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The Ultimate Guide to Discovery Calls: 8 Tips and Best Practices

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

The discovery call.

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

We asked some sales experts for their tips on sales discovery. Scroll 👇 for a step-by-step guide to an impactful discovery call.

What is a discovery call in sales?

A discovery call is the first conversation you have with a prospect who showed an 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 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.

Here’s how Jason Baskaran, former Sales Director at GetAccept, defines a discovery call in sales:

“Discovery is just that - about discovering. Listening, understanding, and 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.”

What’s the difference between a discovery call and a sales call?

A discovery call is focused on gathering information and understanding the prospect’s needs, while a sales call is focused on pitching a product or service and closing the sale.

There are other key differences:

  • Discovery calls are focused on prospect pain points; sales calls are focused on a product’s benefits and features.
  • A discovery call’s tone should be conversational and exploratory, with the salesperson trying to build rapport; a sales call’s tone is more assertive and persuasive, with the salesperson trying to close a deal.
  • Discovery calls are typically shorter than sales calls, lasting anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes; sales calls can last longer, depending on the complexity of the product being sold and the number of objections the prospect has.
  • The purpose of a discovery call is to determine if there’s a potential fit between the prospect’s needs and the company’s offering; the purpose of a sales call is to close the sale and convert the prospect into a customer.

What are the benefits of a discovery call?

Discovery calls are an essential part of the sales process and offer several benefits, such as:

Understanding customer needs

A discovery call helps you understand your customer’s needs and pain points, allowing you to tailor your solutions to their requirements.

This leads to better customer satisfaction and higher chances of closing the sale.

Building relationships

A discovery call is an opportunity to build a relationship with the prospect. Listening attentively to their needs demonstrates that you value their business and are invested in their success.

Establishing credibility

By sharing your expertise and knowledge during the call, you can establish your credibility and position yourself as an authority in your field. 

This will help you build trust with your prospects, making positive outcomes more likely.

Identifying opportunities

A discovery call can help you identify potential upsell or cross-sell opportunities. 

By understanding the prospect’s needs, you can offer additional products or services that may benefit them.

Saving time and resources

By understanding the prospect’s needs early in your sales process, you can avoid wasting time and resources pursuing leads who aren’t a good fit for your business.

Improving your sales strategy

Discovery calls can provide valuable insights into your sales strategy. 

By analysing the results of your calls, you can identify areas for improvement, refining your approach to better serve your customers.

How long should a discovery call last?

A discovery call usually takes 15 to 30 minutes. This should give you enough time to ask the right questions and uncover the pain points afflicting the prospect.

It’s important to remember that while the length of the call is important, the quality of the conversation is even more critical. Stay focused on the prospect’s needs and goals, and avoid going off-topic or monopolising the conversation.

Be respectful of your prospect’s time; if the call overruns, ask them if they’d like to reschedule the call and continue the conversation at a later time.

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

What is the discovery call process?

Here at Cognism, we’ve developed a simple 8-step sales discovery process to help you succeed in your calls.

Scroll 👇 to see the process in full.

1. Do your research

As always in B2B sales, 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 the prospect’s LinkedIn page to learn about their recent activity, the groups they belong to, etc.
  • Double-check that the information you have on them is correct.
  • Check the About Us page on the company’s website - learn about its story and leadership.
  • Check recent news about the company (announcements, 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 careers page to see what skills the company prizes.

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

Jonathon Ilett is Cognism’s VP of Global Sales. In his 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. Make a good first impression

You only get one chance to make a first impression! And in SaaS sales, first impressions can make or break a discovery call.

Follow these tips to help you build a positive relationship with your prospect 👇

  • When the call starts, introduce yourself and your company. Share your name, title, and a brief overview of your company and its offerings.
  • Take time to build rapport with the prospect. Ask open-ended questions and show genuine interest in their needs and challenges.
  • Use active listening skills to show that you’re engaged in the conversation.
  • Share relevant case studies, statistics, or insights that demonstrate you understand the prospect’s needs. You can even use interactive demo software to leave behind a personalized product tour for your champion.
  • Show enthusiasm for the conversation and the opportunity to work with the prospect. Use positive language and avoid sounding monotone or disinterested.
  • Respect the prospect’s time; avoid going off-topic or talking too much. Use a conversational tone and be mindful of time constraints.

