Sales Discovery Call for Beginners


So, someone has called to talk about what you offer.  What next?  Well, this is a Discovery Call – and you’ll find that a Discovery Call will be your best friend in the selling process.  That’s because the point is to – well – discover what your client needs, and where they’re feeling pain.  Because once you know that – well, then you can pinpoint solutions that will make them crazy happy – because you are solving their problem.

Oh, and by the way, keep in mind that not only are they sizing you up, but you should be checking them out too.  This is as much a time for you to figure out if they’re a good fit for you, as it is for them to do the same.

So, you set the call, now what’s next.  Well, you need to map out what you need to know.  For my HR consultancy, it’s things like, how many locations do you have, how many employees are there, how do you handle payroll, do you have benefits.  Those are kind of the beginner nuts and bolts questions I ask, but the more important questions are things like what are you concerned about, what takes up your time, where do you feel stress around HR duties.  Those questions help me get to the nugget of where their pain is.

We spend a lot of time on those areas, I ask a lot of questions, and let them do a lot of talking – because I want to listen and really hear where they’re afraid or overwhelmed or really concerned.  You have to keep in mind that it’s all about them – not what your offer – but solving their problem.

When you’re first starting out, I suggest you create a script – oh, not a word for word script, but definitely a very full outline.  Because, if you’re new to sales, this type of guide is really great, it’ll help you sound confident, and make sure you don’t miss any critical information..  Once you’ve mapped everything out, then practice, practice, practice.  Practice on your friends and family, practice in the mirror.  This might sound silly, but the more you get the language in your mouth, the more naturally it’ll come to you when you need it on the call.

OK, on to the elements of a Discovery Call.

First, do your homework.  Get online and research everything you can about who you’ll be talking to, their company, their history, look at news stories, check out their website, look at the press or news section of their site, check out the investor section of their site if they have one.  It’s a really great place to find information about the company’s business model, senior staff members and company high points.

Once you’re on the call, of course introduce yourself, and make sure to thank them for their time.  Be courteous – good manners is a memorable professional quality.  Ask them how they heard of you (if you don’t already know); and then move on to questions.  Ask good questions from your outline, you want to understand where they are now, and where they want to be.  What are their goals – what are their painpoints.  But, don’t just pepper them with questions – take space to really listen, and be empathetic.  “I completely understand, it can be so frustrating to xyz’.

Once it’s your turn, don’t be shy about discussing solutions on the spot.  Take this time to actually do a bit of consulting work for them.  “One thing I’ve found to be pretty successful with my clients is xyz”.  Don’t come across as superior or hard sell, you’re just being helpful in a casual give and take discussion kind of way.  You have some ideas that may be helpful, what about x?  Be their consultant, it shows you know your stuff, and you know how to listen.  Both really good things.

Now you can move on to mentioning how specific parts of your solution would solve the painpoint they mentioned.  Try taking 5 – 10 painpoints they brought up and solving them.  Now I know 5 – 10 may sound like a lot, but by now you should have gathered a lot of information, so you should have lots to choose from.

DO NOT, under any circumstances, just start talking about a list of features.  We do this, and we do that.  Always, always offer solutions to the prospect’s pain.  Tie everything back, because your solution – out of context – isn’t a solution they’ll be interested in, you’re just blowing your own horn.  And they don’t have time for that.

…DO NOT, under any circumstances, just start talking about a list of features.  We do this, and we do that.  Always, always offer solutions to the prospect’s pain.  Tie everything back, because your solution – out of context – isn’t a solution they’ll be interested in…

So, something like “you mentioned that running payroll takes a lot of your time, and you aren’t ever sure if you’re doing everything that’s required – I would say, let’s just take all that off your plate.  We’ll do every part of the payroll process, from gathering timecards straight through distributing pay to your employees, tax filings, audits, answering everyone’s questions, and staying on top of regulatory changes.  We don’t want you to have to give a thought to the payroll process – after all, you have better things to do.”  See that shows that I heard the problem, we have a solution, and this is how it would work for you.

As you’re talking about how you can solve their problem, it’s a dialogue – so encourage questions and comments.  And let those guide you to your next point.

