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tips for discovery calls

Tips for mastering the discovery call

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Posted by: Lucid Content Team

A discovery call is much more than a first conversation between a sales rep and a prospect. 

In a market where your potential customers are bombarded with sales pitches and marketing messages, a discovery call is an opportunity to connect with your prospect outside of gimmicks and rote presentations.

If you can turn your discovery call from another chance to talk about your product into an opportunity to address your prospect’s emotional and business challenges, you can set your product apart as the solution your prospect is looking for. 

What is a discovery call?

A discovery call is a conversation held between a sales rep and a prospective client during the qualification process. It’s usually the first call following the initial connection with a prospect and is widely considered one of the most important. The discovery call’s purpose is to gain an understanding of your prospect’s priorities, goals, and pain points in order to more effectively sell to them.

How the discovery process can enhance the buyer experience

Today’s buyers are savvier than ever, with instant access to practically infinite amounts of information. Often, what your potential customer is looking for isn’t more information—it’s a feeling. Conveying to your prospect that you understand their point of view, their needs, and even their goals can make all the difference in letting your customer come to the natural conclusion that your product is the only option for them. 

You can do this by making sure your discovery process is centered on your buyer’s perspective. Rather than pitching your product as a one-size-fits-all solution, pitch it as a product tailored to your prospect’s specific situation and needs. The more relevant your product is, the less likely it is to get lost in the shuffle of generic products and services vying for your prospect’s attention. 

The better your reps are able to address your customer’s specific needs, the better equipped they’ll be to form a meaningful connection during a discovery call. With your prospect’s core motivations in mind, you can enhance the buyer experience and transform it from a “sale” into a dialogue.

Setting the stage for discovery

During outbound sales, you’ll likely need to conduct a “call before the call.” The SDR should prepare the AE appropriately, providing all context and background they have on a prospect, and then introduce the prospect to the AE. 

This call should focus on situational questions so the rep gets an idea of the prospect’s situation and resulting pain points. A successful conversation should result in scheduling a discovery call so that the rep can dive deeper into the potential buyer’s situation. 

How to do a discovery call: Top tips

A good discovery call should result in a rep gaining an in-depth understanding of the prospect’s situation and goals and a prospect gaining a clear understanding of your company and what it provides. It should build a positive and trusting relationship between the rep and prospect—it’s that relationship that will be key to moving the deal forward. 

Here’s how to do that:

1. Prep for your call

Reps should research the company and its decision-makers beforehand. Then on the call, they can start with situational questions to demonstrate they’ve done their homework and also to validate the research they’ve found. Coming prepared ensures a more streamlined and positive experience for the prospect.

2. Don’t play 20 questions

Your discovery call should allow you to get to know your client’s motivations more in depth; however, it should feel less like an interrogation and more like a dialogue. Rapid-fire questions don’t leave much room for building a rapport or establishing a connection. 

Research conducted by Gong.io found that discovery calls that involved 11 to 14 questions were most successful at establishing a prospect’s pain points and addressing a buyer’s concerns without making the call too overbearing or one-sided.

Discovery call questions

Rather than asking more questions, ask the right questions. Choose questions that will allow your prospect room to elaborate on specific wants and needs that you can respond to with tailored solutions. 

Here are some examples of discovery call questions that will help you formulate the beginnings of a solid sales plan for your prospect:

  • What is your team’s process for X?
  • How would you like to see this process improved?
  • Tell me about your company’s goals—financial, organizational, operational, etc.
  • What problems are you looking to solve?
  • What would a successful outcome look like for you?
  • What are your primary roadblocks in implementing a solution?
  • Who else would be involved in choosing a product/solution?
  • What is the budget around this particular process/solution?
  • Do you have specific criteria for your solution?
  • How can I make implementation easier?

3. Highlight benefits, not features

Once again, your prospect should be your main focus. Reps should dig deep to uncover a prospect’s problems and challenges so they can develop an emotional connection and demonstrate appropriate empathy. Rather than listing off favorite product benefits, open a discussion about how your product will benefit the prospect and solve their problems. Gong.io analyzed 519,000 recorded discovery calls and found that the most effective calls uncover between three and four business problems. 

It can be helpful to share a success story from one of your existing customers as well—customers care more early on about how a peer solved a similar challenge than they do later on. But make sure it’s relevant to the prospect so they can relate to the story.

4. Let your customer do the talking

The relationship with this potential buyer starts now, and active listening helps build strong relationships and promotes trust. Listening shows customers that the rep cares and is invested in solving their needs over pushing a sale. 

One point of the discovery call is to determine if your product and the prospect are a good fit, and that can’t be determined unless the rep listens. When reps do ask questions, they should be targeted, relevant questions specific to the prospect’s challenges and goals. Gong.io calls this “more big talk, less small talk.” 

5. Keep track of decision-makers

A study from CEB reports that, on average, 5.4 people have to formally sign off on each purchase that a company makes (and that’s when CEB started tracking the data—the number of stakeholders has risen to 10.2 people as of 2018). So during the discovery call, reps need to learn who those decision-makers are and what role they will play in the eventual purchase. 

To better understand the chain of command, you can implement account maps. These visuals can help sales reps identify buyers, blockers, and champions and map out those relationships to find the best path to closed-won.

illustration of people working together

Learn how to build an account map that tracks the decision-makers who are essential to closing a deal.

Read the article

6. Take notes and pass them on

Train your sales reps to document the information they’ve gathered during the discovery call. This can include pain points, motivations, or goals your prospect may have disclosed. Having this information on hand can benefit various other roles within your organization, from marketing teams to client services. 

These insights can be used in their own ABE efforts to create a relationship in which your client feels like a priority. This can also be done by recording the call so that contacts, insights, and other notes are accurately recorded and readily available for other teams to reference.

7. Plan for next steps

Make sure your reps are able to schedule follow-up meetings as necessary to move forward with the buying process. Waiting too long to take next steps could mean that your prospect slips away or loses interest. The clearer your plan of action is, the more likely you’ll be to build a solid relationship with your prospect that will translate into a thriving business relationship.

Set the stage for stronger business relationships

The discovery process has the potential to be so much more than stale conversation after stale conversation. With the right approach and training, sales reps can use the discovery call to create relationships with prospective customers based on respect, empathy, and effective problem-solving.

Take the next step and learn how to build better customer relationships during the discovery process.

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