A step-by-step practical guide to running an effective discovery call

A discovery call sets the tone for your entire sales process. With every interaction with your brand, you are either building trust and relationship with your prospect or you are pushing them away unintentionally.

Done well, a discovery call can not only help you build a trustworthy relationship with your prospect, but they can also bring in new referrals and probably a fat sales commission. Flub it and you will waste precious time for both you and your prospects.

A 30-minute discovery call can make all the difference—you can either be the one who hard-pitches their product, or the one that tries to be helpful to the prospect.

What is a discovery call?

A discovery call is your first chance to have a 1:1 chat with a prospect and explore a fit between your product and your prospect’s pain points and goals. These calls typically happen after you have piqued your prospect’s interest in your product,  through a cold outreach or an inbound request.

You can either dread a discovery call or use it as your golden ticket to wedge the door open into your prospects’ minds (and their wallets). At Avoma, we take every discovery call very seriously. To ensure we don’t waste anyone’s time—if during the call, we realize that our product is not a good fit for a prospect, we will say so upfront. It’s best to have long-term trust over short-term gains, any day!

That said, a discovery call is as much an opportunity for you to qualify your potential clients as it is the other way around.

So how to have a productive discovery call that won’t let your buyers down?

Steps to make your discovery call effective

From our experience, we see that mostly, a discovery call tends to be a 1:1 call, compared to the ones in the later stages of the sales cycle. However, we also notice that 43% of the ones that closed faster had the prospects inviting their team members for the exploratory meeting.

Through this post, we put together our best tips—curated based on our experience of running countless discovery calls and earning a decent amount of goodwill from our clients (even from those who didn’t convert).

1. Preparing for the discovery call

Preparation is key to nail a discovery call. But preparation doesn’t just mean having a mental script of talking points ready in your head.

It’s a discovery call—not a public speaking competition. It doesn’t matter if you won a Toastmasters International championship in high school—a discovery call requires a lot more than just waxing eloquent about your products.

Research well to establish relevance

The golden rule for conducting effective meetings is—research and relevance. Always spend time researching your prospect before getting into the meeting. Spend 15-20 minutes scanning their activities on LinkedIn and Twitter or news updates/press releases related to their organization. 

The idea is to figure out answers to a few fundamental questions such as:

  • Who are you going to talk to?
  • What authority does he/she hold in their company?
  • How does their department impact the overall business?
  • What is it they are trying to solve with your product?
  • What’s one definitive factor that will make them buy your product?
  • Do you have existing clients from their industry you can showcase?
  • Who will benefit from this solution—their team, managers, or customers?

There are several online tools that can help you understand people's personality style, even before you meet them online. For example, you can use a tool like Crystalknows, a Chrome plugin that works on top of LinkedIn, to research your prospects. It tells you your prospect's communication style and some basic insights about their personality, thus giving you a head start.  

Related read: Why building rapport in remote selling is difficult?

Schedule shorter meetings with purpose

If you don’t put it in the calendar, it doesn’t happen. So calendaring is an obvious place to start—send meeting invites to prospects on an agreed-upon time and copy all other stakeholders from their team and yours. 

Sending generic invite links are passé. Personalizing your clients’ experience with your brand starts before you even meet them and sending customized meeting links are the perfect place to leverage it. Keeping the subject short and purposeful helps a lot.

E.g.:

“Discovery: Avoma // Acme”

Another key aspect is the length of the discovery call you schedule. Keep it to 30 minutes or less. If the prospect wants to extend, that’s great. But as a rule of thumb, shorter meetings are more effective.

Set a clear agenda

You don’t have to go all out and type a 300-word essay—keep it short, simple, and outcome-driven. Setting the right expectations communicates your professionalism to your prospects.

E.g.:

“Agenda:

As discussed, scheduling a Video Call with the below agenda:

Purpose: Learn your teams’ workflows, challenges, and initiatives planned

About Avoma: Overview about our solution

Next steps: Discuss whether to schedule a personalized demo

Take steps to minimize no-shows

If you have the discovery call scheduled weeks in advance, send your prospects a heads-up email a day or two before the meeting day. It’s easy for most of us to forget about one-off meetings that happen outside of our day-to-day work. Sending a reminder makes you look thoughtful and organized.

With Avoma, you can automatically send email reminders to participants so they show up on time or request to reschedule. It saves you a lot of time.

discovery call

Finally, make sure you have everything and everyone ready for the meeting day. Most sales teams overlook the importance of good lighting, camera quality, or a water bottle next to them until the last minute. These are equally important props to help you run smooth meetings.

You should invest more time in preparing for the call if you are new to discovery calls or nervous about talking to a particular prospect. A couple of ways to manage your discovery call related heebie-jeebies is to do mock discovery calls internally (within your organization) and listen to the best discovery calls of the past by other reps on your team.

2. Making an impact during the call

You win half the battle by just showing up well-prepared, and the other half depends on if your prospect shows up and has a clear need that your product can solve. Start with a little warm-up exercise before the call commences—crack your fingers, keep distractions at bay, and put yourself at ease. Rehydrate yourself and be in the moment. Also, run a basic hygiene check to see if your tech tools are set properly.

Stick to your agenda

Once the meeting is on, start with the small talk but keep it short and casual. As a courtesy, run the table of contents by your prospects to remind them of the meeting’s agenda. To keep the meeting interactive and to avoid it from being a pitching session about your product—ask questions to understand the prospect’s needs better and encourage them to ask questions whenever possible.

