The Ultimate Guide to Discovery Calls

Discovery calls can make or break your sales process. When handled well, they can provide deep insights into closing deals faster and at higher values.

They are especially critical when markets tend to be competitive or emerging, which means more responsibility is placed on reps to make a strong case to buy.

Well-run discovery calls give you the insights you need to drive urgency and prove ROI.

Want to demystify the art of discovery? Check out these tips and tools that will help you turn discovery calls into closed-won deals, including checklists, call scripts, demo tips, insights, and more.

Get Started with Discovery Calls

What is a Discovery Call?

A discovery call is the centerpiece of your sales process — the conversation in which you establish your relationship with potential buyers and lay out the path to a sale. Discovery can occur at various points along the buyer’s journey, but it typically follows a cold call or other marketing play that piqued the prospect’s interest in your product.

During a discovery call, a provider and a prospect find out if they’re right for one another — whether the provider can appreciate the customer’s challenges and provide a solution for them.

If you asked the right questions during the initial cold call, you should have a solid basis from which to begin building a body of research for your discovery call.

The Anatomy of a Discovery Call

Typically, reps take multiple discovery calls over a period of 10 days. If you consider that an average sales cycle is about 90 days, discovery calls likely place about a month after you began reaching out to the prospect.

According to Chorus’ analysis of sales calls, 32% of cold calls will turn into discovery calls, and 19% of those will eventually become closed-won deals.

Discovery calls are more likely to take place one-on-one when compared to calls later on in the sales cycle. However, for discovery calls that turned into closed-won deals, our analysis found that reps invited a colleague, such as a manager or sales engineer, early on.

Typically, you should create at least two engaging moments on discovery calls where prospects monologue for 30 seconds or more in response to an open-ended question.

6 Steps for the Perfect Discovery Call

1. Slow down discovery to speed up

According to our call recording data, discovery calls for closed-won deals are typically 13% longer than average, and reps take up to two calls in this stage.

It’s important to consider discovery as a process, not a single call.

If you spend more time getting to know your prospect’s pain points, opportunities, how you’ll drive ROI, and which competitors the prospect is considering up front, you’ll close more deals.

If topics like competitors and discounts come up later on, you’re more likely to lose the deal.

2. Prepare

Regular practice and research into your accounts is critical for a good discovery call. In fact, top-performing reps listen to eight or more of their own recorded calls each month, about four of which are discovery calls.

Before jumping on a discovery call, dig deeper into these areas: 

Know your prospect’s history with your company and any competitors they’ve used.

  • Learn what’s happening with their company and industry by reading recent news
  • Review the articles they’ve shared on social media
  • Use company data and intelligence from ZoomInfo to understand their fiscal year and how they buy

It may make sense to send your prospect a few questions by email beforehand. If they’re too busy, at least prospects will have a better idea of what you’ll cover together on the call.

3. Confirm your agenda

One great way to start a discovery call is by using the ACE methodology.

  • First, say you appreciate the prospect’s time.
  • Then, check the time: “It seems we have 30 minutes together today.”
  • Finally, confirm your end goal.

Be sure to ask the prospect if there’s anything you missed that they’d like to get out of the conversation. This helps people understand how the time will be used so there are no surprises.

4. Make your discovery call conversational

Chorus research of millions of sales calls shows that reps typically talk 54% of the time on discovery calls. To get the prospect to open up, consider asking a half-dozen questions, including two to four engaging questions — queries that can’t be answered with a yes or no.

Here are some of our favorite engaging questions for discovery calls:

  • What prompted you to explore our solution?
  • Tell me about your current process to do X.
  • What are you looking to improve about Y?
  • What would happen if you didn’t do anything and kept X the same?
  • Who is involved in the decision-making process to buy?
  • Are there any important dates or timelines I should be aware of as we continue conversation?
  • What, if anything, piqued your interest on our call today?
  • How would you measure success for this?
  • What types of KPIs would you expect to impact and how?
  • Have you considered any other solutions to solve Y?

You also need to prepare to answer the prospects’ questions. Typically, they’ll ask around eight questions on a discovery call.

Often, their questions will involve pricing. Discounts are mentioned on 50% of discovery calls, and pricing is mentioned, on average, about five times.

Here are some of the top questions your reps should be prepared to answer:

  • How must does it cost?
  • How does your pricing model work?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • How do you compare to X competitor?
  • What kinds of results are your clients seeing?
  • What’s one thing I should NOT use this for?
  • How long does it take to implement and what is the process?
  • Who typically gets involved?
  • How do you handle security and compliance?
  • Do you offer discounts or scaled pricing? How does that work?
  • What services do you offer?

5. Identify & prioritize highly educated prospects

Highly educated prospects are people who’ve clearly done their homework on your market and are typically evaluating you against competitors. You can spot an educated prospects by the volume of questions they ask — about one question every three minutes.

Prospects typically mention competitors three times on discovery calls. But on discovery calls that turn into closed-won deals, prospects bring up competitors about five times. Rather than viewing competitor mentions as a bad thing, know that this is a sign your prospect is likely purchase-ready. This may be a good time to bring in another member of your team, such as a manager or sales engineer.

