In a perfect world, prospects would provide perfect answers on discovery calls so sales reps could accurately determine if they were a good fit for their service. Reps would only spend 15 minutes gathering what they needed before ending the conversation with either, “Thanks for your time” or “Next time we talk, bring a credit card.”

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.

In reality, discovery calls don’t always go as smoothly as reps would like. Reps who don’t adjust to the preferences of the modern buyer become susceptible to mistakes that can sour a fledgling relationship.  

So what are these mistakes and how do reps avoid them? Here seven mistakes salespeople might be making on their discovery calls.

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1) Not doing enough research.

Limiting yourself to a few minutes of research can derail your discovery call because you might not be familiar with the prospect’s pain point, business strategy, or market. Lacking this crucial background information will make guiding the conversation difficult.

Completing thorough pre-call research allows you to get a deeper understanding of the business, where the prospect has been, and where they are looking to go. Gather information about their top customers, competitors, and problems in order to tailor your discovery questions and more easily qualify them.

Dig into the following areas before your call:

  • Company website
  • LinkedIn
  • Social media networks
  • Financial statements
  • Competitors’ websites
  • Mutual connections

2) Asking only yes or no questions.

Discovery calls are meant to discover more about this prospect. But by asking only yes or no questions, you limit the amount of information you can gather. For example:

Rep: “Are you hiring right now?”

Prospect: “Yes.”

You don’t learn anything from this interaction other than the bare fact that the company is hiring. But how many people are they hiring? And In what part of the business?

Instead of gravitating towards simple “yes/no” questions, ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow the prospect to expand on their thoughts and paint a clearer picture. They also prompt the prospect to more thoroughly describe their pain points, and provide additional background on their business.

For example:

Rep: “What’s the hiring plan going forward?”

Prospect: “Well, we’re hoping to add five new people over the next year. Ideally we’d get a developer, a new marketer, and a sales rep. But the problem is our recruiting software isn’t that great, so we’re moving a little slower than we’d like to.”

Here are some examples of open-ended questions to use on discovery calls:

  • What are your goals for the upcoming year?
  • How do you see your market adjusting next year?
  • What made now the right time to look into our  service?
  • How did you decide to make these changes?
  • Why did you decide to get into this business?
  • Where do you see the company growing during the next 18 months?

3) Interrogating the prospect.

Starting the conversation with hard-pressing questions can put the prospect on the defensive. A prospect might feel as if they’re under pressure to deliver answers that they might not have. In addition, buyers might not feel comfortable sharing delicate information with a sales rep they were recently introduced to. Interrogating buyers often results in the conversation shutting down.

Discovery calls should feel like a free-flowing, general conversation about the prospect’s business. Once the prospect is further along in the funnel, you can ask about the specifics and pose the tough questions. For now, the goal is to keep the conversation light, learn general information, and allow the prospect to become comfortable with you.

4) Dodging their questions.

While discovery calls are mostly associated with a rep qualifying a prospect, they’re also about a prospect qualifying the rep. When you avoid a prospect’s questions, they can’t learn about who you are as a person and as a sales rep. If you continue to dodge questions from a prospect, their trust in you might never fully develop, which will make buying from you unlikely.

Don’t brush off what they ask you; focus on responding to their questions so they can qualify you too. This is your opportunity to begin to create a relationship and develop trust with this prospect. When you answer questions you show you’re actively listening to what the buyer is saying, and are dedicated to delivering them the best possible solution to their problem

5) Thinking beyond the call (moving too quickly).

When reps enter a discovery call thinking about closing the deal, they often try to move the prospect through the funnel too quickly, and this turns buyers off. At this point, the prospect is likely looking to gather preliminary information -- not sign on the dotted line

Remember: This is the first step in a long process. Don’t consider this a “done deal” too early. Put your attention into qualifying and learning on the discovery call, and attempt to close only after the relationship has been developed.

6) Not adding value.

By not providing value in your discovery call, you’re setting a bad tone for the entire sales process. If one touch isn’t highly valuable, the prospect might assume all your emails and calls going forward will be be a waste of time -- and stop responding.

As great as discovery calls are for sales qualification, reps also need to give the prospect something of value during the conversation to prompt the buyer to move into the next phase.

Here are some ways to add value to your discovery call:

  • Reference a case study
  • Promise to send along some documents
  • Quote a customer’s review of your service
  • Connect the benefits of your product with the prospect’s pain point
  • Provide a business strategy tip
  • Alert your buyer to an industry occurrence they might not be aware of

7) Getting too specific too soon.

A prospect might not be ready to hear all the ways you can change how their business operates on the first call. By offering too much specific advice, you’ve assumed that they’re going to buy, when they’re really only looking for more information about the product.

While you will eventually coach the prospect later in the sales process, diving into a full-blown strategy on the discovery call -- before you qualify the person -- isn’t the right idea. Instead of a full plan, formulate some simple tips you can provide during the discovery call and offer those, but not an in-depth strategy.

Every discovery call is different because every prospect is different. And while every call might have the same goal, reps can fall into traps resulting in a bad experience for them and the prospect.

The discovery call is meant for you to discover more about the prospect and for them to discover more about you. That’s it. Remember these tips and you might discover a new strategy for your discovery calls.

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Originally published Dec 28, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated October 29 2019


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