of your customer profile to your advantage. That’ll help you reduce the number of no-shows. Consider using scheduling tools like Calendly or Savvy Cal to make it easier to find a time that works for everyone.
5. Set a Clear Discovery Call Agenda (And Send it to Them Beforehand)
Anytime you schedule a meeting with a prospect, they should know what to expect from the call.
Creating and sending a meeting agenda for your discovery call tells your prospect 3 things:
- You’re taking this meeting seriously enough to make a plan
- Exactly what they to expect from this meeting
- A clear reason why it’s in their best interest to show up
Your agenda should include a clear value prop for the prospect themselves. What will they gain by showing up to this meeting? How will they benefit?
If your agenda answers that question for the prospect, they’ll be more motivated to be ready and engaged during the discovery call.
10 Steps to Conduct a Great Discovery Call
Now that the discovery call is scheduled and you’re prepped, let’s dig into the 10 steps you need to follow during the call for an effective discovery call.
1. Turn on Your Camera
I know you probably read that and said, “Ugh.”
But this actually makes a serious difference in the success of your discovery call.
Our friends at Gong did the research: you're 41% more likely to close a deal if you turn on your camera.
It makes sense. After all, the goal of the discovery process is to get to know each other, and a video call facilitates a connection on a personal level. You’re not two businesses interacting—you’re two people. Be a human on your discovery call, and you’ll form a more human (read: stronger) relationship with the prospect.
2. Remember to Hit Record
Yeah, this tip probably got a big ol’ sigh as well.
But hear me out.
I’ve talked about how listening to your recorded calls is one of the best ways to improve at cold calling. The same principle applies to discovery calls.
We’ll talk more below about how to evaluate your discovery calls, but I added this step here to remind you to HIT RECORD (because, let’s face it, we all forget to hit record sometimes.)
In Close, all calls can be automatically recorded and saved with the lead info. But it gets better: with our native Zoom integration, your Zoom recordings are also stored in the lead page, meaning you always know where to find those recordings. Try it yourself for free for 14 days.
3. State Your Goals for This Call
After you’ve both turned on your camera, hit record, and started the conversation, the next step should be to restate the goals for this call.
Here’s how it might sound:
By the end of this call, we should both have a clearer idea of whether or not this is a good fit, and then you can decide if it makes sense to schedule a demo so I can show you how our product works.
Why does this work? Because from the get-go, you establish 4 things:
- You’re there to help, not just sell.
- This call has a clear goal: to discover fit (or quickly find out if it's not a good fit, and disqualify them.)
- You’re not going to bully them into a purchase that doesn’t fit their needs.
- The next step from here is a product demo.
By asking, “Does that sound good?” at the end of this introduction, you also get buy-in for this agenda from the prospect.
4. Ask Questions That Generate Conversation
Here is where qualification enters into the discovery process. It’s time to ask questions and see if your prospect qualifies to take the next steps in your B2B sales process.
The discovery process should be a conversation. The questions you ask (and the way you ask them) will determine how this conversation flows—for example, open-ended questions invite the prospect to give longer explanations, giving you the info you need.
Research by Gong found a clear link between the length of your prospect’s response and the success rate of the deal.
The right discovery call questions to get longer responses could include:
- Talk me through your current process for dealing with [challenge].
- What would success look like for you with a new solution?
- Tell me more about some of the goals that your team has for the upcoming year.
- What are the main obstacles to these goals?
- What's your biggest challenge regarding ___?
Remember, your discovery call script is more than just a list of questions to ask. As your prospect responds and tells their story, actively listen to those responses.
Then, ask good follow-up questions:
- Tell me more about that.
- Do you have an example of that for me?
- What exactly do you mean by…
Don’t start a new thread with each question. Otherwise, it’ll sound like you’re just going through a list rather than actually trying to understand the person you’re talking to. Use good follow-up questions to show genuine interest in the prospect and uncover potential roadblocks.
For SaaS companies with a free trial, reps can also use questions during the discovery process to understand the prospect’s impression of the product. This can identify red flags about the deal early on.
Ask questions like:
- How do you feel about the experience in-app so far?
- Are there any features that stood out to you?
- How has your process been affected by using our trial?
- What does your team say about the product?
You'll nail this essential part of the discovery process with the right questions.
5. Demonstrate Your Industry Knowledge
You are more than a salesperson; you are an industry expert, an advisor, and a peer to your prospect.
If you don’t prove your industry expertise, decision-makers will see you as ‘just another salesperson.’
Demonstrating knowledge isn’t about being a know-it-all. In fact, the way you ask questions during a discovery call can be enough to prove you know what you’re talking about.
Instead of asking:
“How do you contact people?”
“Are you using automated email sequences for your cold outreach?”
Instead of asking:
“How do people find your company?”
“Tell me about your inbound lead gen process—are your inbound leads already qualified when they enter your pipeline?”
When used sparingly and in the right moment, these questions can be incredibly impactful.
6. Be Ready to Answer Questions or Objections
A great discovery call is a two-way conversation. If a prospect is not asking you questions, it's a bad sign.
So, be prepared. Analyze previous conversations to better understand what kind of questions your prospects are likely to ask, and get ready to handle any objections that come up.
