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What Is Sales Discovery Call and Process? [+Questions]

Do you know what the most important conversation in sales is?

The discovery call.

It is your route to making a genuine connection with prospects and finding out if your solution can help them achieve their business goals.

We asked Cognism's Sales Director, Jonathon Ilett, for some tips on sales discovery. We put his insights together in this step-by-step guide to an impactful discovery call.

What is a discovery call in B2B?

A discovery call is the first conversation you have with a prospect who showed their interest in your product or service. The call aims to discover if the prospect has a problem your business can solve and decide if they are a good fit. Before the call, you can assume they are but during the call, you need to let go of expectations and discover the truth.

The discovery process also aims at getting to know your ideal customer and learning their pain points, priorities, and goals. It helps you decide if your solution is a good fit for the prospect.

if not, don't move on to pitching and start a new conversation.

Here's how Jason Baskaran, Sales Director at GetAccept defines sales discovery call:

Discovery is just that - about discovering. Listening, understanding, figuring out where the prospect is in their journey. How close are they to actually wanting to invest in your product/service? You need to find all of this out if you want to qualify out prospects, not waste anyone’s time, and close deals.

Cognism's Sales Director, Jonathon Ilett's, advice on a discovery sales call is to build rapport with the person you're speaking to. In his experience, here's how to make a good start:

Don’t launch into your sales patter/product reel straight away. Take some time at the start of your discovery call for “small talk”. Get the prospect relaxed and comfortable talking to you. Doing this means they’ll be more likely to share with you as the call goes on.

💡Not sure how to talk to prospects? Check out these real examples of cold calling from sales pros Josh Braun and Ryan Reisert.

How do you conduct an effective discovery call?

A discovery call usually takes 10 to 15 minutes. This should give you enough time to ask the right questions to uncover pain points that are afflicting the prospect.

During the call, you can decide whether they need a product demo and if so, which features are best to show them. 

Here's a simple 5-step sales discovery process that will help you along the way. You don't have to rush it!

1. Do your research

As always in the task of lead generation, preparation makes perfect. Before you pick up the phone to make your discovery call, you must do your research!

Follow this pre-discovery call checklist:

  • Visit the prospect’s company’s LinkedIn page
  • Visit prospect's LinkedIn page to learn their recent activity, groups they belong to, etc.
  • Double-check that the information you have on them is correct.
  • On the company’s website, check the About us page to learn about their story and leadership
  • Check recent news about the company (announcement, events)
  • Make notes on anything useful you find, such as their location, the technology they use, and the types of customers they have.
  • Visit their career page to see what skills do they need?
  • Do competitive analysis

You’ll need all this intel when the prospect answers your call!

In Jonathon Ilet’s experience, research is absolutely critical to a good discovery phone call. Here's why:

You don’t want to waste time or appear unprepared by asking questions when the answers are readily available online. Also, if you can show the prospect that you’ve taken the time to research their business thoroughly, that will go a long way to establishing trust.

2. Identify goals

When your discovery call starts, the first thing you need to do is identify sales goals. These are:

  • The company's short-term and long-term sales strategy goals.
  • The prospect’s individual goals.
Ask the prospect questions that reveal this information. Their answers will be your basis for further sales discovery questions. Keep them in your mind as the call progresses. How will your product help the prospect and their company achieve these goals?

Jonathon Ilett thinks it's important to be precise at this stage of the discovery process. His advice is to:

Focus on lead generation metrics and get percentages if possible. Establish quantity. For example, you can ask a question like: how much are you looking to increase your net new bookings? Then you can tie the prospect’s answers to the results that your product can deliver.

3. Identify pain points

The prospect has investigated your company because they have business challenges they want to overcome. For some, the pain they’re feeling may be hard to define. It’s the salesperson’s role during the discovery call to explain their pain!

The best way of doing this is to ask open-ended questions about the prospect and their business. Get the prospect talking more and they’ll soon realize what their own pain points are.

