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how to coach sellers to ask strong discovery questions
April 4, 2024

7 Tips for Coaching Discovery Call Questions to Your Sales Team

how to coach sellers to ask strong discovery questions

Discovery calls—that’s where first impressions are cemented and meaningful relationships with potential customers begin. Typically lasting around 30 minutes, discovery calls are where sales reps and their prospective customer meet, discuss their needs, and potentially transition to the next step in the buying process. New sellers may find conducting discovery calls challenging, but with the right strategies and support, they can master the techniques, forge strong connections with buyers and move deals forward.

Sales coaches play a key role in helping their sellers understand the nuances of discovery calls and how to conduct them. To help you, I’m sharing some strategies and insider tips designed to bring out the best in your reps and help them transform every call into a stepping stone towards closing deals.

Understanding the Importance of Effective Discovery Calls

The primary purpose of discovery calls is to gather information, assess the prospect’s needs, and determine whether there’s a mutual fit. While this might sound straightforward, the quality of questions asked during these calls can significantly steer the direction of the sales journey. Charm and personality alone won’t cut it in these crucial interactions. What’s needed are a well-thought-out strategy and clear intent to achieve success. These considerations below ensure that every discovery call goes beyond the superficial niceties, paving the foundation for meaningful connections, and ultimately, closed deals.

  • Establishing First Impressions: A well-executed discovery call isn’t just about professionalism. Sellers must connect with the buyer’s needs by asking specific questions and showing a strong interest in their responses. This not only proves the seller’s commitment to understanding their situation but also allows them to present their solutions as directly relevant to their problems. Starting off on this note can help build trust and credibility quickly.
  • Understanding Customer Needs: Sellers must focus on truly understanding the buyer’s objectives and concerns. By actively listening and asking insightful questions, they will uncover the root challenges the buyer faces. This comprehensive understanding helps your sales reps tailor their pitch and offerings precisely to their unique situation.
  • Building Rapport: Building trust and rapport is crucial in the early stages of any customer relationship. Engaging in authentic conversations, showing empathy, and expressing a genuine eagerness to help sales reps demonstrates their understanding of the buyer’s challenges and the seller’s commitment to their success. This supports open and transparent communication, laying the foundation for a productive and long-lasting partnership.
  • Qualifying Leads: Identifying viable leads early in the sales process is crucial to optimizing your efforts and resources. Discovery calls present an opportunity to qualify leads by delving into the prospect’s needs, budget, timeline, and decision-making process. By asking targeted questions and actively listening to their responses, sales reps can assess the potential fit between their requirements and your offerings, maximizing your ROI.
  • Setting Expectations: Clear communication about expectations is fundamental to a productive discovery call and sets the tone for future interactions. Articulating the purpose, agenda, and desired outcomes of the call upfront ensures alignment between both parties. This clarity minimizes misunderstandings and keeps the conversation focused and productive, establishing realistic expectations and maintaining momentum in the sales process.

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Essential Components of a Good Discovery Call

After establishing your discovery call strategy, your sellers must also understand what contributes to these successful interactions. Below, I outline the essential components each sales rep should master to ensure their discovery calls meet and exceed expectations.

