Sales

Discovery Call Checklist: 12 Steps for a Strong Sales Discovery

May 5, 2022

Written byKyle Parrish

Discovery Call Checklist: 12 Steps for a Strong Sales Discovery
  • Pre-call preparation
  • On the call
  • Post-call
  • Wrap up
  • Discovery Call FAQs

Deals are won and lost in discovery. 

No pressure. 

If you qualified your prospect properly, you should already know they’re a good fit. Now, you need to use the discovery call to dive deep into their pain, processes, and find out who the decision makers are. 

And who they’re looking at besides you. 

Like we said, no pressure. 

It’s a lot to cover in one call, but failure to gather all this vital info could see you lose out to another hungry AE, even if yours is the better product. 

Feeling that pressure yet? (If not, what’s your secret, Iceman!?)

 

We make software for salespeople, so we know how hard it is to extract all the information you need without turning the conversation into an interrogation.

We reached out to real live sales professionals to see how they handle this critical stage. Based on those conversations, we’ve put together a checklist to help you run better discovery and boost your chances of moving prospects forward to the next stage.

Read on to learn about: 

  • How to prepare for the call  
  • How to run an effective discovery call  
  • How to follow up with precision

Run excellent discovery calls with true sales engagement. Mixmax automates repetitive or manual tasks to help you stay on top of it all throughout the sales process.


See how it works

Pre-call preparation

Preparing for your sales discovery process by going over your questions and meeting agenda will help you feel more confident and put you in a better position to make the most of the call.

Step 1: Do your research 

In addition to the information gathered while qualifying your prospect, you’ll need to become an expert in the common issues associated with their role, and what challenges their company might face.


You also need to dig up specific information on your prospect’s goals, so you can figure out how you can help and tailor your offering and demo accordingly.  

Do’s 

  • Devise a pre-call checklist to ensure you’re organized and hit all your key points. 
  • If you’re an AE and the SDR qualified the prospect, you still need to do your own pre-call research to understand their unique challenges and how your solution can help.
  • Look for specific company priorities or initiatives that you can tie into your value proposition. 
  • Share your research with relevant internal parties joining the call (PM, VP, etc.)

Don'ts 

  • 01_AE meme
  • Only rely on the information provided by your CRM—you need to dig deeper into your prospect’s line of business and potential challenges, using some of the prospecting tools mentioned below. 

Step 2: Plan the call and set expectations

Once you’ve gathered and organized all the essential information on your prospect, outline what you want to accomplish and get out of the call

As stated by Ian Sells, CEO & Founder at RebateKey, “One of the biggest challenges in a discovery call is a prospect who doesn't know what they want. However, a skilled sales rep should still be able to unravel and discover the prospect's goals and issues by asking the right questions.”

Do’s 

  • Prepare a list of sales discovery questions that match their stage in the buyer journey. They should be designed to gather the information you need to decide if they’re a good fit and establish the next steps. 
  • Set the duration of the call.
  • Share the proposed agenda with your prospect in advance and double-check that it’s included in the meeting invite. 
  • Send out an automated email reminder 24 hours in advance to make sure they’re still attending. If you’re using Mixmax, you can pre-program this step into your sales prospecting sequence.
  • Share relevant materials to inform them about you and your solution prior to the call so they know who they’re talking to. This ensures you’re making the most out of the time allotted for the discovery call. Use Mixmax integrations to easily insert short videos, articles, blog posts, use cases, etc., right from your Gmail inbox.  

Don'ts

  • Push your solution during this stage. Treat it as an informational exchange, not a pitch opportunity. 
  • Create a sales deck or presentation—this can deter your prospects from contributing to the call, which makes discovery even more challenging. 

Planning and preparation tools 

  • Sales engagement platforms
    • Mixmax - to effortlessly share materials in email, set up sequences, engagement alerts, and automated reminders to keep you on top of everything, and schedule meetings without leaving Gmail. Also, it syncs with your CRM, so you know the information from the qualifying call and other interactions is up to date.