Open-ended sales discovery questions don’t require a simple “yes or “no” answer. Here are some examples of questions that will improve discovery call:

  • 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?

Jonathon’s top call discovery tip at this stage is to:

Identify 2-3 pain points that the prospect is experiencing. Check with them afterwards if you’ve understood correctly. My advice is to focus on the prospect’s tech stack - chances are, there’s a gap there that your product can fill.

4. Tie it all together

Take the 2-3 pain points you’ve unearthed and connect them to a specific feature of your product. Now, this gives you a shortlist of features you can explain to the prospect.

Use the sales discovery phone call to show them how the features will produce benefits. Link the benefits to the B2B sales goals from point #1. Tieing everything together in this way will help you build up a strong business case.

Jonathon’s top tip on how to run the sales discovery at this stage:

Don’t go through every one of your product’s features. The prospect is only interested in the parts that are relevant to them and their business.

5. Recap and reaffirm

At the end of each stage of your call discovery, repeat what you’ve learned back to the prospect. Ask them if what you’ve discovered is correct. It’s far from a pointless exercise—

Doing this means that they might divulge even more information that will help you!

Here's what you should do after the discovery call according to our Sales Director Jonathon Ilet:

When your discovery call comes to an end, recommend the next step but let the prospect decide. It could be a follow-up email or going straight into booking a product demo. Always set exact timings for whatever the next step will be.

What else happens during the sales discovery call?

During the call, you may also want to conduct a sales demo. It should typically take half an hour.

Jonathon also conducts demos, negotiates, and closes deals with VP and C-suite decision-makers. Here's what he's learned about including demos in client sales discovery:

Discovery call is critical when it comes to qualifying demo attendees. For starters, it helps you to tailor your demo to the prospect. It highlights which features to demonstrate and which questions to ask.

The idea is to create alignment between the product and the prospect—to map the product’s benefits to the prospect’s needs.

Jonathon shared with us two cold calling stats courtesy of Sales Benchmark Index. They show why phone call discovery is important to a successful demo:

  • Demos conducted without sales discovery process are 73% less successful than demos conducted with.
  • Salespeople who tie their demos to specific pain points are 35% more likely to win a deal.

Gabriel Padva, CEO at Revenue Accelerator, says it's important to tailor the call to the prospect's personality. Some people are open to having a longer dialog while others would prefer you to get to the point quickly. 

Saif Khan, Head of Enterprise Sales at Cognism, says the best discovery call technique is to avoid asking too many questions so that the call does not sound like an interrogation. So instead of asking 5 yes or no questions, use one open-ended question.

💡Watch the video below to learn more about conducting successful discovery calls.

Best discovery call questions

Before asking discovery call questions, introduce yourself.

Select three important areas you want to discuss. Then, ask relevant, leading questions from the list below and give the prospect time to answer.

Keep the conversation natural and fluid, though. Don’t just reel off a long list of discovery questions!

  1. What would you rate your current solution out of 10?
  2. What do your existing processes look like? How big is your team?
  3. What are your core KPIs?
  4. How long does [a problem you solve] take?
  5. What’s the approximate budget for solving this problem?
  6. What are the goals that your company is working towards?
  7. What are the main challenges that your company faces?
  8. What does success look like for your business?
  9. Are you the decision-maker on a project like this?
  10. Who else is involved in choosing a vendor?

Remember that the SDRs' role is to listen and let their prospects speak more than they do.

Key takeaway

  • Discovery calls are a useful initial stage of sales prospecting. They are important because they increase the number of closed deals. They let reps focus on hot leads and not waste time on prospects who don't fit your criteria.
  • To ensure a successful sales discovery, follow a specific process and ask the right questions.
  • Understand prospects' pains and the impact they have on their business.
  • Be transparent that you have something to sell.
  • The questions you ask during the discovery call should be geared around uncovering missing details about customers' businesses and the problems they need to solve.

If you'd like to learn more about building an engine for predictable growth, click below to get your copy of a playbook we created.

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