  • Preparation: Researching the prospect and their industry beforehand allows your reps to tailor their approach and ask informed questions during the discovery call. By understanding their pain points, challenges, and goals, you position your products or services as solutions that address their specific needs.
  • Introduction: A concise, professional introduction not only establishes credibility but also sets the stage for a productive conversation. Your sales reps must clearly state who they are, their role, and the purpose of the call. Doing so helps the prospect understand why the rep is reaching out and what they can expect from the discussion.
  • Agenda Setting: Outlining the call’s agenda upfront ensures that both parties are on the same page regarding the topics to be discussed. This clarity helps manage expectations, keeps the conversation focused, and ensures that all relevant points are covered within the allotted time.
  • Questioning: Asking open-ended questions encourages the prospect to share valuable information about their needs, challenges, and goals. These questions go beyond simple yes or no answers so your reps can gather detailed insights to inform their sales approach and tailor your company’s solutions to their specific requirements.
  • Listening: Active listening demonstrates genuine interest in understanding the prospect’s needs and concerns. By listening attentively to their responses, compared to simply waiting for their turn to talk, sellers gain valuable insights into the buyer’s priorities, pain points, and objectives. All of this information can inform your sales strategy and help your reps position your offerings effectively.
  • Probing: Digging deeper into the prospect’s responses with follow-up questions allows your reps to uncover underlying needs or concerns that may not have been immediately apparent. By probing, they can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the buyer’s requirements and tailor their solutions accordingly. A surface-level answer might crumble once your rep starts asking follow-up questions.
  • Educating: Sharing relevant information about your company’s products or services helps the prospect understand how your offerings can address their specific needs and challenges. By highlighting key features, benefits, and success stories, your sellers demonstrate the value of your solutions and differentiate themselves from competitors. ​​It’s important, however, that they gauge the right moment for this discussion. Pitching too early or without clear relevance can lead prospects to feel overwhelmed or sold to, rather than understood and supported.
  • Value Proposition: To win a customer’s business, your reps must clearly explain how your offering meets their unique needs and delivers significant value. By highlighting unique selling points, benefits, and potential outcomes, your reps can differentiate themselves from competitors and position your solutions as the best fit for their requirements.
  • Handling Objections: When a prospect voices concerns or objections, responding with expertise and empathy is key to maintaining trust. It’s important that your reps listen carefully, acknowledge their points, and offer clear, solution-focused explanations or alternatives. This approach not only shows their commitment to understanding and meeting the buyer’s needs but also helps to dispel doubts and fosters a positive dialogue. By turning objections into opportunities for further clarification, your sellers will reinforce the value of your offerings and pave the way for a more constructive and forward-moving conversation.
  • Next Steps: Agreeing on the next steps at the end of the call provides a clear path forward for both parties. Whether it’s scheduling a follow-up meeting, sending additional information, or arranging a product demonstration, setting clear action items helps ensure that progress continues beyond the initial conversation.
  • Closing: Sellers should wrap up the conversation respectfully by recapping the main discussions, reaffirming any agreements made, and thanking the prospect for their time. This professional sign-off not only leaves a lasting positive impression but also underscores the importance of the conversation. It ensures that both parties are clear on the outcomes and next steps, laying a solid foundation for future interactions.
  • Follow-up: Ensuring a prompt follow-up post-call is a clear demonstration of a seller’s dedication to the relationship with the prospect. This could be through a thoughtful thank-you note, sharing further resources that add value, or arranging subsequent meetings to continue the conversation. Such timely actions signify the seller’s proactive approach and commitment, maintaining the engagement’s momentum and effectively advancing the sales journey.

Examples of Discovery Call Questions 

Now that your sales reps understand the strategy and mechanics of discovery calls, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and ask questions that propel conversations forward. Here are some examples of sales discovery call questions your reps can use to guide them through each stage of the conversation.

  • Establishing First Impressions:
    • “Could you please share more about your role and responsibilities within your organization?”
    • “What prompted you to schedule this call today?”
  • Understanding Client Needs:
    • “What are the primary challenges or pain points you’re currently facing in your role?”
    • “Can you provide some insights into your company’s strategic objectives for the upcoming quarter?”
  • Building Rapport:
    • “I noticed [mention something from their LinkedIn profile]. How has [topic] been impacting your work recently?”
    • “What are you most passionate about when it comes to your role?”
  • Qualifying Leads:
    • “What specific outcomes do you hope to achieve by implementing a solution like ours?”
    • “Could you tell me more about your decision-making process and who else might be involved?”
  • Setting Expectations:
    • “To ensure we make the best use of our time, are there any specific topics or challenges you’d like to address during our call?”
    • “Would it be helpful for me to provide an overview of how our discovery process typically unfolds?”

