Your sales discovery call play book

Craig Mathewson

Posted on: November 3, 2021

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Category: B2B sales

Your sales discovery call play book

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In the beginning was the discovery call.

And if the call was good, the sale was likely to be smooth.

  • It is from the information gleaned here that you will decide on the best way to position your solution.

  • If you can understand your prospect’s situation and pain points correctly as a result of this call you will not have to answer so many of their objections.

  • In many ways, you can also buy yourself a comfortable amount of negotiating room should all go well.

Let’s show you how you can play the discovery call to your best advantage.

Our discovery call play book will give you some great tips that will allow you to approach them with nonchalance, optimism and faith.

Press play on your webcam

While other meetings may involve presentations or demos, the discovery call won’t. But don’t let this convince you to not make this a video call.

Video helps your prospect see you as a person, rather than a disembodied voice. More importantly, it is easier for them to remain focussed.

Play for time

You want to avoid closed questions that get short answers.

Instead, you should make sure that, although you are driving this conversation, your prospect is the one talking the most.

After all, the sole purpose here is to learn all you can about your prospect’s needs.

Here are some easy-to-use cues that will encourage longer, more detailed answers:

  • Can you help me to understand … ?

  • Could you quickly walk me through … ?

  • I think I get that … [Recap what you heard] … Can you break this down in a bit more detail for me?

  • Can you tell me about … ?

Play the expert

Another way to get your prospect thinking and answering at length is to ask each question as if you are an expert in the field.

This builds trust and a willingness to include more detail.

So, for example, you can upgrade

‘What’s your sales process?’

to

‘Can you break down your sales process for me in a bit more detail. Let’s take it from identifying a prospect and run it through your nurturing sequences and on into how you close your deals.’

Now we’re cooking.

You sound like you know your stuff so your prospect will not feel the need to just fob you off with a barely considered one-liner.

Play the odds

On introductory discovery calls, analysis of success rates has placed the sweet spot for the number of questions you ask at between 11 and 14.

But don’t sweat this stat too much.

From the studies we’ve seen there is actually only a marginal difference in success rates between asking 7 or 18 questions, so aim for around ten and under 20 and you’ll be good.

The real meat in the discovery call sandwich is what your questions result in.

Regardless of the number of questions asked, the answers should provide you with an informed understanding of the business problems your prospect faces (and the business opportunities these can open for you).

There is an exception to our averages above when on a call with the C-suite.

Senior execs are tired of discovery: it’s all so ‘earlier in my career’. You need to do as much research as you possibly can – perhaps even trying to chat to a junior staff member first – and stick to less than eight questions.

Play loosely

So, you’ve done your research and you have a bunch of incisive questions waiting to be fired off.

All good, right? Not quite!

By all means do your thinking and prepare some questions in advance – but also be prepared to wing it and respond to what comes up.

  • Listen
  • Pause
  • Respond by showing you have heard, understood and are interested in taking this further

A good sales conversation should be about back and forth, not question/answer/next question.

Something like this:

You: I’m struggling to pinpoint where exactly things go wrong in your supply chain.

Prospect: Hmmm … So are we … (Laughs.) It’s not that there is a single thing that’s at fault. It varies. What seems to lie at the root of it all is that there is never a solid point of truth or a 360 view of the entire chain. We’re never 100% where things are beginning to creak and groan… until it’s too late.

You: I think that’s a fairly common problem. Have things always been as challenging or is this related to other changes in your market or internally?

What’s important to note here is the way that the prospect’s answer is not followed by an unrelated question from a prepared checklist.

It is responded directly to. And the result will be a deeper understanding and the building of trust.

Play it again, Sam

A discovery call should be about 30% you and 70% them.

You want your prospect to do the talking – and here’s how it’s done.

  • Make a mental note of a couple of important words from their last comment.
  • And now simply use these to form a question.

For example:

Prospect: We struggle to set ourselves apart from the competition. Whenever I’m out with the sales team you can almost hear them slip the conversation into reverse when they are asked about why us and not X, Y or Z.

You: Into reverse?

Prospect: Actually, it’s worse than that. They don’t even move the conversation forward or backward. They just kind of stand there mumbling and looking down for imaginary dirt on their shoes. And I must admit I stand with them, just wishing we had something to reel off about what we do that’s different. I mean, I know the product is good we just have never found a real way to express its unique points.

You: Never found a way?

Prospect: That’s it. There’s not one established way to talk about what sets us apart. As a result, everything is so inconsistent. Someone says one thing, elsewhere we claim another. It’s like we don’t own our own story.

By just coaxing the conversation using nothing more than a repeated phrase you are able to dig deeper and deeper into what lies at the heart of the matter.

And it’s so easy to do.

Press pause (even if it’s awkward)

On your next discovery call try this:

No matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel, pause for three of the longest seconds you can bear to hold each time your prospect stops speaking.

You will not be alone in feeling the urge to speak. We all hate a conversational void, and our first instinct is to fill it.

And, should you let your prospect fill it before you, all the better.

You have just ensured they expand on what they are saying without a word passing your lips!

Action replay

As much as we hate a void, we will all fill right up when we feel understood.

Keep your ears peeled during your discovery call for those giveaway signs of pain, fear and frustration.

Scribble these moments down on a piece of paper and, as the call draws to a close, provide a summary of your prospect’s situation using their own words.

You may recognise this tactic from solution selling as such a large part of this sales strategy is to do with summarising what you have discovered.

The effect of this summary is palpable. You will be able to see recognition of a common bond and gratitude forming because you have just made someone feel understood and valued.

Here’s the action replay sandwich:

‘If it’s OK I’ll just quickly try and summarise what you have told me.’

[In less than 30 seconds use their own words to tell their story.]

‘Does that sound about right?’

Play yourself in

See if our playbook works for you by trying out our tactics for size on your next discovery call.

And remember:

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