Oh yeah, listening is a really valuable tool to use with prospects.

Now, once you’ve talked about the solutions, inevitability they will ask how much.  There are volumes of advice out there that say, never send a proposal, or only present your numbers when you can go through the proposal with the prospect on the phone.  I’m not in that camp.  I know that one of the reasons people say don’t send proposals is because they mean don’t send proposals cold.  So, you meet someone, at a conference or whatever.  They say, oh you do x; we need that, can you send me a proposal.

Well, you don’t know anything about them, so your proposal might as well be just a template or brochure they will throw in a stack, because these folks are just price shopping.  But that’s not the case here – you’ve had an in-depth discovery call, so you know the prospect’s pain and you’ve told them various ways you can address it.  Besides, I’m not a fan of the game of ‘well, I’m not going to give you my numbers this way, I’ll only give them that way/.  In my experience, at the end of a Discovery Call, when the prospect asks how much, they want you to either tell them on the spot (which I don’t usually do), or send a proposal with quotes. I know if I felt like I were getting the runaround I would become suspicious – what does this business have to hide.

So, I say, when they say how much, either give them a ballpark range right them and there if you’re comfortable doing that – or tell them you’ll send them a proposal with fee quotes.  And then, remember to ask for the sale.  So many people forget to actually ask for the sale.  Something like ‘we would really love the opportunity to partner with you in solving x’ goes a long way.  Be specific in that you would like to work with them.  Ask them about their timeline and selection process so you have an idea of what comes next.

And then – actually send the proposal – on time.  You would be surprised how many times people send the proposal late – and by the way, late is any time after when you said you would.

Alright, so you’ve sent the proposal – now we get to following up.  Yep, we all hate it.  “What do I say, am I bugging them, why haven’t I heard, did they get my email?

Listen, the follow up is a game of patience.  Professional services” can have a really long sales cycle, because people generally come to us when they need a fix of some sort.  But the process might get stalled because the need has been temporarily met – in which case, when it comes around again, or the fix isn’t the right it, staying top of mid with them will position you for the next call.

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Or maybe they thought your pricing was too high.  Assuming you took care to carefully price your services (we have an episode on that you should check out), then consider that they may not be your target client.

Or maybe they just put the project on the back burner.  Again, staying top of mind by nurturing them will help you here.

So, chin up – and let’s get to the followup.  Be as creative as you can, think of innovative ways to get back in touch.  And no, I don’t mean the cheesy ‘send them a bottle of wine’ thing.  I mean use what you learned from your research, and then find informative or helpful pieces of news or information or a great video and send them a link.  It shows you’re thinking about them, and how to help them.  Try sending something like that a day or two after the proposal.

Oh, a pro tip here – do not just add them to your eMail list.  They’re in play. This isn’t the right time to send them your general eMail content.

Then 3 – 5 days later, follow up and ask if they have any questions.  Now again, the sales gurus will tell you to do follow ups via phone.  But I like eMail, because remember these are referrals or the result of your networking, they’re not just faceless numbers – so they’ll most likely give you the courtesy of some sort of reply.  You might have to try a different tact with prospects that come to you completely cold.

Then give it another week and follow up again.  Don’t be bashful, just tell them you’re checking on the proposal and wanted to see if there were questions or if they needed additional information..

Then if you still haven’t heard anything, (you’ve had a call, sent the proposal, then sent a ‘thinking of you’ nugget, and followed up 2 times with a warm prospect) I say put them on your nurture list, and move on.  You might find that they call you months later – but right now, you have to put your time and energy into the next prospective client.

The sales process can feel frustrating and frightening – especially if you aren’t used to doing sales.  But remember, it’s a numbers game – that’s why you have to go through the process thoroughly, and once that’s done – move on.  No time to waste.  Continue to nurture the relationship, but move on to the next prospect – and don’t take it personally.  You have no idea why your company wasn’t selected.  Notice I said your company – because as much as it may feel differently – they aren’t rejecting you, they’re deciding not to work with your company, right now.  And yes, there is a big difference.  Disengage your emotions from the equation.


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