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  • Sarah Frazier

Sales coaching: Optimizing the discovery call

The discovery call is THE most important sales call, yet according to stats by Salesforce, 40% of reps are unprepared, and 85% of buyers aren’t excited after the call, either. Why is that? In this post, we offer strategies to improve the effectiveness of your discovery call.

The discovery call is THE most important sales call, yet according to stats by Salesforce, 40% of reps are unprepared, and 85% of buyers aren’t excited after the call, either. Why is that? 

We recently gathered respected sales leaders to debate the question and offer strategies to optimize a discovery call. Listen in as Kyle Parrish, VP of Sales at Mixmax, Tony Eades, CSO at Salted Stone, and Mark Tanner, Co-Founder, and COO at Qwilr, debate and discuss best practices for a compelling sales discovery call:

[7:06] What should be the primary takeaway of a discovery call?

When asked the main point of a discovery call, our audience trended toward understanding what the buyer wants to accomplish and why, although our poll revealed some discrepancies.

Main objective of a discovery call

Our speakers, too, were divided in their responses. “There is a multitude of things you want to take away from the call, but it’s all about focus,” commented Mark. 

As a salesperson, it’s your job to help guide the prospect through the process, and what they should be looking at. Too often, we make assumptions that the buyer knows what they want, but in fact, they may not know at all. The discovery call is about getting those answers. How you structure your call also depends on your sales cycle— the longer the cycle, the more need there is to focus on building the relationship. All in all, it’s essential to understand your sales process to know what you need to get out of discovery.

[13:26] Where does your sales team struggle most with discovery?

Discovery can be a challenge, so we again polled our audience asking where does your team struggle the most? Overwhelmingly, the top response was getting the right information from the discovery call.

Discovery call challenges

Our speakers were not surprised by the responses. “Salespeople are taught to be curious, which can take you down the wrong path— you’re curious vs. seeking to get the proper information,” explained Kyle. 

To help improve your discovery effectiveness, make the call feel like a conversation, which allows you to understand the problem. There is also an interesting correlation between the lack of pre-call research and getting the right information during the call— doing your pre-call homework will help you keep the call focused in the right areas. For more on pre-call prep questions and questions to ask during the call, download our free Discovery Call Checklist.

[17:00] What are some of the worst discovery call mistakes you’ve seen?

Our speakers gave great answers, ranging from the call being too friendly and casual when the relationship hasn’t been built yet, to the buyer dropping off the call halfway through, and the rep didn’t notice until five minutes later. (yikes!) Asking too many questions can also contribute to a bad call as the prospect feels interrogated. “Set call expectations and be thoughtful about the buyer experience. A great discovery call has a rhythm where you’re building a rapport while being flexible to what the customer wants from the call, too,” commented Mark. 

Sales reps should know the core outcomes you want from the call and the hierarchy of needs within your questions. Kyle advised understanding the situation, pain, and impact, with the impact being most important. “Nobody buys something unless it saves them money,” he commented, “and even if you’re saving them time, it comes back to money.”

[25:07] Should you do a demo during the discovery call? 

Demos…presentation decks…what should you do and not do? How our audience responded:

discovery call demo
presentation tips for discovery call

Overall, both are situational. Showing a short demo during the call could be possible, although a better approach is scheduling a dedicated time to do a more in-depth demo tailored to the prospect’s specific needs. “Showing a demo can also detract from the discovery call focus, and before you know it, you’re off track talking about something else,” commented Tony. In short, the group consensus was to proceed with caution about including a demo in the discovery call, leaning towards scheduling a dedicated time to do a demo outside of discovery.

As for the deck, visuals can sometimes help support your conversation and are easier than verbally explaining a concept. “A good rule of thumb is if it’s educational, show a slide. If it’s selling, don’t,” advised Tony.  All our speakers agreed it’s essential to keep the conversation fluid. Generally, it’s a much more enjoyable buyer experience not to use a deck. “As soon as you pop open your screen share and start showing your product, the prospect shuts down— it’s presentation time, and they’re going to sit back and just watch,” commented Kyle, “and then your discovery call is dead.”

[33:20] Does your discovery call approach change if it’s an inbound vs. outbound lead?

How should you structure your discovery call, and does it change based on how your lead was acquired? Our panel advised tailoring your discovery call approach based on prospect intent. 

As an example, if you’re calling on an inbound lead, the prospect will be interested in your solution with some knowledge about it, whereas an outbound lead is cold. Be aware of where the lead is coming from, as an outbound lead will likely need more education about you and your product than an inbound lead. 

“Discovery is all about understanding your prospect— what are the opportunities, what are their pain points, then going away and thinking about all those things. Then, come back to your prospect in the next phase with proposed solutions— we call it ‘the advisory call.’ Splitting our sales process keeps our team focused, slows the process down so we can get the right information, plus engages the buyer throughout the process,” Tony shared.

[36:05] Should you share a slide deck in advance of the discovery call?

Is it best practice to send a client a slide deck before you jump on a call with them? The panel was against sending a presentation early, as the point of discovery is to have the conversation. Decks are incomplete and, by definition, need to be presented. If you are sending a deck ahead of time, you create an opportunity for your prospect to cancel the call. 

What is acceptable to send ahead of your call? Relevant case studies are great assets to send in advance and can help support your conversation or offer reference points, too.

[39:36] How can sales teams action discovery call information?

What do you do with the insights you gain from discovery to accelerate a deal?

Our speakers offered several suggestions: understanding the budget and buyer expectations of timelines adds momentum to getting a deal closed. And don’t forget about sharing information internally. In the hand-off from BDR to AE, video tools like Loom can help pass information and avoid repeating the same questions with your buyer or missing details. 

Kyle added, “I’m a giant believer in quantification. If you can quantify the problem— a $150,000 pain point that you’re solving with a $50,000 solution—  then it becomes a no-brainer and keeps the deal moving forward.”  Need help visualizing and demonstrating value? Try Qwilr’s new ROI calculator.

In summary, a discovery call is a conversation in which you’re building the buyer relationship while also learning more about the problem or opportunity— “it’s one step in the sales process. Always set expectations and end with what’s the next step in the process,” noted Tony. 

“Earn the right to ask the qualification questions you want to ask,” advised Mark. There’s a reason the prospect is taking your call, so ask them—  help them find the solution they are looking for and have fun along the way.” 

The bottom line is that your discovery call will be much more successful if the call is all about the buyer, not about you or the sales questions you want to ask. “It’s not always the best product that wins, but the best sales team wins,” noted Kyle. “Make the call about your buyer.” 


For more on how to structure and optimize your sales discovery, get our free Discovery Call Checklist outlining pre-call research questions and suggestions for how to action the information you gain from your call. Happy selling!

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