5 tips for better discovery calls

Discovery calls are the first step towards a close. Richard Smith from Refract tells us how to do them better.

At our first Sales Confidence event of 2019, at Level39 in Canary Wharf, we were privileged to hear six great sales leaders share their secrets for success. Based on these talks, we’ve put together some articles. Even if you couldn’t be with us, you can still get inspired.

Richard Smith

Meet Richard Smith. Richard is the Co-Founder and Head of Sales at Refract.

Refract gives sales leaders and coaches rapid insight into the defining moments of sales conversations, evidencing where deals are won and lost, providing intelligence on the frequent errors made by sales reps. Clients embracing Refract’s technology transform their company’s coaching culture, reduce common mistakes on the frontline, and better understand the science of success within their sales conversations.

In his talk, Richard identified the importance of discovery calls in the sales process:

· Opportunity for the salesperson to determine how they can provide value for the prospect.

· To qualify prospects out of the funnel, not just qualify them in.

Then, Richard gave us 5 tips for better discovery calls.

1 — Closed questions work as well as open ones

One of the myths in sales is that you shouldn’t ask your prospects closed questions. You should ask them questions that get them to talk and elaborate. This is wrong.

A great tactic is to start with a closed question with options, then follow up with an open one. Once you have got the prospect to select the option you want them to, ask them to expand.

‘When I speak with other VPs of Sales scaling SaaS companies, they usually tell me they’ve got one of two challenges. Number one, they’re frustrated about how long it takes to get new hires up to become top performers. Number two, they’re frustrated that so much of their business is closed by so few people in their sales team. Which one of those are you bumping into the most?’

It’s a closed question, but when the prospect selects 1 or 2, you follow up.

‘OK, you selected number 2. Can you tell me more about that?’

Your prospect is now elaborating on the pain which your product can remedy.

2 — You want them to tell you more? Just ask!

Don’t overthink it. If you want your prospect to talk more, simply ask them to. Most prospects will happily elaborate on the pain that they have already told you they feel. You don’t need to trick them into it.

Many salespeople think you need a clever discovery question. You don’t. The purpose of discovery is to get your prospect to talk, not you.

Just try ‘Tell me more about that?’ or ‘What do you mean by that?’ It works for TV detectives; it will work for you!

3 — Active listening

One of the hardest skills for a salesperson to master is active listening. This is listening for specific words, the little nuggets your prospects say that tell you how you can help them.

Many times, a prospect will say an emotive word, but the salesperson will smile and move on to the next question when they should be probing deeper.

The best thing to do is grab those emotive words and ask questions around it.

‘You just said ‘that sounds interesting.’ What is it that is interesting to you?’

It makes the prospect reveal more. Employ active listening for more productive conversations.

4 — The power of the pause

Most salespeople hate silence. They see it as dead air which needs to be filled by words.

Don’t fear the silence. Use it to your advantage.

After the prospect has finished talking, count two or three in your head.

What usually happens is that it’s your prospect who doesn’t like silence, so they fill it with more words. They will end up giving you more information that you were initially looking for. These words are often where the value lies.

5 — Choose your words carefully

Don’t use filler words to pad out your conversation. Make every word count.

Don’t use wishy-washy terms like ‘I think’, ‘hopefully’ or ‘should be’. Be confident and strong in your assertions.

Here are some positive words you should employ in your discovery calls.

· Imagine — such a powerful word for storytelling.

· Relevant — many salespeople say ‘Does that make sense?’ Try replacing it with ‘How relevant is that?’ and watch your engagement grow.

· Fair — Fair is a great word because everyone wants to come across as fair, not unfair. When you ask a question like, ‘Would it be fair to get your boss involved in the demo if we found there was a good fit on this call?’, your prospect will usually say yes. They always want to be fair. This is a good outcome for you!

What do you think?

It was great to hear Richard’s specific and immediately actionable tips for better discovery calls. Now it’s over to you? What are your tactics for effective discovery? On the other hand, what do you see other salespeople doing wrong?

Leave a comment below and tell the Sales Confidence community.

If you’d like to be at the next Sales Confidence event, please click here to see our schedule.

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