02_Mixmax sync

    • You can also collect information from prospects by embedding Mixmax polls & surveys directly in your emails. Or, use them to gather customer feedback and testimonials to present to your prospect during the discovery process. 

Once you’ve done your planning and prep, you’re ready to start the call and dive into the discovery process. 

Step 3: Open the meeting 

How you open the discovery call will set up the tone of the discussion and how well you’re able to connect with your prospect


Do’s

  • Reiterate what the prospect can expect during the call and establish context.
  • Convey that both sides need to determine if there’s alignment to ensure you’re a great fit for each other. For example, “The agenda of this call is to learn more about your business needs and see what we can do to help. If there’s a good fit, we’ll dive into next steps.  
  • Establish the objectives of the call and make it known that this is not a one-sided sales pitch and that your prospect’s input is necessary and expected during the conversation. 
  • Concisely state what you understand so far about your prospect’s role, responsibilities, and challenges.
  • Empathize with their set of circumstances, and validate their reasons for having stuck with the status quo so far.
  • Use the discovery call to validate your previous assumptions about the prospect. 

Don'ts 

  • Ask them what their position is (you should have established this during the sales qualification stage).
  • Ask them what they’re trying to accomplish (this is information you should already have, at least in part, and will expand on later).
  • Pitch slap your prospect. 

Step 4: Understand their current situation

During this stage, you should get a firm understanding of the tools and processes your prospect uses on a daily basis. 

Do’s

  • If you’re selling tech, ask about your prospect’s tech stack and tools to better understand what they use and how they work. 
  • Ask how it’s all working out for them. 
  • Ask about their adoption of those tools and processes and why they landed on their current selection. 

Don'ts 

  • Badmouth their current tools and processes. 
  • Use it as an opportunity to badmouth your competitors. 

Step 5: Expand on their challenges/pain points

This stage is all about delving into your prospect’s strategic business initiatives, KPIs, and pain points. 

 

Do’s

  • Summarize what you already know. Then, go beyond surface-level problems and speak to the fundamental challenges in your prospect’s domain. 
  • To effectively expand on their pain points, lead with actionable insights and inform your prospects what the typical challenges people in the same role are facing. Ask if they face the same ones, and, if so, if they can elaborate.
  • Remember to ask open-ended sales engagement questions to establish a dialogue and get them to open up. 
  • Understand their pain as a quantifiable metric. For example, “What are your challenges costing you?”  
  • Aim to understand their personal KPIs this year/quarter. 
  • Establish yourself as an authority and leader in your space by using their language, and showing you’ve done your research and understand their problems. 
  • Prove your credibility to inspire trust by making it about them, not you. 
  • Summarize and seek verbal validation throughout. Don't just assume you’re hitting all their pain points or that they’re all relevant. 
  • Validate their concerns, objections, and reasons for having stuck with the status quo up to now. 
  • Be genuinely interested and curious about how you can help. Remember, you’re a trusted advisor who sells solutions, not products. 

Don'ts 

  • Ask your prospects directly what their pain points are. This will make you look like you haven’t done your homework. 
  • Rely on your prospect to drive the conversation, allow them to dominate it too much, or take you totally off track (some flexibility is necessary, but you need to keep an eye on what you need to achieve on this call).
  • Give your prospect reason to doubt your knowledge of their specific problem/industry/challenges, etc. 
  • Rush in with your solution as a band-aid when pain surfaces. Listen and let them talk (aka “peeling the onion”). 

Step 6: Affirm their goals 

Now that you’ve defined their problem, look for ways to build an emotional connection in the conversation by affirming their goals. 


Do’s

  • Tie emotion into the call by gently reminding your prospect of the pain associated with their problem, so they can re-establish their desire to move forward. (i.e. “What does that involve?” Or “What does that look like for you?”
  • Continue to build trust based on feeling and empathy by using their language, matching their tone, listening more than talking (aim for an 80-20 ratio), and validating them. 
  • Go deep into the validity of their goals and sentiments by conceding that they deserve a problem-free experience. 