The Role of Coaching in Discovery Calls

Successful discovery calls require honed skills that need to be developed, and this is where coaching becomes crucial. It’s through coaching that sales teams refine their approach, receive targeted feedback, and build the confidence needed to excel in these critical interactions. Here are some specific use cases where coaching gives sales reps the refinement they need.

  • Skill Development: Continuous skill improvement is essential for sales reps to effectively navigate diverse sales scenarios. By honing their communication, active listening, and problem-solving abilities, reps can adapt to various client needs and preferences, ultimately enhancing their overall performance.
  • Feedback and Improvement: Providing constructive feedback allows reps to identify areas for improvement and refine their sales strategies. Regular feedback sessions help reps understand their strengths and weaknesses, empowering them to make necessary adjustments and achieve better outcomes in discovery calls.
  • Role-Playing: Role-playing exercises simulate real-world discovery call scenarios, providing reps with valuable practice opportunities. By engaging in role-playing activities, reps can refine their communication techniques, learn how to handle objections effectively, and develop confidence in their ability to navigate different situations.
  • Strategy Development: Collaborative strategy planning sessions enable reps to approach discovery calls with a clear and effective plan. By working together to identify client pain points, objectives, and potential objections, reps can tailor their approach to each prospect, increasing their chances of success.
  • Tips for Adaptation: Guidance on adapting communication styles to different prospects is crucial for building rapport and engagement during discovery calls. Reps should be encouraged to adjust their tone, language, and approach based on the prospect’s personality, preferences, and communication style.
  • Goal Setting: Setting clear and achievable goals for discovery calls provides reps with motivation and direction. By defining specific objectives, such as the number of qualified leads generated or the percentage of successful follow-up meetings scheduled, reps can track their progress and strive for continuous improvement.
  • Performance Tracking: Monitoring progress and outcomes allows sales leaders to identify trends and areas for further development. By analyzing key performance indicators, such as conversion rates, average call duration, and objection handling success rates, leaders can provide targeted support and resources to help reps succeed in discovery calls.

7 Tips for Coaching Your Sales Team Through Discovery Calls

  1. Set Clear Expectations: Establishing clear expectations is more than just outlining the basics of a discovery call. It’s about defining the nuances of what makes a call successful and ensuring your team understands the specific outcomes you’re striving to achieve. By articulating clear goals and objectives, your team gains clarity on what they need to focus on during each call. This not only aligns their efforts but also empowers them to prioritize actions that drive meaningful results. Through transparent communication and goal-setting, you create a roadmap for success that guides your team towards impactful discovery conversations.
  2. Encourage Role-Playing: Role-playing isn’t just a training exercise—it’s a powerful tool for honing skills and boosting confidence. By encouraging your team to engage in regular role-playing sessions, you provide them with a safe space to experiment, refine their communication techniques, and tackle challenging scenarios head-on. Role-playing allows reps to step into the shoes of both the client and the salesperson, giving them a deeper understanding of various perspectives and enhancing their ability to navigate real-world situations with ease. Through consistent practice and feedback, your team builds the muscle memory needed to handle any curveball thrown their way during discovery calls.
  3. Review Call Recordings: Call recordings are a goldmine of insights waiting to be unearthed. By regularly reviewing actual call recordings with your team, you provide them with tangible examples of what works and what doesn’t in discovery conversations. This hands-on approach allows reps to identify their strengths, pinpoint areas for improvement, and learn from real-life scenarios. Whether it’s mastering the art of objection handling or fine-tuning their pitch delivery, call recordings offer invaluable opportunities for self-reflection and growth. By leveraging these real-life examples, your team gains practical knowledge that can be applied to future calls, driving continuous improvement and success.
  4. Provide a Questioning Framework: A structured questioning framework is the cornerstone of effective discovery conversations. Instead of relying on instinct alone, equip your team with a framework that guides them through the process of uncovering valuable insights from clients. Offer guidance on asking thoughtful, open-ended questions that encourage deeper exploration and reveal key pain points and objectives. By arming your team with the right questions, you empower them to lead more productive conversations, gain a deeper understanding of client needs, and ultimately, build stronger relationships. A well-crafted questioning framework serves as a roadmap for navigating discovery calls with confidence and purpose.
  5. Emphasize the Importance of Active Listening: Active listening isn’t just about hearing words—it’s about understanding the underlying meaning and intent behind them. Stress the significance of active listening during discovery calls, emphasizing the value of truly engaging with prospects and demonstrating genuine interest in their challenges and goals. Encourage your team to listen intently, ask clarifying questions, and show empathy towards the client’s perspective. By fostering a culture of active listening, you create an environment where clients feel heard, valued, and understood. This not only strengthens relationships but also lays the foundation for more meaningful and impactful conversations that drive results.
  6. Celebrate Successes: Acknowledging and celebrating successes is more than just a feel-good gesture—it’s a powerful motivator that fuels ongoing improvement and growth. Take the time to recognize achievements, whether it’s securing a qualified lead, overcoming a tough objection, or delivering an exceptional discovery call. Celebrating successes reinforces positive behaviors and encourages continued effort and dedication from your team. By shining a spotlight on wins, you create a culture of positivity and resilience that inspires your team to strive for excellence in every interaction. Remember, every success, no matter how small, is a step towards achieving your larger goals.
  7. Provide Ongoing Feedback: Feedback is the fuel that drives continuous improvement and growth. Make feedback sessions a regular part of your team’s routine, providing constructive insights and guidance to help them refine their skills and enhance their performance. Offer specific, actionable feedback tailored to each individual, highlighting areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. By providing ongoing feedback, you empower your team to identify areas for growth, address challenges proactively, and elevate their performance to new heights. Remember, feedback is not just about pointing out mistakes—it’s about guiding your team towards success and helping them reach their full potential.

