Sales Discovery Call Blog Series: What is Your Ideal Discovery Flow?

November 7, 2018

Shawn Parrotte

Ask anyone in sales and they’ll tell you why discovery calls are a key step in the sales cycle.

One, it’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the prospects and learn more about them in a way that builds trust.

Second, discovery calls helps reps focus on the pain points that the prospects are trying to solve and then use those pain points to drive urgency to change.

Sales discovery calls help make the rest of the sales cycle relevant to the prospect.

The Science team analyzed >3 million calls over the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of which fall under the category of Discovery Calls. We’re bringing these amazing findings to you over a series of articles, starting with this one. Our focus on this post is to show you how top sales teams sequence their discovery conversation to create an “ideal discovery experience”.

Learning 1: Your questions need to be ENGAGING #

Ask your questions in a way that elicits long, in-depth answers and keep the conversation going.

The natural question is, what do you mean by engaging? A question is engaging if it is both directly related to the sales cycle (e.g. current situation, pain points, capabilities, decision making process) and elicits a response from the prospect that lasts at least 30 seconds.

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Calls that had two or more such engaging questions have a 60% higher chance of advancing to the next stage compared to those that had one or none.

Engaging questions make the prospect think, provide details, and dig down deep. In short, all the good things you want.

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The average Closed Won deal had 3-to-4 engaging moments in the discovery phase.

Yes asking engaging questions is great, but do not try to go into calls with a list of 20 such questions and drive the prospect to answer all of them. Select the most relevant ones and spread them out over the call.

Our research also shows that asking the prospect more than two questions per minute can hurt engagement i.e. the feeling of being unnecessarily interrogated creeps in and their responses become short and curt.

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You have to make the customer feel that the questions are relevant to their business / usage needs and not just to your selling needs.

Learning 2: There is no ideal talk time for reps in sales discovery calls #

Even though top performers tend to speak less than others, what really matters is what you say.

Our data shows that top sales performers, on average, speak lesser than low performing reps. Everyone will generally agree that getting the prospect to talk more is good as it allows you to expose needs and pain points early on in the process.

So keeping your talk ratio less than 50% is a good best practice to follow.

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However, as you can see there is a lot of overlap and spread, so there is no single “ideal” talk time or talk / listen ratio. You want to make sure the prospect has ample opportunity to share their pains, concerns, and needs.

There are exceptions to this as well. For example, here are a couple of situations that are totally great and still heavily skewed towards one participant:

  • If the prospect is pre-“educated” i.e. much more aware and sales ready, they come prepared with a long list of questions to ask your rep. (Some very interesting data points about “educated” customers coming soon in our next article). As a result, the reps talks more than 50%.
  • If the rep’s questions are engaging, the customer may end up talking a whole lot more than the rep.

What is most likely to win is the “discovery experience" you provide the prospect. The ideal discovery experience is where the prospect feels:

That was a balanced discussion! The rep made an earnest attempt to understand our challenges and I learned about the value we can derive from the product.

Actionable insight: Create the Ideal Discovery Flow #

The keywords above are “challenges” and “value”. The discovery conversation needs to transition smoothly from one phase to another. Also, it’s best to end a discovery call on a positive note. This is what we call the “Ideal Discovery Flow”. In this flow, the conversation moves from being situational to pain-focused and ends with a value discussion.

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Is your team adopting the above flow? It’s highly likely they’re not. In our research less than a quarter of conversations have these specific phases.

So how do we as a team adopt this approach? #

As a first step, classify your discovery questions under the above three categories to create an IDF specific for your business. Use any of the following free templates (no sign-up needed):

Next you can demonstrate the use of this flow on a couple of average discovery calls from last week. Highlight and play moments from the calls where the flow breaks and coach the team on how to do it differently. Here are a couple of call recording examples:

Once you’ve trained the team on the right discovery flow and given them the right questions, you can track adoption.

Voila! You will attain Discovery Call Nirvana in a few weeks.

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