What Is a Discovery Call [+29 Discovery Call Questions to Ask]


Congratulations on getting a new lead! Whether they’ve responded positively in a cold call, interacted with a form or content on your blog, or are referrals, it’s time to take this lead to the next stage of the sales cycle with a discovery call.

While it’s tempting to say the closing call is the most important call of the sales cycle, we at Smith.ai believe the discovery call has the highest stakes of any other during the sales cycle, making it one of your most important calls. Because they’re so integral to the process, we’ve put together this guide to help you nail every discovery call so you can close the deal. 

What is a discovery call?

A discovery call is the initial sales call after a lead indicates interest in your company or product. 

The discovery call has three main goals:

  • Introduce yourself and your product to the lead.
  • Qualify the lead to see if they are the right fit — 50% of the time, they aren’t.
  • Establish a strong relationship with the lead.

While conducting a discovery call, you aren’t just wearing your salesperson hat, you are also a customer service representative asking questions and listening to solve a lead’s problems. If you have this mindset while on your discovery call, you’ll leave a positive first impression with the lead, even if you discover that they aren’t a qualified lead.

10 steps to a successful discovery call

10 steps to a successful discovery call

You should divide successful discovery calls into the same four essential elements as your other sales calls using the SPIN model of sales:

  • Situation: Learning more about the lead and their goals.
  • Problem: Identifying the lead’s problems.
  • Implication: Showing leads why they need a change.
  • Need payoff: Guiding buyers to the next steps with your product.

But there’s more to a fruitful discovery call than the call itself. Quality preparation and follow-up are also crucial.

Following the ten steps below will help you ace the discovery call and set your lead on a path to a closing call.

1. Schedule the call

Most discovery calls should be 10-30 minutes long, but the time frame can fluctuate based on the complexity of your product.

A discovery call should not be a cold call. Ensure you are talking to the right person and that they have time to talk to you. Use a calendar tool to set up a time that works best for you and the lead. You’ll also want to indicate whether the call will be via phone or a video call during scheduling.

2. Do your homework

Before you pick up the phone, you need to do some research. The more you prepare, the more trust you will build with the lead, making it more likely they will close the deal down the road.

To avoid falling down a research rabbit hole, set a timer for 10-30 minutes, depending on the client. Then grab a computer and dig into the following:

  • The prospect’s website: Look at their About Us and PR pages to see their accomplishments and goals, then pop over to their blog to familiarize yourself with their thought leadership. Scroll through their Careers Page or open positions to see what they’re hiring for. This can give you insight into potential focus areas. Finally, see if they identify any partners or integrations. Knowing who they are currently working with can help you identify possible pain points.
  • Social media (including LinkedIn): Identify potential connections with the person you’ll be talking to. Maybe you live in the same area, went to the same college, or have a similar hobby. This will help you build rapport during the call.
  • News aggregator: Search the company in a news aggregator like Google News. Have they had any negative press coverage? Does that coverage indicate a pain point your product can solve? If they’ve had positive press coverage, make a note to congratulate them on their achievement during the call.
  • Previous interactions in your CRM: Familiarize yourself with prior interactions the lead has had with your company. Look for any red flags that might disqualify the lead and if they’ve had positive experiences with you (like through a live chat). Mention these interactions during the discovery call.

Once you better understand the lead, spend some time looking into how your company can help them overcome their challenges. Two good places to start are:

  • Similar clients: Once you understand the client based on your previous research, find similar clients who have used your product and pull any relevant information or case studies to have on hand during the call. Your point of contact will appreciate hearing about those clients more than clients who are only tangentially related to them.
  • Product use cases: Before making the call, ensure you have a strong knowledge of how your product can help this particular client. While you can’t prepare for every potential pain point you’ll discover during the call, you can have a few potential solutions in mind.

3. Send an agenda to the prospect

To keep the call short and show your point of contact that you value their time, assemble a brief agenda and send it over before the call. 

Agendas tell the point of contact what you’re planning to discuss, which means they have time to prepare. You’ll be able to accomplish more in the call if no one is fumbling to find information or stammering through answers to questions they aren’t prepared for.

4. Be conversational and build rapport

Start the call by introducing yourself, your company, and your role. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two, then thank the prospect for meeting with you to reiterate that you care about their time.

Once the introductions are out of the way, ask if you can record the call. A recording allows you to focus on the discussion rather than taking notes, which makes the conversation flow naturally. It’s also a handy tool for evaluating the call to improve your discovery call skills.

During the call, you do not want to be a robot with a script — it tells the lead you don’t care about them. Instead, use humor and be yourself. Establish a connection and show them you care about their problems and genuinely want to solve them. 

Be optimistic, positive, be aware of how your voice sounds, and consider your body language if you are on a video call. React appropriately to your point of contact’s voice and body language so they feel heard and understood.

5. Ask questions and listen

If you’re nervous during a discovery call, it can be tempting to race to complete the script, but research shows that the more you talk, the less successful you’ll be. Instead, aim to spend more than 50% of the call listening to your point of contact.

