What Is A Discovery Call, Exactly?
So someone expressed interest in what you sell. And it’s more than a passing interest. They clicked the link to your calendar and scheduled a discovery call. Awesome!
Discovery calls are the first scheduled conversation you’ll have with interested leads. They’re when you get a handle on what the lead is looking for. It’s a chance to see if you’re a fit. And yes, there’s the chance of it ending in a sale.
It can be so exciting when someone books a discovery call. For a lot of people, it can be rrrrreaally scary.
If you fall into the “oh dear god” camp, I do get it. But there’s no getting out of discovery calls if you own a business. They’re the first step toward building a sturdy clientele, expanding your reach, and making more money.
So let’s talk this out. Is there a way to make discovery calls less intimidating? I think there is.
In this blog, we’re going to discuss 5 ways to make discovery calls less scary.
Spoiler - there’s no magic bullet in here. We’ll talk about how to prepare, how to ask questions, and how to handle objections. Mostly it’s about reframing the task and having some empathy for your potential client.
Snoop Before Discovery Calls
The most basic part of handling a discovery meeting - and the nerves they agitate - is to prepare. Do some basic research on your prospective client. Nothing creepy. Just some tactful low-intensity snooping.
Search them and their business online. Get a handle on their work, messaging, branding, and vibe. What’s their business size? Do they have a blog or podcast you can check out? How do they present themselves in the marketplace? Who do they follow on LinkedIn?
This kind of research is such basic and low-hanging fruit, it’s nuts to neglect it.
“For every 30-minute to one-hour sales call, I probably spend at least an hour researching the company..,” TransPharMed Founder Kirk Barnes told Forbes.com, “Additionally, I research the people with whom I am meeting, including any common connections, former employers or similar interests.”
It might feel a little weird to stake out a potential client like this, but it’s considered the bare minimum and it’s a magic potion for nerves.
Just being armed with ideas, a picture in your head, a little hard info, and an impression of how their customers see them can make you feel clearer about talking with them. It can make you feel more confident about guiding the conversation.
The Discovery Call Script
Some people think you should have a whole script for discovery calls. Some don’t. My take is a little more nuanced than “yes or no.”
Here’s the thing, if you’re reading this, you’re likely starting out. Trying to “wing it” is not a good idea. Usually, a lack of prep is just a form of avoiding discomfort. In the end it can rev up your fear and tank your performance.
So face the discomfort a little and prep your talking points.
Go into discovery calls with at least a rough outline of what you need to talk about.
Share the agenda with the lead at the top of the call.
Script a few points and questions for the meeting.
Use your “script” as a reference point, not a speech.
Unless you’re Meryl Streep, reading a script is gonna come across as stilted and disengaged. But a few good points referred to every once in a while - as a prompt - is a sign of care and preparation.
So keep it to a sketch with some formed talking points. This keeps the discovery call sharp, purposeful and organized while leaving space for real conversation. It helps everyone feel more relaxed while keeping your meeting on point.
Presence Over Presentation
If you want to dial down the fear, remember that you’re there to connect. It’s not just about making a good impression, it’s about having your WHOLE self on the call. Really being there for the client.
So. Put a post-it note reminding you to smile and breathe. Clear your schedule. Ask if you can record the call so you don’t have to take notes.
Then let the rest go and drop completely in.
Creating rapport isn’t something you do by squeezing in a persuasive message or forcing a presentation. It comes from being present with the other person. So make your discovery calls about opening the client up.
Ditch the robotic sales pitch. Don’t scan the conversation looking for the place to talk. Really receive the information they give. See them. Hear them.
If you focus on giving attention in the call, it’s likely to short-circuit your nerves and create a more authentic bond.
Open-Ended Questions Create A Conversation
Discovery calls should be peppered with open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that are expansive, explanatory, and cannot be answered with a yes or no.
Some open-ended questions are:
What are your ideal clients like?
Where would you like your business to be in 5 years?
Can you talk me through your current process?
What challenges are you struggling to solve?
What would success look like if we solved this challenge?
Just by seeing how they handle the question, you’ll get more than the information you asked for.
Open-ended questions reveal mental models, priorities, values, communication skills, and even process emotions. It converts your discovery call into a conversation.
Inspiration and Pain Tells A Story
There’s a real element of story in every sales call. Think about it. What does a good story have?
Peril? Struggle? Triumph!
It’s a hero’s journey.
Your discovery calls should include your lead’s journey. The pain of where they are now and a picture of where you can help them go. Create their story with them.
They’re on the call because something is wrong, something isn’t working. Help them to explore where things aren’t meeting their needs, then discuss how to solve the problem together.
People operate out of a desire to avoid pain and find bliss. “[Y]ou have to consider what is really going to inspire your customers to take action..,” says Entrepreneur.com, “Is it the pain they want for which you have a solution? Or is it the promise of what's possible for them?”
Spend time getting to what’s motivating them to reach out. Co-create the vision of that pain and that goal.
Objections Are a Team Sport
I think what many of us fear most in a discovery call is facing objections. But it’s nothing to fear.
First, take some time to consider potential objections during your research. Put yourself in their place. Fold answers to those objections into your conversation before they even come up.
For the rest of the objections, remember that your first job is just to listen. It’s a “Discovery Call.” This is one of the things you’re trying to discover. So embrace them and listen.
See if you can fully flesh out what’s underneath the objection. Sometimes leads can’t articulate the problem clearly, so you want to make sure you’re addressing the real issue.
Answer their objection then with a more informed offering - even if it’s the same offering with more focus on the new need. A fuller picture of the solution is likely possible with this new info.
The main thing is to reframe your fear of objections as an opportunity to co-create a solution with the lead. Lean into solving the objection as a team so the resolution is a win for both of you.
The Bottom Line
Look I wish I could tell you it won’t be scary. It will be for a while. It’s not the end of the world, but…yeah…it’s a little intimidating.
You’ll have some epic fails. Some cringe moments. And sometimes you’ll do everything great and still not book the client.
I know you can handle all that.
Here’s what I can virtually promise you. You will get better. YOU WILL. And there will be a time when it feels so much more natural.
For now, if you approach discovery calls knowing that the lead is just like you.
They want it to go well too.
They want to find an answer.
You might be able to find compassion for both of you - and have a pleasant and productive conversation.
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