What Is a Sales Discovery Call?

A prospective customer has expressed interest in your company. They might have opened one of your emails, downloaded a white paper, or signed up for a demo. What comes next in the sales process? The sales discovery call, a two-way conversation that enables a sales rep to determine whether a potential deal is worth pursuing.

If you’re managing a sales team, check out our guidance on the following topics so you can train your sales reps to have more effective discovery calls:

  1. Why are discovery calls important for sales reps?
  2. What happens during a discovery call?
  3. How to prepare for a discovery call
  4. Key discovery questions to ask prospects
  5. Discovery call tips for ultimate success
  6. How Allego can help you succeed

Why are Discovery Calls Important for Sales Reps?

The primary purpose of a sales discovery call is to gauge fit. Does your company solve the prospect’s key problem? Are you in the same ballpark in terms of budget? As voice intelligence and artificial intelligence assistant provider Fireflies puts it, “You will either qualify the prospect (discover a sales opportunity) or disqualify it to save your time.”

This issue of fit is critical. Marc Wayshak of Sales Insight Lab says that “at least 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit for what you sell.” Quickly eliminating prospects that aren’t a fit frees you up to pursue those prospects that present viable opportunities.

A great discovery call also allows you to:

– Build rapport with—and earn the trust of—the prospect.
– Develop a richer understanding of their needs and pain points.
– Establish empathy and position your company as a solution.
– Gain a sense of how likely you are to win their business.
– Move the prospect further along in the sales pipeline.

What Happens During a Discovery Call?

In general, a sales discovery call involves asking the prospect qualifying questions, answering their questions, and explaining how your company offers a solution. You should go into a discovery call with a well-honed script that includes a number of key questions.

How long should a discovery call take? Anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour, in most cases. Setting the target duration is a function of customer lifetime value (CLV), which HubSpot defines as “the metric that indicates the total revenue a business can reasonably expect from a single customer account throughout the business relationship.”

Richard Smith, VP of sales and a leader in sales engagement and multilingual conversation analytics, recommends a 15-minute call for a CLV of less than $2,000 or so. He advises going up to an hour for deals that are more complex or have higher budgets.

Smith’s advice is hardly the last word on the correlation between CLV and call duration. For instance, sales engagement software company Mailshake says a CLV exceeding $1,500 merits a call of longer than 15 minutes. But you get the idea: Figure out your threshold in terms of CLV, and then plan call length accordingly.

How to Prepare for a Discovery Call

As with many things in life, the key to a great sales discovery call is preparation. Here are six steps you should take to ensure you (or your reps) are ready.

1. Do the research. Prior to the call, review the corporate website, do a Google search, and leverage internal sources or external ones like Crunchbase to gain a solid understanding of the prospect’s business. Also, check out the prospect’s bio, LinkedIn page, and other sources to learn about their background (e.g., where they went to college, where they have worked, professional accomplishments). Aim to start the call not only well-informed about the company, but also armed with some personal insights to lighten the conversation.

2. Try to prequalify. Sometimes a discovery call will make it clear that your company and the prospect’s are not a fit. Other times, that will become apparent through your research. Is the company likely to have the budget to work with you? Is it clear they have a need that your business can address? Are there any red flags that they may be difficult to work with? As you prepare for the call, try to get answers to questions like these.

3. Craft the questions. Just as you would with a job interview, you should come to a discovery call with thoughtful questions. It’s important to be respectful of the prospect’s time, so don’t waste it by asking basic questions that adequate research could have revealed. A good rule of thumb is to prepare more questions than you think you might need, in case the prospect is particularly concise with their answers. You should also be ready to ask follow-up questions that could lead them in promising new directions. (See the next section for key discovery questions to ask prospects.)

4. Perfect the script. Every sales organization should have a script that serves as a guide for discovery calls. It should include elements such as introducing yourself and your company, establishing an agenda, probing for pain points, reviewing your products/services, and establishing next steps. It should also leave time for the prospect to ask questions. “This is key: The script must quickly establish the rep as an expert. How quickly and efficiently you’re able to answer common questions is the big tell here,” advises Mailshake. Over time, you should revise the script based on past results and customize it to suit your personal style.

5. Act it out. Actors always rehearse their lines. Sales reps should do the same. “Before your sales discovery call, work with a coach (a manager), and run through questions you aim to ask,” explains Refract’s Richard Smith. “Practice responses you are likely to give based on assumed objections. Discuss the desired outcomes you have for the call, and what information you hope to glean. Think about it like doing your stretches in the [warmup] to the main event.”

6. Consider the tech. If all this effort goes into prepping, you have to make sure technology isn’t what stands between you and a successful discovery call. First of all, ask the prospect which medium they prefer—video or phone. Ideally, it will be the former, as that allows you to share slides and make a more personal connection. If the prospect is good with video, find out if they like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or something else. Whatever the technology, you should be familiar with it and capable of doing at least some light troubleshooting on the fly to keep things running smoothly.

Sample Discovery Call Script

Hi (Prospect), this is (Your First Name) from Allego. Is this still a good time to talk?

Great, I appreciate your time. I’m sure you have a couple of questions (Prospect), and I’ll try my best to answer them. I was also hoping to ask you a few questions to better understand your situation and what you’re looking to accomplish.

After this call, if we think it makes sense to proceed, I can set you up with my account executive to dig deeper. If not, I’ll get out of your hair. Are you comfortable with this agenda?

