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How to Make an Effective Discovery Call

5 min readAugust 23, 2018

Everyone in sales has likely made a discovery call at one time or another.  The discovery call is a crucial component of the sales process. It allows reps to qualify a prospect and gather information to be leveraged throughout the sales process in order to generate a win.

However, not all discovery calls are created equal. They used to be 60 minute long interrogations filled with monotonous questions and answers. Now, Sales Development reps must earn their right to inside information. Sales discovery calls are no longer a single line of questioning and no rep should enter a discovery call with basic questions that they can answer on their own. Instead, reps should be prepared with in-depth, complex questions, as well as relevant information about your own product.

The best reps don’t just use the discovery call to gather basic information, they accomplish three very important goals. First, they seek to establish personal relationship and a working partnership with their prospect. Next, they identify the prospect’s specific needs and what gaps their solution can fill. Lastly, they set themselves up for a successful sales process moving forward. You can do this too, but you must prepare properly. Here’s how:

Find Your Direction

Before you begin, you must ask yourself two important questions that will help direct your preparations. First, ask yourself where you are with the account, what information you have, and what you need to know. Then, ask what kind of buyer you have. The answers will determine what information you need, and how you will speak with them. For example, if your speaking with a sales manager, they will likely speak more to sales performance, rep quotas, and revenue attainment. A sales operations person will probably be more interested in automation, integrations, and IT.

You can even work with your marketing team to gain even more information on your buyers. Marketing usually maintains in-depth information on buyer personas and targeting to help them develop content, advertising, and make strategic decisions. Marketing can not only provide valuable information about a potential client, but also use vital information that sales has obtained.

Revenue.io Prepare for Discovery CallGoal 1:  Establish a Personal Relationship

In a successful discovery call you must build a foundation for a friendly relationship between you and your prospects. You don’t want to be just another salesperson, you should be a valued resource that has the prospect’s best interest in mind. This creates an open channel of communication where the prospect is more likely to share internal issues or concerns, as well as honest feedback and helpful information.

Gather Context

Ensure you have a complete understanding of the company, their background, and products.  You should also review previous contact and conversations with them. To do this, listen to call recordings from cold calls or prior contacts, read call notes, spend time on the company website, and search recent news.

Develop Personal Data About Your Prospect

To create conversation and find shared interests with your prospect, you should gather some personal data about them. Google their name and check LinkedIn for locations, companies, or schools you are familiar with. You can also check their LinkedIn for shares of content you are interested in and for any shared contacts. Look to their job title and leverage your company’s buyer personas in order to understand what problems they are likely dealing with and how your solution can help. It will also be useful to pull information around how your product has helped clients in similar roles or companies.

Prepare Questions to Build Rapport

The discovery call is about actual discovery, so you should always have questions prepared. Personal questions start the call off light and can help fill time until others have joined the meeting. You can ask things like:

  • How did you get into your current role or discipline?
  • Are you a fan of (sports team native to city)?
  • Anything exciting happening at (prospect’s company)?

Goal 2: Pinpoint Prospect and Company Problems

Your company likely already has some sort of persona targeting that contains the issues that each role in a target organization faces. Gather these, as well as information from the prospect themselves so you can demonstrate how your product will best solve their problems.

Gather Company Data

Do research on your prospect’s company to find their competitors (and what your company’s relationships with them), as well as the problems you have solved for firms in similar industries, with similar products, and of similar sizes. This will help you understand what your prospect is most likely facing so you can align your questioning around those needs. It will also help you speak directly to those issues if the need arises.

Prepare your Qualification Questions

This is one of the most important parts of the discovery call. Qualification determines if this opportunity is worth pursuing. It is imperative that you don’t continue with the sales process if you know that the account is not qualified. Doing so for the sake of increasing numbers and meeting a quota will backfire, because the Account Executive will demo a prospect they cannot sell, and will result in wasted time and bad pipeline.  

Every company has their own requirements for a qualified lead. You should only approve prospects that you feel will actually benefit from the use of your product. Call notes templates make it easy for you to have the right qualification questions in front of you on every call, and easily add them to the record after.

In addition to your basic product requirements, some of the best qualification questions to ask are:

To discover needs or challenges

  • What led you to make a change now?
  • How have you tried to solve the problem so far?
  • Have decisions like this been made in the past?

To uncover purchasing authority

  • Are there any issues that other stakeholders may be concerned with?
  • What’s your purchasing process?

To uncover budget

  • Do you already have a budget allocated?
  • What are you ideally looking to invest?

Goal 3: Set Up the Next Steps in the Process

The discovery call is just the first of many important conversations within the sales process. It is your opportunity to gather critical data that can be extremely useful in the process moving forward. Therefore you must be prepared to establish a positive outcome.

Gather a package of “leave behind” content on topics that you plan to discuss on the call. These can be blog posts, ebooks, or videos on features or uses of your product. You can email them to the prospect after. This puts valuable information in the hands of your prospect, and keeps the referring back to your company’s content.

Lastly, if you’ve qualified the prospect, you want to maintain momentum and set the next meeting before the call ends. You should also have the right questions ready to build commitment. A few of the best examples are:

  • In an ideal world when would you implement this solution?
  • Would you like me to connect with anyone else at your company?

With the right preparation and questions, your discovery calls will not only provide you with better information, they will help set you up for success.