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The Right Way To Handle Initial Sales Discovery Calls

We help a lot of clients create outbound lead generation systems to book more sales appointments.

And commonly we are asked ‘What’s next?’ after booking an initial call or meeting?

‘How do I go from appointment to new client?’

In today’s post, we are going to break down a reliable formula on how to handle ‘Discovery Calls’ with your prospects.

If handled correctly, this key step in the sales process leads to more opportunities and more clients.

If handled incorrectly, you’ll scare away good leads and disqualify great opportunities before you’ve ever really gotten started.

One of the biggest mistakes made on Sales Discovery Calls is thinking this first call is a ‘Demo.’ It’s not.

Many sales reps and small business owners dive into problem-solving mode before they’ve fully understood the specific problems of the individual on the other line.

This quick trigger to diving into the solution you are selling is a core reason why most consumers would rather have dental surgery rather than deal with another sales person.

You can stand out and be different than the approach taken by average salespeople and create better results in the process by doing the unexpected.

Actually investing time in understanding your individual prospect’s needs.

Let’s get into what to say in your initial Sales Discovery Calls!

A Well-Defined Prospect Profile

If you’ve read The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes, you’re familiar with the concept of the Demand Gen Pyramid.

If not, I’ll paraphrase.

Essentially, this concept breaks out the phases of your prospects into 5 categories along with the percentage of your market that fall into each:

  1. Ready to purchase (3%)

  2. Open to buying, but not looking (7%)

  3. Not thinking about it (indifferent) (30%)

  4. Think they aren’t interested (30%)

  5. Know they aren’t interested (30%)

Demand Generation and Sales Discovery Calls

After seeing the above...be honest with yourself...how often are you hoping that any prospect you meet with falls into the 3% of prospects that are ready to buy now?

This sliver of your market is where everyone wants to be. 

But it’s a moving target. And highly competitive.

Let’s remove the bottom 30% that know they aren’t interested and just focus on this: you can access 23x the amount of prospects, by not only obsessing over the 3% of your prospects that are in-market now.

This is the key to predictable growth!

Building relationships with your entire market. Both the 3% that are interested now and the 67-97% that are potential customers.

Most sales reps ignore anyone outside the in-market prospects because they don’t have a playbook on how to turn an indifferent or self-reported ‘not looking’ prospect into an actual opportunity.

Why mention this?

Well, any conversation about Sales Discovery Calls begins with understanding your qualification process. Your qualification criteria on a discovery call can not be solely on whether or not they are looking to purchase now.

Start broader in your approach and you’ll show up to your sales discovery calls in a mindset to move more suspects or prospects into interested opportunities.

So where do you start?

Some call it a Customer Avatar. Others a Client Persona.

I prefer Prospect Profile. And the reason being to begin your qualification you want to make sure the prospect fits the demographic information of your full audience (not just the 3%ers).

Who do you typically sell to? Who is involved in the decision-making process?

What are their job titles? What industries are they in? How large a company are they a part of? Where are they located?

These are the basics you should spend some time outlining for your work.

You might create a few prospect profiles based on some specific markets you go after. But spend time thinking about the criteria that make up your prospects.

Don’t fall into the trap of ‘I can work with everyone.’

Who do you work best with? Who do you not work well with?

What types of clients have made your best case studies or success stories?

This all helps you prospect for the right people and match those prospects to selling points as you progress through your sales process.

Do Your Research (Before The Sales Discovery Call)

There are the standard sales call research notes - check the prospect’s website, LinkedIn page, your CRM, and any company social media accounts.

NOTE: Within LinkedIn, I especially encourage you to:

1. Look for any mutual connections you can reference. People like having potential references and shared networks. 

2. Note any recent company or career highlights. A little flattery never hurts! 

3. Find any similarities you share with them. Even a small similarity can help break the ice and get your prospect talking. 

All of those are helpful and necessary steps to take immediately leading up to your call with an individual, but it’s only part of the story.

The more important research work to do is to get yourself into the shoes of your prospects before they book a call with you.

Some of this you might already know by instinct or experience. But I recommend being intentional with how you think about this and even writing down your answers.

Below are a few questions to consider:

  • What are the top 3-5 issues or frustrations that typically lead to someone being interested in what you offer?

  • What are the outcomes of these issues? What do they result in? Think both personally to the types of individuals are speaking with AND the bigger impact on their business (if selling B2B).

  • What other solutions to these problems might they have tried (and failed with)?

  • What’s the ‘conventional wisdom’ around how to solve these issues?

  • What’s the reputation or ‘first thought’ your prospects have about your potential solution? Or your industry?

  • How are these prospects used to being sold to?

  • Who might also be involved in their decision making process?

Flip the script

Sales Discovery Call Objection

As mentioned earlier, too often salespeople look to control the call (and the outcome) by preaching their solution.

But what’s been proven to actually work is to first engage your prospect and understand their specific issues. 

One example of how you might do this could follow this format:

‘Typically on these types of calls I have people asking a lot of questions about X, Y, and Z. Which I can certainly help with if you’d be interested in hearing more. But before I get too far, what else would you like to cover in this meeting?’

Using an open-ended question like ‘What else would you like to cover…’ rather than ‘Is there anything specific you’d like to cover…’ allows your prospect the opportunity to actually speak. If you ask closed-ended questions, it’s too easy for a prospect to shut down or not give you the full story.

This will help you find out their priorities early on in the conversation and allow you to adjust your call as needed.

From there, you need to make it clear that you want to hear from them.

Ask (and then Shut up)

The reason I went through the Research process in Step 2 was to help you conceptualize some questions to ask in your sales discovery call conversations.