Monitoring and Assessing the Progress of Your Sales Team

Monitoring and assessing your sales team’s progress is essential for driving continuous improvement and achieving success in discovery calls. Here, we’ll explore key strategies for tracking performance and fostering a culture of ongoing improvement within your sales team.

  • Key Performance Indicators: Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) related to discovery calls provides valuable insights into your team’s performance and effectiveness. Identify relevant KPIs such as call conversion rates, average call duration, and lead qualification metrics to evaluate performance, identify trends, and address areas needing improvement.
  • Regular Feedback and Improvement Sessions: Consistent review sessions offer opportunities for ongoing feedback and improvement within your sales team. Schedule regular sessions to discuss performance, share best practices, and address any challenges or areas for improvement. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement, you empower your team to excel in discovery calls and drive success in the sales process.

Using Software to Enhance Sales Training

The shift towards incorporating technologies such as conversation intelligence and AI into sales training is a strategic move towards redefining customer engagement. These tools are essential for drilling down into what makes interactions with customers more effective and strategic, and by leaning into these technologies, sales teams are able to cut through the competitive noise and close deals with a new level of precision.

  • Conversation Intelligence Software crunches real-time data from sales calls, offering actionable feedback to sharpen communication strategies.
  • AI Reinforcement Learning leverages simulations to provide personalized coaching, optimizing your sales playbook.
  • Digital Simulators provide a sandbox for honing sales skills, free from the pressure of real-world outcomes.
  • CRM Integration with AI Analytics brings a deeper layer of customer insight, enabling more targeted, effective sales strategies.
  • E-Learning Platforms and Microlearning adapt to the rhythm of the modern sales professional, offering concise, impactful training on demand.
  • Mobile Sales Enablement App keeps your team connected to critical information, ensuring they’re prepared, anytime and anywhere.
  • Gamification and Interactive Training injects energy into learning, making the acquisition of new skills engaging and memorable.

Equipping your team with these tools ensures they’re not just participants but leaders in the marketplace.

About David Ashe: David is director of sales development at Allego. In this role, he oversees a sales team responsible for growing the company’s customer base, revenue, and profitability within the United States.

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