A Comprehensive Guide to Sales Discovery Call (Updated 2024)

Yashvi Gada
min read
December 20, 2023

Discovery calls can be somewhat daunting for sales reps because the responsibility of adequately introducing a prospective client to your product or service falls on your shoulders. 

gif of dwight from the office on the phone

However, armed with the right attitude and information, you can quickly become a pro at running these calls and leaving a positive first impression on your prospects at a critical juncture in the sales process. 

Before diving deeper, let’s clarify what a sales discovery call is.

What is a Sales Discovery Call?

A sales discovery call is your first call after your potential buyer shows interest in your product or service. In the call you aim to uncover what the prospect’s actual problems are, and whether they will actually benefit from using your solution. So, it’s a call where both you and the prospect get to qualify each other. Once qualified, the prospect is then given a demo after which they can decide whether to buy the product or service or go for trial. 

This make-or-break step in the sales process sets the tone for the entire sales relationship and determines whether the prospect will turn into a client. 

A great sales discovery call: 

  • makes the prospect feel comfortable, 
  • unearths the information necessary for you to make an effective sale, and
  • makes a compelling case for the viability of your product or service.

Let’s begin by dealing with a frequent question sales team employees have about these calls – how long should the call take?

Also check out: Sales strategies to close more deals

How Long Should a Sales Discovery Call Be?

Discovery calls are not like the popular kids in town. Almost everyone despises it. And that’s because some discovery calls stretch over 30 minutes. 

The average length of sales discovery calls is 38 minutes long, but ideally you should aim for a maximum of 20-30 minutes.

If your calls tend to be significantly longer, revisit them to determine where you can make modifications about: 

  • Which questions you include,
  • The division of talk time between you and the prospect,
  • The structure of the call, and
  • The expected outcomes of the call according to its length.

Ultimately, there is no perfect prescribed length for a discovery call because a lot depends on the natural flow of your sales conversation and the quantity of information you require. 

gif of detox from ru paul's drag race all stars saying "just do what you feel is right"

Before you learn more about the kind of questions to ask and the process of conducting an effective call, you must know what purpose a discovery call serves in the sales cycle

What is the Purpose of a Discovery Call in Sales?

Discovery calls can go a long way in establishing the critical details of your potential customer’s circumstances. Through well-structured and engaging calls, you can: 

  • understand whether they need the product or service, 
  • find out whether your solution is the right fit for them
  • check if they’re a use-case fit, 
  • understand their budget, and timeline for implementation,
  • gauge how likely you are to secure their business.

And what you need is to have a foolproof process in place to run a great discovery call. 

Step by Step Sales Discovery Call Process

A great discovery call depends on how prepared you are. If you have all your bases covered, you won’t be thrown off by any turns the conversation might take.

Here are the 8 steps for a successful sales discovery call:

1. Research as Much as You Can

Since every prospect has different concerns and backgrounds, you must thoroughly research their business and concerns to tailor your call accordingly. This includes gathering information on their goals, pain points, and company background. By incorporating the information from your research, you can enrich your sales discovery process, get an idea of your prospect’s buyer persona and their business’ vision, and know whether they fit your sales agenda. 

At this first step of the process, it is also possible to filter out prospects with obvious red flags that may indicate that they are not likely to become clients.

2. Structure Your Call Beforehand

You are less likely to fumble or miss out on important topics if you plan and structure your call beforehand. Whatever the length of your call, divide your time carefully between

  • rapport building, which should take up about 10-15 percent of the total time,
  • furthering the sales discovery process by asking crucial questions, which form about 30-40 percent of the call,
  • highlighting your product or service’s relevance to the prospect, which should form another 30-40 percent of your call, and
  • discussing your next steps, including pricing, onboarding, and setting up a meeting for further negotiation, which should take up not more than 15 percent of the total time.

Use your discretion to intuitively intersperse your questions and sales tactics to create a naturally flowing conversation so that the prospect doesn’t feel rigidly shepherded. Thinking on your feet and adjusting to your potential client’s responses is essential. 

