If you had to pinpoint the single most pivotal moment in the B2B sales process, what would it be? Maybe that hopeful moment when you generate a lead? Or, the happy moment you finally close that deal? There’s one that wins hands down: the discovery call.
Top performing sales professionals value this initial call as it sets the tone of your working relationship with a customer. It can make or break the deal.
Let's take a look at how the discovery call is a powerful sales tool.
The discovery call is the first call you’ll make with a potential customer who has expressed interest in your company. Perhaps they were referred to you, signed up for a demo, completed their free trial, or opened one of your outreach emails. Sometimes – though not often – a cold call can even turn into a discovery call, depending on the circumstances.
Whatever the case, a discovery call gives you the chance to identify the customer’s reason for considering your product or service. And to try and understand their problem and pain points. It’s also an opportunity for the customer to learn more about your company and decide whether it makes sense to keep talking to you.
The ultimate goal of a sales discovery call is to determine whether your company and your prospect are a good fit for each other.
If the discovery call goes wrong, it’s tough to make the sale.
We’ve all been in those video calls where setting up takes an excruciatingly long time. Problems starting is actually the most frequently reported issue with meetings today – 50 percent of video conferencing users are wasting nearly 10 minutes on setup.
While this is bad for team meetings, it’s very bad for customer calls. Technical issues create stress before you’ve even connected.
You should also be diligent in letting prospects know what to expect. Something as simple as an agenda for the discovery call can really help cultivate trust between you and the customer.
So, pay attention to practicalities. Before the call, you could:
In general, ask yourself: what you can do to make the call go smoother? If it’s a technical problem that often comes up, address it. If you can provide more information to the customer about what to expect, do it. Don’t leave your prospect in the dark before the call.
Just as prospects should know who they’re meeting, you should also know about them. It’s not enough just to have the company details or the title of the person you’re speaking to; superficial research won’t cut it.
Before the call, take a deep dive into all the information you can find about your prospect. You can look into:
So you’ve spent hours upon hours perfecting that sales deck. Your presentation contains a clear list of your company’s benefits and features, information about your brand, and a good sales pitch. That should do, right?
Unfortunately no. A generic presentation, no matter how awesome, will not win you the best deals. Prospects don’t want to sit through a slideshow explaining your company’s merits. They do want to hear about them, but only as a small part of the conversation.
This is why it’s best to personalize your presentation. Have a template as a backbone and then create custom decks based on what you know of each prospect. You can also add the prospect’s company logo and branding (e.g. colors) to add a more personal and familiar touch.
Apart from design, here are a few things you can do with your presentation:
Once you have this presentation, you can also use it as a discovery call script: a collection of talking points in an order that makes sense to make sure you always know what to say next.
You’ve prepared well and have a killer presentation. You log into the call… and then what?
If you’ve never spoken to someone before, you need to first establish some rapport and ease the prospect into the conversation. Even if you know the prospect, it pays to work a bit on your introduction to the discovery call. That way, you’ll make communication smoother and avoid the risk of awkward silences or stifled dialogue.
So, here are a few ideas to consider:
According to research by Gong, you should aim to ask about 11 to 14 questions during discovery calls to increase your chances of closing the deal. So, choose your questions wisely.
The main purpose of your questions is to mine for information that will help you paint a picture: your customer’s “why”. You should be able to leave the call knowing the challenges they’re facing and how your product or service can help solve them. That’s why open-ended questions work well – they help you explore your prospect’s situation by letting them do the talking.
These questions can have alternatives that are more tailored to your prospect. For example, if you’re selling paper (like you were an employee from The Office), you can ask “what’s your environmental footprint from using this kind of paper?” if you know environmental concerns exist in your prospect’s company.
They say the most dreaded answer in sales isn’t a “no”, it’s a “maybe”. If a prospect decides not to buy, then you know where you stand – you can circle back at a later time, keep them engaged, or just let it go.
But, “maybe” means you’re at the customer’s mercy. Unless you play it right, that is.
What you can do is:
They say practice makes perfect. In the case of a discovery call, you can practice both before you go into the call with a specific customer and in general to hone your listening and persuasion skills. This means figuring out what’s working and what’s not and forming strategies around how to improve your discovery calls.
Here are a few ideas to do this:
If you come out of the discovery call with useful information on your prospect and clear steps for the future, you’ve got it right. Now, your sales process can carry on smoothly – the hard part’s over. Your prospect should be ready to decide whether to proceed with you or not.
But, and this is the key part, you should know whether or not to proceed with them, too. Sometimes, the discovery call will reveal that your product or service actually isn’t a good fit and can’t meet the customer’s why. In this case, don’t be afraid to cut the sales process short.
Tell your prospect you don’t think you can meet their needs right now. Refer them to partner or sister companies if you can. This attitude will also help break the stereotype that salespeople will do or say anything for the sale. That’s the best way to build trust – and your prospect will remember that if you’re ready to meet their needs in the future.
Nikoletta is a Content Specialist at Acquire. She's a writer and editor with an avid interest in data, tech, communication, and the customer journey.