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5 Ways to Have Dramatically Better Sales Discovery Calls

Revenue Blog  > 5 Ways to Have Dramatically Better Sales Discovery Calls
6 min readMarch 15, 2022

Discovery calls are designed to find a buyer’s pain points, unearth priorities, and understand their needs. It’s your first chance to wow a buyer.

It all starts with building trust and rapport. If you can’t do that, your deal will be dead in the water. That’s why getting discovery calls right is so important. The moment a prospect answers the phone, you have to answer the important questions: “Why you?” and “Why now?” (oftentimes in under 30 seconds). 

After all, that’s why they say, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” 

The truth is that the discovery call is one of the most important aspects of sales, yet many reps are given a list of questions to ask, then left to their own devices. 

But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. In this post, we’ll cover 5 practical and actionable tips to have better discovery calls today. 

Great discovery starts (but doesn’t end) here

Most of us think of discovery as one initial call where you learn everything you can about your prospect in 20 minutes, and then you have all the information you need to solve their problems. 

But for great sales reps, discovery only starts there.

That’s because they understand that the information they’re getting up-front can change throughout the process, especially as a prospect starts to understand more about their options and refines what they want.

Having a high level of understanding about your buyer, what they care about, and how you can help them get what they want is what will set you apart, regardless of whether you’re on a discovery call or not. 

Discovery isn’t just a skillset — it’s a mindset.

But how can you cultivate that mindset? Here are 5 proven tips we’ve learned over the years from talking with experts and testing methods with buyers. 

1) Don’t over-or under-prepare for your first discovery call.

Remember the story of Goldilocks and the three bears? The same principle applies here. There’s too much preparation for your first call, too little preparation, and then there’s juuuuust the right amount.

Here’s what you should know:

  • What they do: the industry they work in and how their business functions
  • Who they are: what their title is and a bit of personal information

And here’s what you shouldn’t know:

  • Their challenges and why they want to solve them
  • Who or what their blockers are
  • The one thing that’s most important to them

Why shouldn’t you know these things before your first call? Quite simply, because assumptions are dangerous. They get in the way of a real conversation, and they can lead you to skip over important information. Start from a place of curiosity instead and try to find the answers to these points naturally.

2) Use questions that help you understand your prospect as deeply as possible.

There are three main types of questions on discovery calls:

I) Reflective listening questions.

Reflective listening questions typically either repeat words, or use phrases like “It sounds like…” and “It seems like…” to signify that you’re listening closely and would like your prospect to go into more detail about what they’re saying. You can also repeat back the last sentence or few words of what someone just said, if you can tell there’s more behind it. Like so:

“I’m having trouble with my SDR team.”

“Trouble with your SDR team?”

This is reflective listening 101, but if you’d like to learn more about it, we have a great resource on reflective listening that you can use to master the technique.

II) Questions about their vision of success.

It’s a safe bet that if your prospect is considering making an investment in your products or services, then they’re expecting some kind of success in return. Here’s a few questions you can use to figure out what they’re envisioning:

  • “So you’re looking to make an investment in . What would success look like to you, imagining that you’ve implemented it already?”
  • “How is that different from your current state?”
  • “What’s prevented you from making this change at your company before?” 
  • “What would the impact be on the company if you made this change? What would the impact be on you?”

III) Questions about the most important thing.

In every deal, there’s a most important person (whoever has the final say — sometimes this is the CEO, sometimes not), and they have something that they care about above all else. But it may not be your main product offering, and it could even be something as small as a minor feature that you haven’t mentioned yet! To start figuring this out, simply ask every person you meet:

What is the most important thing to you?

3) Don’t accept answers at face value.

Good discovery never ends, because it’s a mindset you carry throughout a deal. Ask follow-up and clarification questions throughout the deal cycle, and don’t worry about annoying your prospect or seeming like you’re not an expert. People like to feel understood, so they’ll appreciate that you took the time. (And the only surefire way to annoy them is to present a solution that doesn’t speak to the issues they’re trying to solve!)

In general, the easiest way to keep this up is to remember not to take answers at face value. Always assume there’s something more. But if specific clarifying questions aren’t coming to mind, these two phrases will never steer you wrong: 

  1. “Hmm, that’s interesting. Tell me more about that.” 
  2. “Hmm. And what else can you tell me about that?”

4) Focus on conversational patterns that drive results.

Take notes on phrases that you’re using throughout discovery conversations, and look for patterns that recur on deals that close. Knowing what works is valuable, because not only will it raise your win rate when you start using these winning patterns consistently, but it can raise the revenue of your whole company if you share those patterns with others.

Revenue.io can help with this if you don’t have time to take notes (or if you’d prefer a more scientific approach) by analyzing conversations in comparison to win rates.

5) Learn to coach yourself.

Want to make sure that you’re always getting better at discovery? Treat it as an ongoing practice and review your meetings regularly. 

When you’re participating in a conversation, it can be hard to learn and adapt in the moment. But when you’re listening to or watching a recording later, you can be an objective observer, and notice moments that went particularly well or answers you didn’t dive into that you’d like to clarify later.

  1. If you’re getting tripped up by a particular objection or other part of the discovery process, try asking your peers how they handle them. Revenue.io offers call libraries that make this process particularly fast and easy, since you can search conversations by objections and outcomes.
  2. This is more of a tip for managers, but look for people who have a coaching mindset in your hiring process. One way to do this is to ask potential reps to give a demo or presentation, then give them feedback and ask them to give the demo again. If they try to incorporate your feedback, that’s a good sign!

Looking for ways to scale discovery best practices across your whole team? 

Discovery is definitely a state of mind, but your state of mind can easily be affected by the tools and resources at your disposal. Revenue.io helps managers, AEs, and even SDRs by giving them exactly what they need to make discovery easy.

If you want to learn some powerful strategies to have better discovery calls, Revenue.io teamed up with Richard Harris for a new webinar Discovery Call Secrets for 10X More Qualified Meetings.