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

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

The discovery call.

It is your route to making a genuine connection with prospects and clearly displaying how a product can help them achieve their business goals.

As if the stakes were not high enough, you have about seven seconds to make a first impression on another human being, according to a Harvard study of communication.

It puts so much pressure on salespeople.

In this article, we’re going to provide you with a step-by-step guide to an impactful discovery call, as laid down by our Sales Director, Jonathon Ilett!

What are discovery calls?

A discovery call is the first step in the B2B prospecting process. It’s the phone conversation after a prospect showed interest in your product or service.

It aims at getting to know the customer to discover if they can be a good fit for your business. A good discovery call sets the relationship between the salesperson and the prospect.

Watch the video below to listen to Gabriel Padva, CEO at Revenue Accelerator, and Saif Khan, Associate Sales Director at Cognism, going through their techniques on the best ways to run a sales discovery call.

It covers:

  • Tailoring the call to the prospect's personality
  •  Avoiding asking too many questions
  • Prospects unwilling to answer discovery questions

How to prepare for the discovery call?

Discovery call usually takes 10 to 15 minutes. This should give you enough time to learn which pain points are afflicting the prospect, and which product 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!

Here's what Jonathon’s says about the first item on your discovery call checklist:

Research is absolutely critical to good discovery phone call. 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 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 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 are those that don’t require a simple “yes or “no” answer. Here are some examples of questions to ask on 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?

Tip! Scroll down for a list of discovery call questions.

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 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 discovery call 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!

Jonathon’s top tip on following up after discovery calls:

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 said 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 stats courtesy of Sales Benchmark Index. They show how important phone call discovery is 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.

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 was the reason for you joining me on this call today? What piqued your interest?
  2. What do your existing processes look like? How do you prospect for new clients?
  3. How big is your team?
  4. What are your core KPIs?
  5. Have you used a data provider before? If so, was it successful, and why?
  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. What technologies does your team currently use?
  10. What CRM do you use?
  11. What’s the average sales cycle at your company?
  12. What’s the relationship like between sales and marketing?
  13. Are you the decision-maker on a project like this?

Remember that the best salespeople listen and let their prospects speak more than they do.

Key takeaway

Discovery calls are useful initial stage of prospecting.

To ensure a successful sales discovery, follow a specific process and ask the right questions.

The questions you ask during the discovery call should be geared around uncovering missing details about customers' business and the problems they need to solve.

Cognism's Sales Director, Jonathon Ilett's, final advice on a discovery sales call is to build rapport. In his experience, it's easier if 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.

And how to start a discovery call online?

If you’re conducting the call online (which is likely considering recent global events!) - always make sure the video is on! Being able to see each other will help you build rapport much quicker.

B2B sales insights 

We’ve published a guide for B2B sales leaders - B2B outbound: Building an engine for predictable growth.

In it, you’ll find the answers to questions like...

  • How do I build and motivate a high-performing sales team?
  • What are the most important B2B sales metrics and how do I track them?
  • How can I improve my cold calling strategy?
  • What’s best practice for prospecting to CEOs?

Our B2B sales eBook is available now! Click below to get your copy.

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