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The anything but basic guide to cold call discovery

October 5, 2021

“I really don’t want my cold leads to turn into actual business.”

Said no salesperson ever!

Sitting at your desk twiddling your thumbs won’t get you closing.

But picking up the phone will.

Enter the discovery call!

This is your first, and arguably most important, call that you’ll make!

So, you need to get it right.

Flick through 👇 to get the info you need to start acing your discovery!

What is discovery? | Why is discovery important? | How to prepare for a discovery call | How to do it well | The best questions to ask | Tips and tricks to improve your discovery | Cheatsheet - discovery don’ts | Up your cold calling game

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What is discovery? 🕵️‍♀️

It’s a call!

But not just any call, it’s thee call.

This cold call is your first conversation with your prospect.

It happens after your initial cold email.

Your discovery call sets the tone for the entire relationship that you’ll have with your prospect - from beginning to end.

The goal of your discovery call is to uncover your prospects' needs through a live conversation so that you can progress the deal.

To do this, you’ve got to focus your questions around your prospects’ needs and goals to find out more information.

Then, you’ll offer the prospect a solution that’ll solve their pain points - which is your product.

Why is discovery important? 🤷

We said earlier that the discovery call is the most important call you’ll make.


Because it impacts the entire buyer’s journey that your B2B prospect is about to embark on.

You’ve got to remember that today’s buyers have access to more information than ever.

A quick Google search will tell them everything they need to know about your product and its features, so they’re not really interested in them.

They’re interested in how well they feel understood.

And how well you can solve the challenges that they’re facing.

🔥 Hot tip 🔥 Focus your discovery around building trust and an emotional connection with your prospect; this will help you solicit the information you’re looking for.

How to prepare for a discovery call 📋

1 - Research, research, research!

This is exactly what you need to do if you want to have a successful call.

Prior to your call, you’ll need to research:

  • Your prospect


  • The decision-maker

A quick LinkedIn search will get you all the info you need on your prospects and their career histories.

But, you need to take it further than that - have a squiz of their Facebook or Twitter pages.

Look for any common interests or hobbies you have; you can use these to build rapport on your call.

You’ll want to align your tone and energy to mirror the prospect if you want them to feel understood.

Ideally, your call will be with the decision-maker, but we know that in SaaS sales, this isn’t always possible.

In this case, you’ll want to get your prospect to pitch your product or service internally.

So you’ve got to come up with a strategy on how to do this on your call.

The next thing you have to research is the prospects’ pain points.

A good idea is to prepare beforehand by researching organisations that are similar to your prospect’s company.

You can also draw on your first-hand experience with similar clients or prospects.

Have some relevant use cases in front of you when you call. Quote from them when your conversation gets going.

This will show the prospect that you:

  1. Understand their pains.
  2. Have the capacity to solve them.  

Next up, you’ll want to:

2 - Prepare a script

Using a script doesn’t mean you’ll have an unnatural and stilted conversation.

A good sales call script should always be a rough guide to what you’ll actually say.

It should set the tone for your conversation and help you out if the chat starts to dwindle.

Your script can include whatever you’d like to talk about but always ensure you:

  • Explain who you are and why you’re calling.
  • Touch on their pain points and provide solutions.
  • Sell your benefits, not your features.

🔥 Hot tip 🔥 If you’re not sure where to start with your script, watch our video guide to the ultimate B2B sales script 👇


Although your script will shape your conversation, you need to know what you’re going to ask the prospect!

That means you’ve got to 👇

3 - Create a list of questions

Remember, you’re trying to show genuine interest in the prospect and to make them feel understood.

But, more than that you, as the salesperson, need to truly understand the prospects’ pain points if you’re going to solve them and sell your product.

If you’re going to do that, it’s essential that you include questions around:

  • The prospects’ timeline and goals.
  • The problem that they’re trying to solve.
  • The current obstacles they’re facing.
  • Whether your product/service fits into their plan.
  • Their budget - can they afford your product right now?

Here are some questions that Cognism’s SDRs use on their discovery calls - note they’re all open-ended, not close-ended questions:

  • What prompted you to explore our solution?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?
  • What’s prevented you from relieving this pain?
  • What would happen if you did nothing about it?
  • How important is it to you to solve this quickly?

Now that you’ve set yourself up for discovery success, you’ll still need to know 👇

How to do it well ⭐

The best place to start with a good discovery call is with yourself!

You’ve got to approach the call with a lot of enthusiasm; you want the prospect to be as excited about your product as you are.

You’ll also want to ensure your meetings have purpose.

What do we mean by that?

A long conversation with a prospect is not always a meaningful conversation.

Rather, set out to have shorter calls that are meaningful. The most effective discovery calls are 30 minutes or under.

And to maximise the call’s effectiveness, you should prepare an agenda beforehand.

Send it to the prospect the morning before the call - this will keep your name and your company’s name fresh in their mind.