Don'ts 

  • Rely on facts to elicit an emotional response. 
  • Over-analyze or simplify their goals. 

Step 7: Define success  

Now’s your chance to define a successful roadmap by exploring the possibilities your solution offers. 


Do’s

  • Ask your prospect a series of “Imagine if you could…” or “What if you could…” questions. 
  • Outline your value proposition as it relates specifically to them. Be sure to position your product as a potential solution, but one that can help them achieve what they care about.
  • Paint a picture of the bespoke value you bring to the market and how your solution can help them do things differently, and better (here’s more information on how to write a sales pitch).  

Don'ts 

  • Dump all of your solution’s features onto them (aka a “features dump”), especially ones that aren’t relevant. 
  • Talk about what your solution does (but rather what it can help them achieve). 

Step 8: Prove credibility 

To convince your prospect that you’re the right fit for them, you’ll have to demonstrate your credibility and how you’ve helped others achieve their goals. 


Do’s 

  • Back up the claims about your solution with customer testimonials or social proof, statistics, or a brief story. Having real, relevant examples of your solution delivering on its promise helps build credibility. 
  • If needed, incorporate metrics into your stories, in a simple one-sentence structure:
    • i.e. {State value position} that’s how our solution helped {XYZ company} achieve {attractive metric} through our {bespoke solution}. 
  • Supply a metric that matters to your prospect. Make sure ​​to use exact numbers, not rounded up ones. Exact sounds believable, rounded up does not.
  • Provide a testimonial that hits home, because it’s relevant to them.  

Don'ts 

  • Provide information about your solution that distracts your prospect or isn’t relevant to their problem.  

Step 9: Find their compelling event

Here, you need to find out when their problems need to be solved and what happens if they aren’t. 


Do’s 

  • Inquire about your prospect’s timeline.
  • Ask your prospect what their timetable is for implementing a new solution. For example: “Assuming you find a solution that helps you solve ______ when would you like to have a solution implemented?”
  • Agree on a mutual action plan for implementing your solution. 

Don'ts 

  • Change the agreed-upon milestones outlined in the mutual action plan. 

Step 10: Understand their decision-making process

To ensure you’re on the right track, you’ll need to understand which stakeholders need to be involved in the process, and who the ultimate decision-makers are. 

Do’s

  • Ask open-ended questions to get a clear understanding of what needs to be approved and by whom. Here are some useful questions to ask: 
    • Based on your desire to have a tool launched by X date what is the process to get there?
    • What are your evaluation criteria?
    • Who needs to be a part of the evaluation?
    • Who is making the final go/no-go decision?
    • What does your purchasing process look like? 

Don'ts 

  • Go over anybody’s head or behind their back to get to a higher-level decision-maker. This won’t help establish trust. 
  • Be pushy or disregard their internal process. 

 

Step 11: Align on next steps

You’ve gathered the information you need, and introduced them to the possibility of a brighter future with your solution. Now it’s time to see how you can move forward.  


Do’s 

  • Gauge how they feel about moving forward by asking if they feel confident about your solution’s ability to help them solve their problem. 
  • Refer back to your mutual action plan to evaluate progress, and set a date for the next meeting (demo) right away. 

Don'ts 

  • Try to convince them if they’re not comfortable moving forward, or confident enough about your solution. You’re discovering whether they’re a good fit, not forcing them to fit. 
  • Try to fit in extra, last-minute information in the final minutes of the call. This will only confuse your prospect and make you look disorganized. However, your discovery process can sometimes consist of more than one call. Schedule another call, if need be, with Mixmax’s one-click meeting booking links.  

