3 steps for structuring a successful discovery sales call
3 steps for structuring a successful discovery sales call

An effective sales discovery call is your window to learning about your prospect’s pain points and motivations.

In fact, hosted correctly, a good discovery call helps you:

  • Build rapport with a potential customer
  • Take the first step in creating a lasting relationship
  • And, get information for improving future interactions with the target account 

The key to winning at hosting a successful discovery call? Structuring your call into three parts so you can ask the right questions at the right time.

I’m Krysten Conner, Sales Strategist here at UserGems and I was recently a guest on the 30 Minutes to President’s Club podcast where I talked about the sales discovery call framework I use to close more deals. Read on to find out how you can use it to improve your own sales process and boost your win rate.

3-step framework to structuring a great discovery call

Charles Muhlbauer's framework for an effective discovery call

The framework I use for structuring discovery calls is inspired by Charles Muhlbauer.

Over the years, I’ve customized it to keep it up-to-date and to make sure it aligns with my needs — which is my biggest piece of advice for sales reps because it’s important for your framework to match your ideal customer profile and business requirements. 

While these steps offer a strategy for you to follow, feel free to make them your own. After all, you know your users and sales process best. That being said, are the three steps I take to get the most out of my discovery calls. 

Step 1: Kick things off by serving up a menu of pain

The menu of pain is a multiple-choice question presenting the top three pain points target buyers say they experience the most.

By asking leads to choose their biggest challenge, you have a chance to:

  • Get to the root of the prospect’s problem faster. Open-ended, essay-like questions demand a lot of work from the prospect’s end. In contrast, giving them a starting point makes it easier for them to answer the question.
  • Establish credibility. By listening to you talk about struggles their peers are experiencing, prospects realize you really do understand the problem they’re having, encouraging them to open up.
  • Break the ice. The menu of pain is an effective way to start your first conversation as it gives people the opportunity to elaborate on the problem they’re struggling with.

For example, if you’re on a call with a sales manager, you could share that most others sales managers you talk to have three main concerns: generating pipeline, meeting sales quotas, or slow lead qualification process. Then, ask them what their biggest challenge is.


2 factors to consider for your menu of pain

Although sharing an accurate menu of pain isn’t necessary, making sure the menu is relevant to the prospect is essential. Because the roadblocks that a sales manager faces are always different from the ones stakeholders like the VP of Marketing deal with.

This is why it’s important you research the following two points as part of your pre-call research:

  • The persona you’re speaking with

Go through your ideal customer profile (ICP) for the persona you’re speaking with. Then prepare a menu of pain relevant to their buyer’s journey.

By using UserGems’ Meeting Assistant, you can also get daily, automated email updates packed with vital details about the prospects you have calls scheduled with. This includes social media information like their LinkedIn profiles, titles, and company website — reducing the amount of manual research you have to do.

  • Their prospect’s power line level

Based on your prospect’s role, you can determine whether they hold a position that is above the power line or below it — a concept that Skip Miller introduced in his book, Selling Above and Below the Line.

Remember that people above the line, such as Director- and VP-level position holders, care about things like grabbing market share. On the flip side, folks below the line such as sales managers care about the nitty-gritty details, such as reps’ performance and shortening the sales cycle.

Understanding both these factors is essential for preparing qualifying questions that are the most relevant to the person you speak with on your B2B sales discovery call.


Step 2: Dig into the pain with open-ended questions

After you get the prospect to elaborate on their struggles with your menu of pain, dig into the ‘why’ behind the issue they’re facing.

A common mistake that sales professionals typically make here is instantly sharing a sales pitch when prospects admit to a problem. However, doing so tells you little to nothing about:

  • Why the problem exists in the first place
  • What current solution they have in place to solve the problem
  • And, how widely the pain is felt within their organization

But by taking the time to dig into their struggles, you can learn what is prompting the prospect’s needs.

In fact, unearthing at least 3-4 reasons behind the potential buyer’s struggles is critical for a deal’s success as it gives you essential information for making your next call and developing a product demo relevant to the lead.

The takeaway? Instead of selling right away, focus on asking open-ended, why-based questions with the intention of learning as much about your leads’ pain as possible.

Step 3: Close with a set of transparency-encouraging prompts

By the end of the call, you should have learned the prospect’s biggest challenge and exactly why they’re dealing with it.

Now to close your call, present another set of multiple-choice questions that describe why people like them typically take discovery calls. Some of the most common reasons include prospects who want to:

  • Learn about new tools but who aren’t ready to buy them.
  • Urgently solve a specific problem (ideally, the same one that you discussed on the call).
  • Address a specific issue, but not right away because it’s not one of their top priorities.

Then ask your potential customer where they see themselves on this scale.

If a prospect doesn’t give a clear answer, ask them another set of multiple-choice questions to prompt them to be transparent with you about their motivation for taking your call. This is critical for deciding whether the lead is worth adding to your sales pipeline or not.

The right questions to ask at this point, however, will depend on who you’re speaking with.

With an above-the-line person such as a VP, for example, aim to get another phone call on the calendar. To do so, ask them how interested they are. For instance, tell them ‘I’d love to learn more about your problem, let’s talk again. What do you say?’ This way, you can prompt them to get you to sell to them.

But if you’re speaking with a manager instead, take another shot at being transparent. For example, say ‘hey, you and I know we aren’t the decision-makers. So if you aren’t feeling this pain deeply, this likely won’t go anywhere. Where do you suggest we go from here?

Taking this approach to close your discovery process encourages people to be open about where they expect the call to go.

It’s also a useful methodology to:

  • Disqualify leads that likely won’t covert
  • Correctly forecast whether a sales opportunity would close
  • And, prioritize leads with an urgent need to close more deals.

Your turn...Go host a great sales discovery call

To summarize, start your call with a choice question highlighting the three main struggles that prospects’ share with you.

When your lead picks a problem or corrects you about their actual struggle, dig deeper with ‘why’ questions. Finally, close your call with another round of choice questions — aimed at encouraging the prospect to narrate the next step.

Remember: this 3-step framework for structuring your first call with an interested prospect is fully centered around understanding their struggle, why they’re dealing with it, and what they’re doing to solve it.

In turn, the approach is helpful for succeeding in your follow-up interactions with the same account, and ultimately, closing the deal.

And don’t forget to try UserGems’ Meeting Assistant to automate your pre-call research work. Companies like Greenhouse, Mimecast, and Medallia also use it to track their alumni customers’ job changes for finding the warmest path into every account. 

Try UserGems for yourself to reach your revenue goals quickly and efficiently. 

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