How to conduct a discovery call in 7 steps (with benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Cold calls are essential elements of most organisations' sales processes. Making these calls can help you get to know potential customers, learn about their expectations for products and offer them solutions perfect for their needs. Learning what cold calls are and how to conduct them can help you improve your sales skills. In this article, we explain what discovery calls are, explain how to conduct them and list the benefits of this sales technique.

What is a discovery call?

A discovery call, also known as a cold call, is the first call you make to a prospect after they show interest in what you sell. There are different ways in which prospective buyers show they're interested, for example, by submitting an online form or commenting on the company's social media post. The main purpose of a cold call is to identify the prospect's expectations and determine if they're a fit for the product or service. In sales, cold calls help with either qualifying or disqualifying buyers.

If you're a sales representative, cold calling allows you to set the foundation for building relationships with buyers. You can do this by obtaining information about their situation, goals, needs and expectations. It's also essential to determine if there's an issue they've been experiencing that the products or services you offer can solve. Depending on your employer's business model, it's possible to make cold calls in the business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) model.

Related: What is a sales call? (With benefits and process steps)

How to conduct a discovery call

Learning to conduct discovery calls helps you make a good first impression on behalf of the business you represent. Here's how you can do that:

1. Conduct prospect research

When making discovery calls, many salespeople have little information about the prospects. Often, it's just their name and contact details. To make your future offer more attractive to prospects, it's helpful to conduct in-depth research and learn as much as you can about the person on the other side of the phone. If you're preparing for cold calling other businesses, make sure to visit their official websites and search for any news items about them.

Familiarising yourself with each business's mission statement and values is the minimum you can do to improve your cold calling technique. In addition, you can review the organisation's social media channels or sign up for their newsletter to get a general idea of their branding strategy. If possible, make sure to research the exact person you want to call. Analysing the information they provide on professional networking websites can give you an idea of their level of expertise, which you can use to adjust the terminology you want to use to appeal to them.

Related: 9 sales prospecting tips to improve your sales performance

2. Prepare questions

Using the information you obtain through research allows you to make the experience more personalised for the prospect. For example, you can prepare a unique set of questions that aligns with the prospect's goals and challenges. Remember the person you're calling is taking the time out of their workday to speak to you, so starting with a question they like can help your call go smoothly. Some questions that may help you get your prospects' attention include:

What's your employer's current goal?

Asking this question may encourage your prospect to share more information about what their team wants to accomplish in the next months or years. Their answer can give you a good general idea is a product or service you want to offer that aligns with their goals. For example, if they mention the organisation where they work is expanding, they may become valuable leads for you if you represent a customer relationship management (CRM) software developer or an office supplies manufacturer.

Related: What are business goals and how to create them (with steps)

How do you define success for this project?

This is another open-ended question that helps you understand the prospect's requirements. When you ask them about their definition of success, they're likely to share valuable information you can use to determine if your products can meet their expectations. For example, a prospect from the design industry may tell you they're interested in streamlining document sharing and communication between their remote teams. Then you can offer them online products that facilitate document digitalisation and have a built-in chat feature.

Related: Interview question: 'how do you define success?'

What initially interested you in this product or service?

When making a cold call, you know that the prospect has already expressed some form of interest in what you offer. Asking this specific question helps you learn not only what they like about your offer, but also if they have any reservations about it. For example, they may mention the price or a product's durability.

Related: Products vs. services: definitions and key differences

Have you tried any other ways to solve this problem?

When contracting prospects, it's important you make them feel like you're not wasting their time. In addition to researching their background and challenges their business might be facing, asking this question makes it easier to offer just the right solution without offering something they know might not work. By learning about outcomes from other products, you can refine your product suggestions and make the call more interesting to potential buyers.

3. Write a sales script

A sales script is a document that lists what you want to say during your call and when to say it. One of the key elements of the script is an introduction. This element helps you begin the call properly and set a positive tone for it. A complete introduction mentions your name and role, describes your employer, explains what the company where you work does and presents the purpose of the call. It's also helpful to share any goals you have for the conversation, for example, inviting the prospect to an in-person meeting.

To make the call more personalised, you can also include a phrase that helps you build a relationship with the prospect. For instance, you can refer to their experience or any projects they've completed. Remember to use the script to list any questions you've prepared after researching your prospects.

Read more: How to write a sales script (with a template and example)

4. Use your active listening skills

How much you talk during a call may vary depending on what you're selling and the prospect you're talking to. Even when you expect to talk a lot, pay attention to what the other person says and how they speak. When you notice your prospect rarely hesitates to answer your questions and shares a lot about their expectations, it often means you're asking the right questions and they feel comfortable talking to you. If they're a little hesitant, try asking more open-ended questions that require some input from them.

Related: How to improve your active listening skills

5. Take notes

Remember to take notes during your cold calls. The information you gather allows you to learn more about your prospective buyers. It also serves as a great learning material, which you can use to improve your sales technique for future calls.

Related: Meeting notes template: definition, tips and example

6. Use a strong closing line

Just like the introduction, the closing you use can impact the result of your call. Using the right closing line increases the chances your prospective buyer leaves the call with a positive and hopeful mindset. To create an ideal closing to include in your script, you can briefly go over the buyer's pain points and mention any projects they're working on right now. The last few minutes of the call are also great for giving them one last chance to ask you any questions they may have. After answering, let them know you appreciate their time.

7. Decide what to do next

If at the end of your call your prospect wants to proceed in the sales process, explain the next steps to them. For example, you can let them know you're forwarding their contact information to a colleague and they can expect a call or email from them the next business day. In some instances, like when the purchase is fully automated, you can walk them through the steps necessary for finalising it.

Related: What is sales qualification and why is it important?

Benefits of making cold calls

Although cold calling may not work for some business models, it's an effective sales technique many organisations, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, use to reach new customers. Here are some benefits of making discovery calls:

  • Reaching new customers: Discovery calling is an effective way to reach new customers and tell them about the business you represent. Conducting research before the call helps you make sure they fit the company's profile.

  • Improving your sales technique: When cold calling prospects, you're likely to make up to several dozen calls each day. This is a great way to test your skills in practice and improve your sales techniques.

  • Showing you care about them: Companies that use calls to convince prospects might be more competitive because they build a real human connection between sales representatives and buyers. This is because it gives prospects a chance to get to know the person who's offering them new products and ask them any questions they have about it.

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