Tools 

  • Video calling software
  • Sales engagement platforms 
    • Mixmax syncs with your CRM, so you can use the dialer directly from your email inbox, which saves time hunting for numbers and dialing them. All sales activity is also automatically updated, making your CRM a source of truth.
    • Send an email with your availability and a one-click meeting-booking link to reduce friction and make it easy for everyone to respond. 
    • Send a follow-up email summarizing the call, sharing additional sales collateral, and a poll to gather any more information you need. 
  • Call recording and call intelligence software
    • Gong
    • Mixmax enables you to listen back to calls and improve for next time, and get actionable data-driven insights into what works. Also, Mixmax recordings are synced directly to Salesforce. 
  • Note syncing tools to CRM

On the call

Once you’ve done your planning and prep, you’re ready to start the call and dive into the discovery process. 

Step 3: Open the meeting 

How you open the discovery call will set up the tone of the discussion and how well you’re able to connect with your prospect


Do’s

  • Reiterate what the prospect can expect during the call and establish context.
  • Convey that both sides need to determine if there’s alignment to ensure you’re a great fit for each other. For example, “The agenda of this call is to learn more about your business needs and see what we can do to help. If there’s a good fit, we’ll dive into next steps.  
  • Establish the objectives of the call and make it known that this is not a one-sided sales pitch and that your prospect’s input is necessary and expected during the conversation. 
  • Concisely state what you understand so far about your prospect’s role, responsibilities, and challenges.
  • Empathize with their set of circumstances, and validate their reasons for having stuck with the status quo so far.
  • Use the discovery call to validate your previous assumptions about the prospect. 

Don'ts 

  • Ask them what their position is (you should have established this during the sales qualification stage).
  • Ask them what they’re trying to accomplish (this is information you should already have, at least in part, and will expand on later).
  • Pitch slap your prospect. 

Step 4: Understand their current situation

During this stage, you should get a firm understanding of the tools and processes your prospect uses on a daily basis. 

Do’s

  • If you’re selling tech, ask about your prospect’s tech stack and tools to better understand what they use and how they work. 
  • Ask how it’s all working out for them. 
  • Ask about their adoption of those tools and processes and why they landed on their current selection. 

Don'ts 

  • Badmouth their current tools and processes. 
  • Use it as an opportunity to badmouth your competitors. 

Step 5: Expand on their challenges/pain points

This stage is all about delving into your prospect’s strategic business initiatives, KPIs, and pain points. 

 

Do’s

  • Summarize what you already know. Then, go beyond surface-level problems and speak to the fundamental challenges in your prospect’s domain. 
  • To effectively expand on their pain points, lead with actionable insights and inform your prospects what the typical challenges people in the same role are facing. Ask if they face the same ones, and, if so, if they can elaborate.
  • Remember to ask open-ended sales engagement questions to establish a dialogue and get them to open up. 
  • Understand their pain as a quantifiable metric. For example, “What are your challenges costing you?”  
  • Aim to understand their personal KPIs this year/quarter. 
  • Establish yourself as an authority and leader in your space by using their language, and showing you’ve done your research and understand their problems. 
  • Prove your credibility to inspire trust by making it about them, not you. 
  • Summarize and seek verbal validation throughout. Don't just assume you’re hitting all their pain points or that they’re all relevant. 
  • Validate their concerns, objections, and reasons for having stuck with the status quo up to now. 
  • Be genuinely interested and curious about how you can help. Remember, you’re a trusted advisor who sells solutions, not products. 

Don'ts 

  • Ask your prospects directly what their pain points are. This will make you look like you haven’t done your homework. 
  • Rely on your prospect to drive the conversation, allow them to dominate it too much, or take you totally off track (some flexibility is necessary, but you need to keep an eye on what you need to achieve on this call).
  • Give your prospect reason to doubt your knowledge of their specific problem/industry/challenges, etc. 
  • Rush in with your solution as a band-aid when pain surfaces. Listen and let them talk (aka “peeling the onion”). 

Step 6: Affirm their goals 

Now that you’ve defined their problem, look for ways to build an emotional connection in the conversation by affirming their goals. 