Have a template for yourself based on the points you want to cover as part of your discovery call. Your template needs to help you answer the following:

  • Understanding the pain point of your buyer
  • What’s the business need they are trying to solve with a product like yours?
  • Who else are they evaluating alongside your product?
  • Is there a timeline for implementation?
  • What’s the next course of action after the call, etc.

Practice Active Listening

Now on to the most important part of conducting a discovery call—listen more, talk less. Often our mind tends to be caught up between qualifying the prospect, demoing the product in the best way possible, and handling objections prospects might have. Active listening is a difficult skill to master—research data says that it’s usually the salespeople who talk more than 70% of the time in any sales call. And that is no bueno.

Looking at the data from our online meetings, we at Avoma have found that the recommended sales:customer talk ratio is 40%–60%. And if you are talking for more than 60% of the total time on the call, you are probably not listening enough.  

The next time you see that you are doing most of the talking, stop and remind yourself of the WAIT framework—Why Am I Talking? Steer the conversation back to focus on the prospects by asking them open-ended questions.

Active Listening: The Most Important Sales Skill You Need In Remote Selling

When it comes to answering your prospects’ questions, take the consultative selling approach. Think of yourself as a consultant doing pro bono work rather than a salesperson who represents a brand. Instead of hard-selling your product’s features, guide them to the right solution even if it means promoting your competitors’ brand.

But it’s easier said than done. It’s become a norm for sales teams to be unnecessarily gung-ho about their products. They take their jobs too seriously and will shove their products down their customers’ throats at any cost.

Get rid of all distractions

Most salespeople are caught up between taking notes and managing the conversation. In such cases, it makes more sense to use an AI-assisted note-taking software. Instead of you typing out the notes and having those awkward pauses during a conversation, you can automate such labor intensive/time consuming tasks and focus on the conversation.

AI-assisted notes on Avoma

ALWAYS have your camera turned on

Having your camera on, during your discovery call makes a huge difference to the engagement. We have observed that 27% of the time, a sales discovery call that never progressed after the first call had at least one of the parties (either the sales rep or the prospect) who hadn't turned their cameras on.

You can’t force all your clients to turn on their videos. But you can certainly send an implicit message by keeping your video on. 

How to Master Video Sales Meetings

Since you’re doing a video meeting, don’t forget to record the session with your client’s permission. Notifying your meeting participants in advance that ‘the conversation will be recorded for analysis purposes’–is not only a good practice but also falls under the compliance requirements.

Once you send your clients the recording, they can share it internally to make a collective decision. Your team can also use the recording to review the meeting’s outcome.

Ensure you check all boxes

Always wrap up the meeting by asking if you have addressed all their concerns satisfactorily. Discuss the next steps before you hang up and let them know that you will send an email recap of the meeting after the call.

Conventional wisdom tells us that you must get prospects to commit on a sign-up, demo, or product trial. It’s great if you can get them to do so. If you can’t, don’t push it too hard. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to do that later. After all, the real art of sales is in following up.

3. Learning from your call and collaborating to drive outcomes

It’s still not very common for sales teams to reflect on their meetings—at least not as a thought-through system. What you do after the call can be the difference between losing the value of the conversation completely or making it extremely useful. 

After all the effort you put into your meetings:

  1. You need to learn from it for improving yourself for future calls 
  2. You need clarity on your next steps to move the deal forward
  3. Collaborate across functions such as product, marketing and customer success to enable the prospect further (based on the call)

Learn from your calls

Always review your discovery call. If you don’t have the time to listen to the entire conversation, listen to specific parts of the conversation such as demo, pricing conversation, etc.

When you listen to your discovery call, you will know right off the bat what you could have done better. And you start becoming more aware and your improvements have a compounding effect over time.

Sometimes, it’s not just about asking the right questions or listening to what the prospect said – it could be the overall experience. For example, it could be that you are using a lot of filler words, and that’s something that you can definitely improve upon.

Impact of filler words on sales

Follow up and keep your promise

The majority of B2B customers need an average of five follow-ups in order to close a deal. Sadly, 94% of salespeople don’t follow up with prospects after the fourth time. Following up is what makes you different from other salespeople—or even your rivals. 

Once you have an understanding of how the meeting went, incorporate the insights into an email and send it to the prospects as a recap of your call. If there’s a possible match between the prospects and your product, reiterate the high points of the call.

If they seemed to be still on the fence or not convinced—let them know you are just a mouse-click away. If you had promised to send them any supporting marketing collaterals that would help them champion your product within their organization—remember to share it promptly. Always keep your word.

Collaborate to get things done

Usually, the next steps after the call tends to be—connecting the prospect to a product expert in your organization, allowing extended access to your free trial, getting back to them with an answer to a technical question, etc. And missing out on this step can be a make or break in terms of your deal progression.  

The easiest way to collaborate with your team on such occasions is to share a snippet from your prospect’s conversation, so that your team has enough context about their question. That helps them supply you with a contextual answer.

Also it’s good practice if people across your organization can listen to your calls. It either helps them in their work context (example: a product person gets to know which features to prioritize), or you get feedback from your team on how you could have handled an objection better. 

Ramping up sales reps faster using sales coaching tools

Running an effective discovery call

Finally, running an effective discovery call is as good as closing a deal even if it doesn’t earn you a sales opportunity immediately. That’s because a helpful exploratory conversation makes everyone feel like they won when they walk out of the room. A good discovery call usually boils down to asking the right questions, helping your prospects and positioning your product as a solution. Try applying the above tips in your next sales meeting and see what difference they make to your sales processes. 

And finally, forget the old adage ‘Always be closing.’ Sales is about trust and relationships. Instead, remember this Zen mantra—‘always be compounding.’