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3. Set Expectations at the Beginning of the Call

Agenda-setting at the beginning of the call increases the prospect’s confidence in your reliability and transparency as a sales rep. By being clear about what the discovery call and what follows it entails, you convey to the prospect that you respect and value their time while simultaneously building up their anticipation. You also establish your capacity to take control of the conversation.

Setting the right expectations for the call positions your prospects to better answer your questions and can result in you obtaining more concrete information and, thus, results.

4. Ask Open-ended Questions So Your Prospect is Constantly Engaged

It’s your responsibility to ensure that your prospect stays attentive during your sales call. If your prospect reduces the frequency of eye contact, nodding, or smiling when you talk, it may signal that you have lost their attention. Ask open-ended questions when you sense their mind wandering to bring them back to the topic of conversation. 

A simple tactic is asking them for their opinions or thoughts on what was discussed so they have to recall essential points to formulate an appropriate response quickly. When the opportunity presents itself, try to further the conversation by asking questions related to their day, such as what they’ve had for breakfast. Trust us; a little goes a long way!

5. Focus on the Metrics Your Prospect Cares About

Ensure you don’t overwhelm your prospect with too much information about your product or service. When in doubt, lead with value, not features. You must focus on the parts of your product or service relevant to the prospect instead of giving a rundown of all the features. 

You must help your prospect visualize precisely how your product solves their problems without giving away too much information and diluting the value they get from it.

6. Construct a Compelling Narrative

Try and weave both your surface-level and more detailed questions together by creating a holistic framework that takes into account your business’ ethos and values. This will create a compelling story for your prospective client to absorb and retain in their memory, thus providing a lasting impression of you and your product. 

Personalize your calls by bringing in anecdotes highlighting how your product helped out another client in a particular fix or recall a concern that a similar prospect had before and how you effectively addressed it. Softening your pitch to accommodate these human touches can significantly impact the process. 

gif of leslie from parks and recreation saying "i have a very important and very long story to tell you"

After all, a successful salesperson is one who continuously hones their storytelling skills.

7. Close on a Strong Note

Closing your calls on the right note is necessary to ensure you aren’t left hanging with vague promises of your prospect getting back to you after further consultation. Ensure you stress concrete next steps they can take, such as booking a product demo. It is crucial to lock down your next interaction with the prospect before you end the call. 

If the prospect seems close to committing to a sale, don’t be afraid to push for a close. Adding a sense of urgency by creating the impression of scarcity or focusing on a limited time frame to avail your services can work well in such circumstances. 


  • to all that you have learned about the prospect during your call,
  • to summarize their pain points,
  • to reiterate how your product or service can solve this,
  • To outline next steps clearly

 And of course, if you think there’s a mismatch of use case-fit, let the bird go. 

Check out more on Product demo

8. Record Your Calls to Revisit and Learn

Nothing helps you prepare better than through experience. The more discovery calls you make, the better you will get at the whole process. This natural improvement will accelerate if you record and revisit your calls to learn what you could have done differently. While reviewing your calls, you can:

  • come up with alternative ways of dealing with moments in the conversation where you might have hesitated,
  • check how you handled objections and think of better ways to handle them
  • streamline the structure of your call,
  • take notes on the increased knowledge you have about the prospective client and incorporate that into your agenda for following up, and
  • refresh your memory before negotiations.

Still confused about how to conduct a compelling sales discovery call? Don’t worry; we’ve put together some essential things to remember when you frame your sales discovery call questions to make your job easier.

Also, check out a complete guide to sales engagement

10 Sales Discovery Questions

Sales discovery questions are vital because they help you get information you cannot access simply by researching. Different questions can yield different types of responses, growing your knowledge about the prospect and their business. Here are ten questions you can ask prospective customers on a sales discovery call categorized under five types.

  1. Rapport-building Questions at the beginning of the Call

Rapport-building questions cover everything from making polite inquiries about how the prospect’s day has been to tapping into your research and asking them about things you’re genuinely curious about. Some good starters are:

  • What is your take on (insert recent development in their field)?
  • I was reading about you and noticed you (insert a professional development in their life that you want to know more about). What prompted you to take that step?

Rapport-building questions are an excellent tool to fill in gaps in your knowledge about your prospect’s personality and background, too.