Do’s

  • Tie emotion into the call by gently reminding your prospect of the pain associated with their problem, so they can re-establish their desire to move forward. (i.e. “What does that involve?” Or “What does that look like for you?”
  • Continue to build trust based on feeling and empathy by using their language, matching their tone, listening more than talking (aim for an 80-20 ratio), and validating them. 
  • Go deep into the validity of their goals and sentiments by conceding that they deserve a problem-free experience. 

Don'ts 

  • Rely on facts to elicit an emotional response. 
  • Over-analyze or simplify their goals. 

Step 7: Define success  

Now’s your chance to define a successful roadmap by exploring the possibilities your solution offers. 


Do’s

  • Ask your prospect a series of “Imagine if you could…” or “What if you could…” questions. 
  • Outline your value proposition as it relates specifically to them. Be sure to position your product as a potential solution, but one that can help them achieve what they care about.
  • Paint a picture of the bespoke value you bring to the market and how your solution can help them do things differently, and better (here’s more information on how to write a sales pitch).  

Don'ts 

  • Dump all of your solution’s features onto them (aka a “features dump”), especially ones that aren’t relevant. 
  • Talk about what your solution does (but rather what it can help them achieve). 

Step 8: Prove credibility 

To convince your prospect that you’re the right fit for them, you’ll have to demonstrate your credibility and how you’ve helped others achieve their goals. 


Do’s 

  • Back up the claims about your solution with customer testimonials or social proof, statistics, or a brief story. Having real, relevant examples of your solution delivering on its promise helps build credibility. 
  • If needed, incorporate metrics into your stories, in a simple one-sentence structure:
    • i.e. {State value position} that’s how our solution helped {XYZ company} achieve {attractive metric} through our {bespoke solution}. 
  • Supply a metric that matters to your prospect. Make sure ​​to use exact numbers, not rounded up ones. Exact sounds believable, rounded up does not.
  • Provide a testimonial that hits home, because it’s relevant to them.  

Don'ts 

  • Provide information about your solution that distracts your prospect or isn’t relevant to their problem.  

Step 9: Find their compelling event

Here, you need to find out when their problems need to be solved and what happens if they aren’t. 


Do’s 

  • Inquire about your prospect’s timeline.
  • Ask your prospect what their timetable is for implementing a new solution. For example: “Assuming you find a solution that helps you solve ______ when would you like to have a solution implemented?”
  • Agree on a mutual action plan for implementing your solution. 

Don'ts 

  • Change the agreed-upon milestones outlined in the mutual action plan. 

Step 10: Understand their decision-making process

To ensure you’re on the right track, you’ll need to understand which stakeholders need to be involved in the process, and who the ultimate decision-makers are. 

Do’s

  • Ask open-ended questions to get a clear understanding of what needs to be approved and by whom. Here are some useful questions to ask: 
    • Based on your desire to have a tool launched by X date what is the process to get there?
    • What are your evaluation criteria?
    • Who needs to be a part of the evaluation?
    • Who is making the final go/no-go decision?
    • What does your purchasing process look like? 

Don'ts 

  • Go over anybody’s head or behind their back to get to a higher-level decision-maker. This won’t help establish trust. 
  • Be pushy or disregard their internal process. 

 

Step 11: Align on next steps

You’ve gathered the information you need, and introduced them to the possibility of a brighter future with your solution. Now it’s time to see how you can move forward.  


Do’s 

  • Gauge how they feel about moving forward by asking if they feel confident about your solution’s ability to help them solve their problem. 
  • Refer back to your mutual action plan to evaluate progress, and set a date for the next meeting (demo) right away. 

Don'ts 

  • Try to convince them if they’re not comfortable moving forward, or confident enough about your solution. You’re discovering whether they’re a good fit, not forcing them to fit. 
  • Try to fit in extra, last-minute information in the final minutes of the call. This will only confuse your prospect and make you look disorganized. However, your discovery process can sometimes consist of more than one call. Schedule another call, if need be, with Mixmax’s one-click meeting booking links.  