Keep your point of contact talking by asking open-ended questions about things you couldn’t discover online through research. Avoid asking all your questions at once, or they’ll feel like you are interrogating them.

6. Discover pain points

During the call, ask questions to help your point of contact identify their pain points. While some people may know exactly where their pain points are, many don’t. Ask questions to lead your point of contact to these identifications on their own; if you point them out directly, it can come off as too pushy, alienating your lead.

Once they identify their pain points, respond to them by labeling them with emotions. This validates them and allows you to empathize with them, so when you provide a solution, it comes off as authentic and not salesy.

7. Provide a solution

Explain how your product can help address this pain point. 

When positioning your product as the solution:

  • Reference similar clients this product has helped.
  • Provide case studies and social proof of how your product has helped clients solve a similar problem.
  • Keep the product explanation simple and save the more in-depth information for a future sales call or sales demo when there’s more time.

8. Schedule next steps

Before you hang up, it’s essential that you identify and schedule the next steps for any qualified lead. If you don’t, there’s no guarantee you’ll get them back. 

Common next steps after a successful discovery call include a follow-up email, a webinar, a call with a sales representative, or a sales demo.

If you learn this lead isn’t a good fit, it’s still essential to have a positive send-off. They may become a better fit later, and you want to be the first company they think of when they can take the next step. Even if they never become a good fit, if you impress them now, they may bring your name up at networking events, bringing you referrals.

9. Update your CRM

As soon as the call is complete, update your CRM accordingly with any pertinent information. Don’t wait to fill this out; do it while it is fresh in your mind so whoever interacts with them next is up to date.

If you recorded the call, skim back through it and pull out pertinent information; otherwise, you’ll need to rely on your notes.


  • Who you talked to and when
  • Any information a different sales person would find helpful (red flags, connection points, goals, etc.)
  • Plans for following up

10. Evaluate the call

Improve your performance in future calls with this point of contact and other leads by evaluating the call. What went well? What didn’t? 

Make note of what you notice didn’t go as well and identity strategies to address those weaknesses in the future. If you can, talk it over with a colleague and spend some time doing role play calls until you feel you have a new strategy in your toolbelt.

9 questions to ask during a discovery call

Types of questions to ask in a discovery call [+29 examples]

Your time is limited during a discovery call, and asking too many questions can seem as if you don’t care about the answers. 

Aim to ask no more than 6-9 questions during your discovery call, and ensure there are a few from each type. Mix and match from each category as the conversation flows rather than going in a strict order.

Company background questions

The answers to these questions give you the background information you need to clarify the information you learned during your research. Consider starting these questions with the phrase “tell me more about,” since you already know what’s readily available on the Internet.

Background questions to ask include:

  1. Tell me more about your company.
  2. I saw online [something you found during research]. I’d love to know more about that.
  3. What does your role look like day to day?
  4. What prompted you to reach out to us?

Lead qualification questions

A key goal of any discovery call is to conduct lead qualification, so a portion of your questions should determine whether the lead is a good fit. 

Lead qualification questions to ask include:

  1. What goals are your company focused on right now?
  2. What metrics are involved in determining the success of this goal?
  3. What decision makers are involved in this goal?
  4. What other products have you used in the past?
  5. What is your budget for achieving this goal?
  6. What is your timeline for achieving this goal?
  7. Do you have any criteria in place for choosing a solution?
  8. What’s the process for selecting a solution?
  9. What matters most to you in making a decision: price? Functionality? Something else?
  10. What might prevent you from moving forward with a solution?

Pain point questions

You want your point of contact to leave the discovery call feeling like you can solve their problem. Before they can see that, they need to know their problems and their impacts. 

Pain point questions to ask include:

  1. What problem are you trying to solve?
  2. What roadblocks are in the way of achieving your goals?
  3. What is causing those roadblocks?
  4. What is at stake for the company if you don’t reach your goals?
  5. What products have you used in the past to solve this problem?
  6. How much money is this problem costing you?
  7. What opportunities have you missed out on due to this problem?
  8. How has this problem impacted your company? Your employees?

Next step questions

Next step questions help you identify how to move forward. End your call with one or two of these, especially the one about scheduling a follow-up.

Next step questions to ask include:

  1. Do you have a potential solution in mind already?
  2. What does a positive outcome look like to you?
  3. What questions or concerns do you have about our product?
  4. How can I help make this process easier for you?
  5. What would it look like if you could wave a magic wand and fix this today?
  6. What needs to happen for us to help you solve this problem?
  7. Can I follow up with you about this conversation date/time?

Let Smith.ai help carry your sales load

Let Smith.ai take on your sales outreach campaigns so your team can focus their expertise on where it matters most: discovery calls, lead nurturing, and closing calls.

Our team of live agents can handle your cold calls, conduct lead qualification based on your requirements, and schedule appointments like discovery calls with your sales team. We’ll even transfer warm leads directly to you or your team at any time to ensure every lead is in the best hands. 

Schedule a consultation today to see how Smith.ai can help your sales team work more efficiently to close deals faster.


Sources: Business.com | The Duval Partnership

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Written by Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's SVP of Growth. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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