3. 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.

How do you reveal these goals?

Ask the prospect questions that uncover this information. Their answers will be your basis for further sales discovery questions. 

Keep the prospect’s goals in your mind as the call progresses. How will your product help the prospect/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.”


4. 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 realise 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 the 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.”

5. Link pain points to product features

Take the 2-3 pain points you’ve unearthed and connect them to your product’s features. This gives you a shortlist of features you can explain to your prospect.

Use the sales discovery phone call to show them how the features will produce benefits. Link the benefits to the goals you identified in Step 3. Tieing everything together in this way will help you build 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.”

6. Handle objections

At this stage in your discovery call, you’ll likely encounter some objections.

Handling objections during the discovery process requires active listening, empathy, and a willingness to address the prospect’s concerns.

Here are some top tips 👇

  • When a prospect raises an objection, listen actively and acknowledge their concern. Never interrupt or dismiss their objection.
  • Ask clarifying questions to ensure that you understand the objection correctly. This will help you identify the objection’s root cause.
  • Respond to the objection with empathy and understanding. Reassure the prospect that you’re committed to finding a solution that meets their needs.
  • Address the objection directly and offer a solution that satisfies the prospect. Use case studies or testimonials to show how your product or service has helped similar customers.
  • Use the feel-felt-found method. This involves acknowledging how the prospect feels, sharing how other customers have felt the same way, and explaining how those customers have found success with your product or service.
  • Never get defensive or argumentative when responding to objections. This will create a hostile environment and damage your relationship with the prospect.

7. Recap and reaffirm

At the end of each stage of your sales 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!

And here’s what to do after the discovery call, according to Jonathon:

“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.”

8. Agree on next steps and follow up

If you and the prospect agreed on next steps, then make sure to diary them and follow them through exactly.

If you left the discovery call without any agreed actions, then make sure to follow up with your prospect.

Here are some tips on how to follow up effectively 👇

Send a thank-you email

After the call, send a personalised email thanking the prospect for their time and summarising the key points of the conversation. 

Provide additional information

If you promised to provide additional information during the call, make sure to include it in your follow-up email. 

This could be a case study, a demo video, or a white paper that’s relevant to the prospect.

Set clear next steps

In your follow-up email, set clear next steps and a timeline for the next call or meeting.

Follow up with the prospect a few days after the call to check in and see if they have any questions or concerns. Be persistent but not pushy. Respect the prospect’s time and decision-making process.

Keep the conversation going

Use your follow-up email as an opportunity to keep the conversation going. Ask open-ended questions and offer the prospect some additional insights or resources.

What are the best discovery call questions?

Ask the following questions on your sales discovery calls 👇

  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?

Things to avoid on a discovery call

It’s easy to make mistakes on a sales call. Here are the top things to avoid on yours 👇

  • Don’t talk too much! Avoid dominating the conversation and instead, focus on listening actively and asking questions.
  • Avoid using generic questions or responses during the call. Instead, try to ask specific questions that are relevant to the prospect’s industry and business.
  • Don’t assume that you know what the prospect needs or wants. Instead, ask open-ended questions encouraging them to share their pain points and goals.
  • Never be pushy or aggressive during the call. Pushing the prospect to decide or commit to a sale can backfire and damage the relationship.
  • Avoid overpromising or exaggerating your product’s capabilities. Be honest and transparent about what your solution can and can’t do.

Key takeaways

Discovery calls are a vital initial stage of sales prospecting. According to Sales Benchmark Index, demos conducted without a sales discovery process are 73% less successful than demos conducted with.

Here are the key takeaways you need to remember 👇

  • To ensure a successful sales discovery, follow a specific process and ask the right questions. 
  • Understand your prospects’ pains and the impact they have on their business.
  • 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.

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