On a sales discovery call your primarily goal should be to listen. You need to understand and communicate to your prospect that you understand their situation.

Studies have shown that a vast majority of people believe that they are misunderstood.

Salespeople that can ask good follow-up questions and clarify comments that their prospects are making create instant rapport by showing they have a vested interest in understanding a prospect’s problem and if they can help before getting to their pitch.

That is the key to a sales discovery call and something you shouldn’t be afraid to reference in your conversations.

On your end - a sales discovery call is meant for you to see if your solution can help your specific prospect.

On your prospects end - a sales discovery call is meant to understand if this is a viable solution they should further explore.

You are going to make good on what the prospect wants by communicating that you need to first get a better idea of what they are going through and if there’s a potential fit.

Reject the idea that you need to dive into problem-solver mode or ‘Demo’ mode too early on in the sales discovery process.

After your initial pleasantries and talking through the agenda for your call, do something different: Make it clear that you’re not sure if a solution or demo would make sense at this point and that today’s conversation will be just that - a conversation!

You can overcome this request in your introduction or agenda setting like this: 

‘This call typically isn’t a formal demo or presentation. I first like to understand your business a bit more, what you are looking for, and if it’s a fit then we can discuss more of the specifics in a future meeting. And if your situation isn’t one that we can help with, I’ll be happy to share some suggestions and we can part as friends. How does that sound?’

Need more sales opportunities? Learn how to get sales discovery calls with your best prospects on my upcoming L.E.A.D. Blueprint workshop. 

The Power of Stories During The Sales Discovery Call

Don''t preach on your sales discovery calls

There’s a lot you can read out there on how powerful storytelling is in the sales process and I won’t be able to touch on every reason why in this post.

But suffice it to say that stories will stick with your prospects much longer than any fact, figure or stat you can throw at them.

Human beings are conditioned to be impacted by stories.

It helps put our prospects in the same shoes as the ‘hero’ of our story and makes them feel less alone in the problem they are trying to solve.

It allows you to share information about the types of people or businesses you help without hard-selling why you can help them directly.

A common approach that I teach for Sales Discovery Calls within my programs is the idea of the ‘30-Second Commercial.’

It’s a great way to introduce yourself and your business in a way that doesn’t put your company history or details front-and-center like most ‘Elevator Pitches’ tend to. But instead highlights the types of clients you work with and the problems they are looking for your help with.

In any 30-Second Commercial the aim is to drop 1-3 micro-stories that should relate to a likely problem your prospect may have.

Something to work towards is having a handful of client stories (ideal) or personal stories to help communicate your key selling points and positioning you as understanding the different problems your prospect may be encountering that you help with.

Rather than ‘Sure. We can help with that.’ 

Show how you’ve helped a similar client solve a similar problem.

Having core stories you can reference will help beyond just your Sales discovery call.

Don’t make the mistake of relying on features of your product or service to close the deal. This is where most people begin when they are selling. They think ‘We have the best features, why wouldn’t they buy?’

But studies have shown that the more time you spend talking ‘Features’ the lower the chance at closing the deal.

Gong recently found that the top salespeople in organizations on average spent 39% less time discussing features with their leads than their average-performing counterparts.

How much to top salespeople talk about features

Keep this in mind when you move into the next phase of your sales process as well. 

You want to in your discovery get a clear understanding of your prospects needs and pain points. This will allow you to demonstrate clear and specific value to them in your future discussions. And getting to their outcome is ultimately what leads to more closed deals.

Discussing value topics on sales discovery calls

Schedule Next Steps (Post Sales Discovery Call)

As I’ve mentioned above a Sales Discovery Call is intended for both sides to discover if a further conversation is warranted.

From your end, if the prospect has a problem you are confident your solution can solve and you think it’s a fit, then it’s time to find out if your prospect feels the same.

If you’ve at this point shared some quick stories of clients you’ve helped with similar problems to demonstrate why you think it’s a fit, ask them what they’d like to do next.

Something like, “Well Jim, I appreciate you sharing so much with me today. From our end we’ve helped a number of clients like CLIENT A, CLIENT B, that were dealing with some similar things as you’ve communicated to me today (give examples). 

I’d love to set some time up to walk you through exactly what we do, how we’ve helped others and share some specific suggestions now that I’ve got more information on how this might work for INSERT PROSPECT’S COMPANY NAME.But I wanted to check in with you and see how you were feeling. Is that something that might interest you? What would you like to do next?”

Again most buyers hate salespeople because they feel as though they have such little control in the conversation. 

They know they are getting sold to. And often can feel backed into a corner by pushy salespeople.

Give them the chance to suggest next steps.

 Don’t forget this when you get to your Demo or presentation call. This concept can be highly effective at giving a prospect the opportunity to suggest how to move forward.

Your Turn

Sign up for my upcoming L.E.A.D. Blueprint Workshop

Creating a solid messaging strategy is only one part of an effective lead generation strategy. 

I’ve recently developed a new workshop that goes step by step through the process that has been so successful in our clients’ businesses -- the L.E.A.D. Blueprint. 

In the workshop, I’ll be teaching:

  • Exactly what an Authority Leadership Platform is and how you can leverage our Authority Amplifier process to position yourself above the competition, putting your business in an entirely different playing field.

  • How to target high-end prospects using online platforms (social media + email) in a unique way that builds instant trust by doing the polar opposite of what most ‘salespeople’ try

  • How to develop real relationships online using a highly-personal Multi-Touchpoint Messaging Campaign to naturally guide the conversation towards an appointment

  • The right way to automate processes that build trust, improve credibility and increase responsiveness in your campaigns.

Join an upcoming workshop session by signing up here!

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