Your agenda must be personalised to your prospect and their needs, but it should always include:

The purpose - you’ve got to learn more about the prospect and how your solution can help them.

To do this, ask them the following:

  • What workflow is the prospect currently using?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • What is their plan of action to overcome these challenges?

Once you’ve established this, introduce your solution.

Tell the prospect more about your product, but ensure you’re focusing on how they’ll benefit from using it, and not on product features.

Finally, your agenda will need to cover the next steps and a plan to action them.

To do this, establish the following:

  • What do you need to do?
  • What does the prospect need to do?
  • What are your timelines on this?

It’s vital that you stick to your agenda in order for both you and the prospect to achieve your desired outcome.

🔥 Hot tip 🔥 Don’t approach your discovery call with the idea of having to close. Focus on gaining the prospect’s trust and showing them understanding.

In order to do this, you’ll need to ask the right questions and ask them in the correct way 👇

The best questions to ask 🙋

Here are some other great discovery questions to ask:

  • What are your goals and timelines?
  • What’s the problem that you’re trying to solve?
  • Do you have a plan on how you’re going to approach solving this problem?
  • What is your budget for this and which budget is the funding coming from?
  • What obstacles are preventing you from solving this problem?
  • What does your ideal outcome look like?

Tips and tricks to improve your discovery 🏆

No matter how good your calls are, you’ve got to constantly improve your discovery.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way:

Don’t make every question open-ended

At certain points in your call, closed questions work just as well as open ones.

Once you’ve established the prospect’s pains, you’ll want to give them a closed question.

Echo back to them what they’ve said about their pains by giving them two options of your understanding of the challenge.

Then, ask them which of those options speaks to them more.

You’re using a closed question to gain more information from the prospect and to ensure you’re on the same page.

Be sure to follow this up with an open question; this will give both of you room to elaborate.

The prospect will be able to explain more about their problem and you’ll be able to fill them in on how your solution can solve it.

Just ask

This doesn’t mean you need to talk for the sake of it and ask pointless questions.

But, if you want to know more, or something is unclear, all you have to do is ask.

Don’t make assumptions; this could lead you down the wrong path and leave the prospect feeling misunderstood and dissatisfied after your call.

Using phrases like “Tell me more about X” or “What do you mean by that?” can uncover information that you didn’t even know you were missing.

Don’t fear silence

Typically, salespeople hate silence on a call.

But deliberate, well-timed pauses will cause your prospect to fill the silence with words and give you more information.

After the prospect has answered your question - pause. Count to three in your head and then go on to your next question.

That 3-second gap is you giving the prospect some space. 9 times out of 10, they’ll fill that space by talking.

Practice active listening

Remember you’re having a conversation with a prospect. You’re not talking at them.

So, when your prospect is talking, you need to be listening intently.


Because you need to listen out for keywords and phrases where the prospect is telling you that you can help them.

Latch onto this information, repeat it back to them, and let them know how you can help.

🔥 Hot tip 🔥 Improve your discovery by paying attention to your tonality - how you say things is just as important as what you say.

Cheatsheet - discovery don’ts ❌

Now that you know what to do on your call, let’s look at what not to do!

Here are our tips on what to avoid on your discovery call.

1 - Don’t ask what you already know

The point of your discovery call is to uncover what you don’t know.

If you hop on the call and ask for things that you already know or should know, you’re wasting both your time and your prospect’s time.

Instead, ensure you’ve done your research and elicit the information you need by asking useful questions.

2 - Don’t talk too much

This ties back to using pauses and practising active listening! and Salesloft both found that the average talk-to-listen ratio during discovery calls is 46:54.

This means you’ve got to be listening to the prospect for 54% of the call and only taking for 46% of the call.

3 - Don’t miss the prospect’s pain points

If the call is going well, it’s easy to get caught up in conversation.

But this may lead to you missing the obstacle that the prospect is trying to overcome.

Remember, the prospect isn’t always going to explicitly state the challenges they’re facing.

Sometimes they may not know how to voice this.

Other times they may be telling you the problem but it’s not in the way you were expecting to hear it.

Look for emotional markers to uncover the problem the prospect is facing. Empathise with them in your response.

4 - Don’t dive right into a demo

A discovery call is your first conversation with a prospect.

You want to keep them close, not push them away.

And, although you have targets to reach, you can’t rush into asking them for a demo at this stage.

Instead, gather the information you need in order to sell your solution.

Arrange some next steps and ask the prospect what they’d like to achieve before your next meeting.

Whatever you and the prospect agree on, always, always make sure you action it!

Now that you’ve got our discovery call tips and tricks, why not take it a step further 👇

Up your cold calling game 🚀

Want your team to exceed quota month-on-month?

Of course you do!

We can help your SDRs become cold calling champions by improving:

  • The way they qualify prospects.
  • How they handle objections.
  • How they close deals and more!

Get Cognism’s latest and greatest cold calling guide here 👇

Cold Calling Handbook