When you’re prepared to answer questions, you can focus less on your response and more on what the prospect is telling you with these questions.
In fact, the questions your prospects ask you can sometimes tell you more about them than their answers to your discovery questions.
- If the prospect asks specific questions about competitors, they may be further into the purchase process than you realized.
- If they're narrowing in on a specific functionality of your product, that could tell you their main priorities for this purchase.
- If their questions revolve around price, they may need extra convincing about the value of your product and potential ROI.
Pay attention, and you’ll learn more about your potential customers from their questions.
7. Frame Your Pricing Correctly
Pricing is a tricky subject, but impossible to avoid. According to research done by Chorus, money comes up 4-5 times on the average discovery call. (And discounts are mentioned on 50% of discovery calls.)
This makes sense: a discovery call involves qualification, which usually involves making sure your potential customer has the budget to purchase your product.
Here’s the key—be confident about your pricing.
If your prospect asks about pricing (which is very likely) and you start sputtering and backtracking, they’ll lose trust in you.
Instead, frame your pricing around the value it provides.
This starts by knowing your potential customer. Understand how they’ll use your product, what size business they are, how many users they’ll need to onboard, and what kind of technical specs they require.
If you have straightforward pricing plans (like we do here at Close), it’s easy to qualify the potential customer and understand which plan fits their needs.
But before you give them a number, establish value.
Salesperson: “Sure, I can give you a general idea of where your team would fit best within our pricing plans. But first, let me ask you: how much time does your team spend on data entry per week?
Prospect: “At least two or three hours for each rep, I’d guess.”
Salesperson: “And how much are you paying them per hour?”
Prospect: “About $20 per hour.”
Salesperson: “So, with 10 reps on your team losing three hours each per week, that’s $600 you’re paying them to do manual data entry instead of closing deals. Over the next quarter, that means you’ll lose $7,200.”
Prospect: “Yeah, that sounds right.”
Salesperson: “What if I told you that you’d spend less than half of that on our CRM over the next quarter, and your reps would get back over 300 hours to spend doing actual sales activities?”
Instead of just telling them the price, you’ve sold the value of your product.
8. Build Trust With Social Proof
Random facts and figures are useless in the discovery process.
You’re in the early stages of building trust, so now is not the time to dump information about your product (otherwise, you lose credibility as a trusted advisor.) But you can build trust in the value of your product by subtly introducing customer stories into your discovery call.
Stories are powerful tools. They capture attention and make it easier to retain information. Plus, relatable stories help prospects see the results they could enjoy with your offering.
Get started with storytelling in your discovery process, and you’ll prove value without launching into your sales pitch too early in this first conversation.
9. Keep to Your Scheduled Time
Respecting your prospect’s time also means not going over the limit. If you spend more than the time allotted, it may give them a negative impression (or make them more hesitant to book meetings with you in the future.)
So, keep to the time you scheduled. If you see you’re running out of time and still have more ground to cover, either ask if they're ok extending the call for another 10 minutes or book another call.
Respect your prospect’s time, and they’ll be more likely to respect yours.
10. Schedule Your Next Steps
Here’s one of the biggest tips for a more successful discovery call: never hang up before you’ve scheduled your next step.
By the end of the call, you should know where this conversation will go. Are you going to book a meeting with other stakeholders? Schedule a product demo? A meeting with someone else on your team to answer technical questions?
Make a plan, commit to it, and put it on the calendar. Only then should you end the phone call.
3 Steps to Follow Up After a Discovery Call
Congratulations, your discovery call is done. But your job isn’t finished. Here are 3 extra steps to ensure your discovery call delivers real results.
1. Send a Follow-Up Email Right After the Discovery Call
A good follow-up email after a meeting accomplishes two goals:
- It summarizes what you talked about during the call
- It solidifies the next steps you agreed on
A good discovery call follow up might look something like this (notice this is also a great time to introduce highly relevant case studies):
Happy we got the chance to talk about the issues you’ve been seeing with your sales team’s productivity. If your org is looking to make a move on this issue within the next few weeks, then we can get you a solution that fits what you’re looking for.
With 10 reps who all could use a Power Dialer and email automation, you have serious room for growth in productivity. (Btw, here’s a writeup on the company I told you about that increased their outreach volume by 3x)
I’ve got some goodies in store for you and your sales director at Thursday’s product demo, can’t wait to share some real-world solutions you can start playing around with. (Calendar invite should be in your inbox.)
2. Build a Product Demo That Factors in Their Main Main Points
You’ve done all this work to discover what really matters to your prospects. If your next step is a product demo, it should reflect the previous conversation by being personalized to their needs.
With most SaaS tools, showing prospects every feature during the product demo is almost impossible. So, don't.
Instead, use the information you gathered during the discovery meeting to build a product demo highlighting the solutions to their main business pain points.
Get the full scoop on running outstanding product demos here:
DOWNLOAD PRODUCT DEMOS THAT SELL BOOK →
3. Evaluate Each Call to Improve
If you followed my previous tips, then you recorded the call. Now, it’s time to use those recordings to your advantage.