Tools 

  • Video calling software
  • Sales engagement platforms 
    • Mixmax syncs with your CRM, so you can use the dialer directly from your email inbox, which saves time hunting for numbers and dialing them. All sales activity is also automatically updated, making your CRM a source of truth.
    • Send an email with your availability and a one-click meeting-booking link to reduce friction and make it easy for everyone to respond. 
    • Send a follow-up email summarizing the call, sharing additional sales collateral, and a poll to gather any more information you need. 
  • Call recording and call intelligence software
    • Gong
    • Mixmax enables you to listen back to calls and improve for next time, and get actionable data-driven insights into what works. Also, Mixmax recordings are synced directly to Salesforce. 
  • Note syncing tools to CRM

Post-call

At this stage, it’s important to remind your prospect of all the valuable information you’ve shared with them during the call, how you believe you can add value, and reconfirm next steps to keep the process moving along. 

Step 12: Post-call follow up 

Now that the call’s over, follow up with your prospect to ensure their initial interest doesn’t go cold.

Do’s

  • Send a summary of the important topics discussed (focusing on pain, process, and timing) and next steps. 
  • Detail action items discussed during the call, including responsibilities and timelines. 
  • Ask them to reply to your email verifying that they’ve got everything they need and that it’s correct. 

Don’ts 

  • Bombard them with too many emails pushing for them to move forward in a short period of time. If you’re using Mixmax, you can set up reminders in your prospecting sequence to follow up at the right time so nothing slips through the cracks. This ensures a warm prospect never gets chilly and allows you to schedule communications at the most appropriate times. 

Tools 

  • Sales engagement platforms 
    • Mixmax to set up a follow-up call in one click. Customizable email templates and the two-way CRM sync make it easy to personalize follow-up communications using information gathered during the discovery call.

03_Mixmax templates

    • Get real-time engagement alerts, so you’re aware when people open your email, forward it, or interact with your content so you can follow up with a call when you’re top-of-mind.
    • Get real-time email and Slack alerts for your team, and higher-ups, to keep everyone in the loop and avoid delays.

Wrap up

Done right, a discovery call allows you to find out more about your prospects and see if they’re a good fit for your solution. 

Basically, whether it’s worth investing your precious time and resources in them.


A good discovery call enables you to set the tone for future interactions and post-sales customer experience and helps establish a relationship.  

Once you’ve selflessly explored and understood the goals and obstacles of your prospect, you’ll be able to communicate how you can add value. 

Use our best practices outlined above to transform your discovery call process into a mutually beneficial exchange that helps you confidently place prospects in the pipeline and keep them moving toward closing the deal.  

Run excellent discovery calls with true sales engagement. Mixmax automates repetitive or manual tasks to help you streamline your workflow throughout the sales process.


See how it works

Discovery Call FAQs

What should a discovery call include? 

Use the discovery call to do a deep dive into your prospect’s process, pain points, and goals to determine if they’re the right fit for your solution. A discovery call should include a soft introduction to your solution and your prospect’s challenges, to help you better align your solution to your prospect’s needs. 

How do you structure a discovery call?

You structure a discovery call by

  1. Doing your research 
  2. Planning the call and setting expectations
  3. Opening the meeting 
  4. Understanding their current situation 
  5. Expanding on your prospect’s challenges/pain points
  6. Affirming your prospect’s goals 
  7. Defining success
  8. Proving your credibility 
  9. Finding the compelling event/establishing timelines 
  10. Understanding their decision-making process
  11. Aligning on next steps
  12. Post-call follow-up 

What do you do after the Discovery call?

After the discovery call, you should determine how and if you can add value to your prospect, so you can better tailor your demo to suit their needs. Then, send them a follow-up email to stay relevant and fresh to your prospect. Afterward, listen to the call and identify what you could do to improve for future calls.