When dealing with discovery calls, try to ask five questions, at least two of which are engaging. When you ask more than five questions to more educated prospects on discovery calls they tend to get annoyed. In fact, these deals are 24% more likely to be lost.

6. Turn on your webcam

Just as the personal touch is important during a discovery call, so is visual presentation when you’re meeting the prospect via a video call.

When it comes to sharing materials from your company, ensure you have the latest slide decks, that you’re familiar with how the demo you’re using works and, of course, that you don’t leave that ESPN tab you were reading at lunchtime open in the background when you begin to screen-share.

Test the camera before the call, noting what’s behind you and ensuring you are well-lit, dressed professionally, and (yes) smiling.

Leading Your Discovery Call

Preparation complete. Lucky tie on, deep breath taken, and you’re on the call. Once you’re there, knowing how to lead the conversation is key to finishing off with a sale being closed.

Don’t Front-Load

The least useful thing you can do when leading a discovery call is asking all of your questions up front

If you do that, you’re turning your discovery call into a Q&A followed by a sales pitch — it’s a structure unlikely to leave any room for your customer to make their own case, and also means you cede too much control of the conversation. Top sales reps spread their questions out across the whole call.

On the other hand, you may also want to sketch out a rough guide for yourself that reminds you whereabouts in the call certain key questions need to be asked. Refer to this if you feel the conversation is going off-road.

Bring Your Knowledge

That considerable body of research you built up during the planning phase should be deployed astutely. Your knowledge should primarily manifest itself in the questions you ask — but demonstrating your comfort in and understanding of the client’s area of expertise will shore up your credibility

Build up the customer’s sense of context around their issue — who’s had it before, and how they solved it.

If you’ve already been able to make an assessment of your customer’s pain points, demonstrate how your product can also make improvement to other potential pain points in their business.

Be Flexible

You may find that the conversation is going in a slightly different direction to your plan. If that happens, presuming you’re not going totally outside the lines, roll with it — your preparation should’ve given you the kind of expertise required to handle an off-the-script passage in a discovery call.

Practice the Art of Listening

Most content you’re likely to read on sales enablement, on anything sales related, will be falling over itself trying to tell you what you should do. It’s all too easy to forget that what you don’t do is as important to a successful sale. What you shouldn’t do with a discovery call is treat it as a one-way sales pitch — to close a deal, you need to be an active listener.

Knowing how to listen to your prospective customer is paramount to executing the perfect discovery call. Before trying to sell product features to your lead, you first need to understand their personal situation, and why your product can be of use to them.

In fact, key to being persuasive in a discovery call is to retain control, while appearing as though you’re actually ceding control to the customer. Come equipped with questions like “Can you walk me through your objectives when implementing this kind of solution?” Framing the conversation this way will allow the customer to give you rich, extensive answers.

While an airtight knowledge of your product and prospect are vital for discovery calls, what’s good currency in everyday social interaction is good for a discovery call too. Be charming — mirror your customer’s sentiments to show proof of listening and understanding, and build new questions based on what they were just talking about.

Discovery Call Script

There are many different ways to go about building out the best discovery call script for your team. This is the flow we use.

Demos During Discovery Calls

Our research found that 72% of closed-won deals involve a demo during discovery calls. The average demo is 29 minutes long. During the demo, reps talk about 57% of the time, so it’s important to keep demos conversational. Be sure to pause and give the prospect a chance to ask questions throughout, and see how they’re responding to the client.

Try Saying: Is any of this particularly relevant or helpful to your work?

Coaching for Deal-Closing Discovery Calls 

Reps win more when their managers listen to more early stage calls. Chorus analysis found that when managers listen to more discovery calls, reps see a 30% higher win rate. Unfortunately, most managers spend 60% more time listening to late-stage deals, which means coaching on discovery calls can get neglected in favor of coaching deals that are nearer to the finish line.

4 ways to coach reps to success on discovery calls:

Manager-led Coaching:

  • Have your rep bring a recorded call to a 1:1 meeting.
  • Pick one theme to focus on, such as asking engaging questions or handling objections.
  • Let the rep dissect the call first, then share two positives and two areas to work on.
  • Keep it focused!

Group Film Review:

  • A different rep submits a call and an evaluation theme with the group each week.
  • Let the rep dissect their call first.
  • Then, let each person score the call against a rubric and share at least one positive and one area to work on.


  • A rep can listen to their own calls as score them against a rubric, as well as listen to calls taken by other top reps.


  • Two reps can pair together and comment on each other’s discovery calls.
  • Questions Game: One rep role plays as the prospect, and the other as the seller.
  • The seller asks a question back to every question the prospect asks.
  • This helps reps get used to digging deeper rather than immediately responding to everything the prospect says without attempting to gain additional context.

Discovery Call Key Takeaways

With so many variables to consider and real revenue at stake, it’s tempting to exert as much control as possible. But this will actually hurt your chances of closing a deal.

Mastering the art of the discovery call involves great research instincts, precise forward planning, a clear sense of where your conversation will start and roughly where it will end. Beyond that, you have to be ready to go where the conversation takes you — listen, respond, and improvise.