When evaluating your sales calls, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How engaged was the prospect during the conversation?
- Did I understand and respond correctly to their concerns?
- Was I able to control the direction of the call?
- How was my confidence level when dealing with objections?
- Was I able to connect successfully with this prospect?
- Was I listening more than I was talking?
- Did I ask enough follow-up questions to get deeper answers?
Listening to ourselves on a recording is cringe-worthy, but this is one of the best ways to improve your sales skills.
Be humble. Recognize your mistakes. Make a plan to improve.
TL;DR: The Only Discovery Call Checklist Template You Need
Looking for just the meat of this article? Here’s the TL;DR version of the above.
If you’re a sales rep, use this discovery call template to organize your schedule and build more valuable relationships.
If you’re a sales manager, use this discovery call checklist to train your reps to run more effective discovery calls.
Before the call
- Do intelligent research
- Pick a discovery call script that builds on what you already know
- Choose questions that align with the buyer's journey
- Schedule with common sense
- Set a clear discovery call agenda (and send it to them beforehand)
During the call
- Turn on your camera
- Remember to hit record!
- State your goals for this call
- Ask questions that generate conversation
- Demonstrate your industry knowledge
- Be ready to answer questions or objections
- Prepare to correctly frame your pricing
- Build trust with social proof
- Keep to your scheduled time
- Schedule your next step
After the call
- Send a follow-up email right after the discovery call
- Build a product demo that factors in their main pain points
- Evaluate each call to improve
15 Discovery Call Questions to Add to Your Call
Want a quick list of questions to ask during a discovery call? Here are 15 you can swipe and adapt to your next sales opportunity:
- How did you hear about us?
- What kind of results do you expect from a new solution?
- When would you expect to see those kinds of results?
- Tell me some specific obstacles that are threatening your goals for this quarter.
- Is this a priority for your manager? For your company as a whole?
- Which aspects of a solution are the most important factors in deciding which product is right for you?
- When was the last time you purchased a similar solution? Walk me through that process.
- Who else on your team is invested in finding a solution to this problem?
- If I could give you a solution that fits what you’re looking for, who else would need to get involved in this process?
- What are your other options to fix this challenge? Do you have a Plan B?
- Where is this on your list of priorities?
- What’s the main metric your team uses to track success? If you found the right solution, what would be the effect on that metric?
- If you don’t find a solution for [challenge they mentioned], what will [process] look like in 6 months?
- What are the must-have features of a solution? What integrations can your team not live without?
- What’s something you wouldn’t want to change about your current workflow/tool stack?
Coaching Your Sales Team to Run More Effective Discovery Calls
As a sales manager, you want your team to run more successful discovery calls and qualify better.
Here are 4 ways to coach your sales team and improve the discovery process.
Set Clear Criteria for Discovery for Your Team
Each team needs to decide what discovery and qualification means inside their sales process.
You, as a sales manager, have the responsibility to set up each stage of your sales pipeline with clear expectations for which actions reps should take during each stage.
When your team clearly understands what’s expected of them at each stage, they’ll be more productive and more motivated.
Build a Discovery Call Template Your Reps Can Use to Structure Their Call
Custom templates for your team are an excellent way to guide them toward more productive discovery calls.
In Close, you can set up Custom Activities that allow you to detail the most important questions your reps need to ask for qualification, as well as tasks they should complete during the call.
This can act as a discovery call template that your reps can use. Plus, the information they collect is stored in a structured way that’s easy to access for the entire team.
Learn more about Custom Activities and how to use them→
Review Recordings With Your Reps
Discovery call recordings are a great place to start when using coaching to improve your team's sales skills.
On your next 1:1, have your rep choose one call they’re particularly proud of, and one they think could’ve been improved. Listen to the calls together, and look for specific places to commend your reps, as well as pieces of the conversation that could’ve gone better.
Coach on the Call in Real-Time
Discovery is a very important part of the sales process and can make or break the long-term relationship with this potential customer.
Ever heard a failed call recording and wished you could go back in time to save the deal? With Close, you can–and no time travel is required. 🕒
The live Call Coaching features in Close lets you:
- Listen: You can hear the rep and the prospect, but neither can hear you.
- Whisper: You can hear the rep and the prospect, but only your rep can hear you.
- Barge: Everyone can hear everyone.
Use this feature to monitor your team’s calls in real-time. This helps you see how they act on a discovery call and allows you to save the deal if the rep needs help.
Especially when coaching junior sales professionals, call coaching provides an extra sense of security, knowing their manager is there to jump in and help if they get stuck.
You’re One Step Away From More Effective Discovery Calls
You’ve read up on how a discovery call works. You’ve learned how to discover pain points, uncover a prospect’s priorities, and use questions to demonstrate industry knowledge and build trust.
There’s just one last step—put what you’ve learned into practice.
Don’t feel like this process is set in stone. Be willing to adapt to your prospects and your industry. Take the principles discussed here and apply them to your own process.
You’ll build stronger relationships with customers that last longer and build higher revenue for your sales team.
Want to couple these methods with the right tools for the job? Get your free trial of Close to try Custom Activities, Call Coaching, call recordings, and more.