I’m curious, what piqued your interest in our company—was it a (whitepaper, demo, webinar, etc.)?

What kinds of problems are you currently having?

1. Tell me more.
2. Be more specific.
3. What is a recent example?
4. How long has this been going on?
5. What have you tried?
6. Did it work well?
7. What has been the impact on you and your organization?
8. How important is this to you and your organization?
9. Why is resolving this a priority?

(Prospect), we are close to the time we set aside for this call. Do you want to find a way to carve out more time to explore this further?

[If not exploring this further]

Thanks for speaking with me today. I appreciate your time. Who on your end would find this conversation more relevant?

[If willing to explore this further]

1. Is your calendar already open? <Open your account executive’s calendar> Typically, we set aside an hour for the next call with my account executive just in case the discussion goes well and you have a lot of questions. When would be a good time for you?

After this call, I’ll send you a calendar invite along with a summary of our discussion. If there is any misunderstanding on my part, could you correct me?

I’m looking forward to our next meeting. I do want to be sure I didn’t push you into this. Are you sure it’s worth carving out time to explore this further?

Great. Thank you for your time!

Key Discovery Questions to Ask Prospects

The questions for a sales discovery call should be clearly and concisely stated. Keep them open-ended to encourage more in-depth answers from the prospect. In addition, design the questions to uncover pain points and other information that enriches your understanding of the company while also eliciting answers that help you qualify—or disqualify—the prospect.

Here are our top 20 discovery questions to ask prospects:

1. What is your role, and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
2. What key metrics are you responsible for?
3. What is driving this initiative?
4. How long have you been experiencing […]?
5. What have you tried to do about it?
6. Is it fair to say there hasn’t been or won’t be any significant business impact?
7. Where does this fall in your list of priorities, with 1 being low and 10 being high?
8. I see you think this is fairly high on your priority list. Why is this so important to you?
9. Why do you want to move on this now?
10. Could you describe your ideal vision of a solution that could address this?
11. What results do you expect to see from this solution?
12. Is the impact limited to your department?
13. How would you define success?
14. Are you considering any other vendors—and if so, which ones?
15. What is your timeline for choosing a vendor?
16. When is the latest you’d like to see a solution in place? Why?
17. Who else on your team will be involved in choosing a vendor?
18. Do you anticipate any resistance to this solution within your organization?
19. Are you sure this is something you want to do?
20. Can I follow up with you on [month, date]?

Discovery Call Tips for Ultimate Success

Taking the time to prepare properly and assemble a bevy of insightful questions are the first steps toward a fruitful sales discovery call. Here are nine more tips.

1. Probe pain gently. Never use negative, accusatory words like “pain,” “problem,” or “crisis” unless the prospect does first. Instead, use a subtle, “third-party” approach to preface your question and uncover the prospect’s struggles. For example: “Others I speak with tell me…”

2. Share and confirm the agenda. People generally appreciate knowing what’s coming. Prior to a discovery call, send the prospect an agenda and ask for their input on revising it. At the start of the call, review the agenda to remind the prospect which topics you’ll be covering.

3. Be patient and stick to your script. Your script is there for a reason. It should provide guideposts that help you navigate the conversation in a logical way and toward an optimal outcome. While conversations tend to have tangents, stick to the intended progression of questions as best you can.

4. Listen more, talk less. How much talking should you be doing? On a great discovery call, reps speak just over half of the time. Richardson Sales Performance goes even lower — no more than 30% of the time. Other sources estimate somewhere in between these figures, but you get the idea: Don’t dominate the conversation.

5. Concentrate on tone. A true conversation should be, well, conversational in tone. Don’t play the role of interrogator, stiffly firing off question after question. Rather, be personable, build rapport, and show enthusiasm for your product or service—and all it could do for the prospect and their company.

6. Convey credibility and expertise. The thorough research you do in advance of a call, says sales consultancy Challenger, will establish your credibility in the prospect’s mind. You can then demonstrate your expertise by “asking high gain questions that turn into ‘teaching opportunities’ and provide the prospect an engaging or ‘aha’ moment where they reconsider [the] status quo.”

7. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug. If their answers to your questions disqualify the prospect, go ahead and end the call early (and gracefully). After all, at that point, neither of you has anything to gain by continuing. “As a sales professional, it’s…your responsibility to recognize when the relationship isn’t meant to be,” according to software review website G2. “It’s okay to walk away.”

8. Schedule your next call. On the other hand, if you and the prospect still have mutual interest by the end of the call, close it out by getting another one on the books.

9. Learn from every call. G2 recommends evaluating discovery calls, examining the results, and making changes to optimize your performance. Recording your calls—easily done on platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts—lets you revisit your conversations and identify what you could do better next time. An advanced conversation intelligence platform can also help you understand call performance and improve sales call tactics.

How Allego Can Help You Succeed

Allego’s mission is to ensure your people have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. We elevate performance by empowering sales and marketing organizations with a people-powered sales enablement platform that:

– Provides your sales reps with a way to practice before speaking with a prospect, including guidance on the right questions to ask
– Helps your reps get up to speed on new products fast
– Enables you to review video footage to analyze your reps’ performance on sales discovery calls
– Allows you to deliver ongoing coaching virtually, including leaving feedback for your reps directly on the calls
– Helps you establish a strong culture of learning in your organization

Learn about Allego's modern sales enablement platform

Do you want to take the quality of your team's discovery calls—and overall performance—to the next level?

Get Started