  1. Qualifying Questions to Identify Key Decision Makers

Qualifying questions are particularly helpful in determining whether your prospect is a good fit for your business. 

gif from Cinderella where the glass slipper does not fit the stepsister's foot

They can help you decide the amount of effort you need to put in to reach a sale with the prospect and if that effort is worth it considering their executive capabilities in their company. Some questions that may give you an idea of who is in charge of the decision-making process are:

  • How does the buying process typically work in your company?
  • What metrics are you responsible for as the holder of (insert the prospect’s professional position)? Is there anyone else involved in this process?
  1. Questions to Understand Key Metrics

Identifying key metrics is the most critical step to dive deeper into the kind of change they want to bring into the future. Be as direct as possible during this step because a concrete answer in terms of numbers or figures is what you require. Some questions you can ask here are:

  • What are your hopes for a year-over-year revenue increase?
  • How has your ROI (rate of investment) been impacted due to (insert a recent decision taken or a problem faced by the prospect)?
  1. Questions to Unearth and Intensify Pain Points

It is crucial to identify your prospect’s specific pain points and allow them to emphasize their negative impact on the company to adjust your sales strategy better. For instance, you may ask,

  • What is your biggest roadblock to achieving this goal?

Depending on their response, you can tailor your follow-up to amplify the inconvenience caused by asking:

  • Which resources are being wasted due to this roadblock? How is this impacting team morale?

This prepares the prospect for considering your product and service as a potential solution to secondary and tertiary repercussions caused by their original pain point and increases the likelihood of a successful sale.

  1. Questions to Guide Your Prospect Along Next Steps

Don’t forget to nudge your prospects along the following steps to purchase before you end the call. Typical questions you can ask at this stage include:

  • Are there any legal or procurement reviews we must consider before proceeding?
  • Does this seem like a competitive solution to you? How do you see this panning out?

If your prospect seems like they will require further convincing, make sure to schedule a follow-up meeting at this stage.

It is important not to overwhelm your prospect with too many questions at once. Remember to space out your questions throughout the call. Be vigilant about the sales discovery call becoming an interrogation, and consciously steer it towards a friendlier, relaxed tone characteristic of a two-way conversation.

How to Handle Common Discovery Call Objections?

Nearly every prospect you speak with will have reasons for hesitating to commit to a purchase, which makes objection handling the biggest challenge in making an effective sale. Listed below are three of the most common objection criteria you will inevitably have to address.

  1. Objection on Competitors

To effectively deal with this objection, you must thoroughly research your product or service’s competitors. Draw up a factually favorable comparison and don’t just emphasize why your product is better – focus on how it is better for your prospect specifically. Consider offering an impromptu demo that might allow the prospect to put their qualms to rest.

  1. Objections on Budget

There are several ways to deal with this common objection. You can

  • offer discounts if they make the purchase within a stipulated time period (for instance, a week from the call)
  • specify how your product or service offers more than the average competitor 
  • bring out statistics on how prospects with similar concerns have seen an improvement in their metrics after making the purchase.

Focusing on provable and relevant facts regarding your product or service’s past performance is advisable for the best results since this objection turns the discovery conversation into a risk versus reward one.

  1. Objections on Time

If your prospect does not have the time to adopt your product right away, resist the urge to ask them when would be a better time because that means you lose control over your sales timeline. Instead, focus on asking them what they do have the time and resources for at the moment, and tailor your sales strategy to convince them about what you can realistically offer within that criteria. 

Illusions GIFs | Tenor

If your call has to be rescheduled due to timing, make sure to book your next meeting as soon as possible, even if it is just for a short while on the same day, so you have a better chance of maintaining your momentum.


When done right, the sales discovery process sets you up for a successful demo and, eventually, a closed sale. With the right information, you can qualify or disqualify leads, ensuring that you focus your attention on promising prospects. 

Learning through experience is the best way for you to get better at it, so don’t hesitate to get started. If a sales discovery call doesn’t go as planned, examine why and what you can do differently. If you’re unsure, seek the advice of a more experienced sales professional, or watch them conduct a discovery call to get valuable insights.

As long as you don’t get complacent and treat every call as a fresh opportunity, you will consistently improve your skills. Good luck!

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."
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