How to Master the First 15 Seconds of Your Discovery Call

Roy Solomon
How to Master the First 15 Seconds of Your Discovery Call
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Fifteen seconds is not a lot of time—but it’s enough to set the tone for an entire discovery call. In fact, those first few seconds are make-or-break moments. You need to be intentional from the get-go to make a memorable first impression.

When meeting in-person, salespeople can rely on things like a welcoming physical presence or a strong handshake to set the tone. But these days, in-person meetings are becoming a rare event; McKinsey reports that 35% of people continue to work remotely five days a week. Since the pandemic, sellers have had to adopt virtual selling practices for every stage of the buying journey.

During virtual calls, salespeople have far less to work with. Sellers have to rely on the words they say and their virtual presence, such as the video platform they use. Many sellers feel inadequate in this area; Korn Ferry’s 2021 Buyer Preferences Study found that just 33% of salespeople consider themselves effective at selling in a virtual environment.

It’s clear that, while much has been done to adapt to the virtual environment, we’re still in uncharted waters. At Salesroom, we’re in the business of helping sellers master virtual sales—starting with the discovery call.

I sat down to talk to two experts about navigating virtual discovery calls: Mike Marg, former global sales leader for Dropbox and Slack, and Sean Marshall, former SVP of Global Sales at

Here, we share seven tips on how to articulate and communicate the value of your products while demonstrating ROI to clients.

7 Tips to Ace Your Discovery Call—Beginning to End

1. Do your homework

The art of winning a discovery call, as many sellers know, begins before the call itself. Come prepared with background knowledge on who you’re meeting with, where they’re located, and what their interests are (usually all obtainable by perusing LinkedIn). 

This will make for a better first sentence, and one that’s more interesting than “How’s the weather in [fill-in-the-blank-city]?”

To really take your impression to the next level, come prepared with an opinion on where the pain points are for the prospect. Sean Marshall recommends doing this by engaging with their product and customer experience beforehand:

  • Go into stores to understand a product’s retail experience
  • Spend time perusing the product’s mobile site for a glimpse into the user experience
  • Sign up for email newsletters and follow on social media
  • Spend time on forums or online communities and find out what customers are saying about the company online

The Korn Ferry survey asked buyers what actions most influence their decision-making process, and 39% said they’re more likely to buy when a company provides “expertise & perspective.” Reps can offer this by using their experience to articulate what they feel the prospect is doing well and where there is room for improvement. By coming into the discovery call with this information prepped, you’re setting yourself up for success.

2. Stand out by building a genuine connection

The first five seconds of a call are crucial, as first impressions will impact how likely someone is to trust you. People buy from people they connect with.

You need to put your prospects at ease quickly—and one way to do this is to ask questions that build trust. Avoid asking generic questions like, “How are you?” Instead, try getting more personal and asking deeper questions like:

  • Why did you join the company you’re with?
  • What do you like most about your job and industry?
  • Where did you work before [current company]?

Buyers need strong relationships to feel safe making a purchase and to trust they are making the right choice. Build trust by asking questions that are open-ended, positive, and personal. 

3. Stay laser-focused on qualifying your lead

Remember, the purpose of a discovery call is to validate whether or not the product is right for the prospect. Mike Marg emphasizes the importance of staying focused on this end goal; a great seller will leave a discovery call knowing a definitive answer.

You get there, he says, by asking the right questions.

“Using the right set of high-level yet specific questions, you’ll be able to get deeper and deeper into your prospect's world,” Mike says. The goal is to polarize the outcome into knowing if it’s a fit or not.

For example, you can ask:

  • What tools do you currently use for achieving X? 
  • How are those tools working?
  • What could be improved?

Through these questions, you’ll learn more about the buyer’s pain points, and if/how your product can solve them. It's your job as a seller to peel back the layers during the call. And be patient, Mike says.

“Great sellers understand the importance of asking questions first, and saving pitching for the end,” he says. “Average sellers pitch the second they hear a pain their product can solve.”

If the prospect isn’t the right fit, don’t hesitate to say so. This is another characteristic that separates a great seller from an average seller, Mike says.

“Great sellers aren’t afraid to discover it’s not a fit and actually crave that because it saves you time,” Mike says. “Average sellers go on a single talk track each discovery call that never changes, and have happy ears. They think the call went great and aren’t aware of the reasons the deal might be at risk.

No matter what, you should leave that call with a certainty that it’s either a yes or a no.

4. Know who you’re talking to (and who you need to talk to)

Multi-threading—the ability to create relationships with multiple decision-makers throughout the sales cycle—is a key part of a successful discovery call.

When heading into a discovery call, Mike articulates the importance of doing an audience analysis. Ask yourself:

  • Is this person politically capable of buying? 
  • Have they made a deal of this size?
  • Do they know how to make a deal like this one?
  • Who else needs to be included to future-proof the deal?
  • Who on this call could be blocking the deal?
  • At what point in the process do different stakeholders need to join?

Mike recommends knowing the names of the decision makers in advance, so you can let the prospect know who you’d like intros to and when to include them. This way, you’re guiding the buying process and future-proofing the deal. 

5. Tell the buyer what you need 

In addition to multi-threading, a good discovery call leaves the buyer with clear expectations on how to make the deal. One of the biggest things sellers should keep in mind, Mike says, is that buyers don’t know how to buy.

“Many buyers don’t know how exactly to get a deal done,” Mike says. “You need to have the ability to take control in a customer friendly way.”

To do this, Mike recommends being as prescriptive as possible in telling buyers what you need from them during the discovery call. For example, instead of asking your prospect, “Who else should be involved in this call?” tell them exactly who should be looped in. 

The best salespeople don’t leave discovery calls up to fate. They keep themselves a step ahead of their buyers so that they can guide the conversation and make the most of their interactions.

Tools like Salesroom can help sellers stay on their A-game. During discovery calls Salesroom provides real-time insights and takes care of recording notes or highlighting key moments so sellers can focus on engaging with the prospect.

6. Demonstrate your product knowledge and expertise

Another ingredient for successful discovery calls is to know your product. Don’t leave it up to the solutions engineers to have the answers; if you’re selling the product, you should be able to answer the questions.

The data backs it up; 55% of buyers say sellers who understand their business, situation and needs influence them positively in their decision to buy. Showing prospects that you can speak their language, understand their problems and make proper recommendations will help you reach trusted advisor status.

As SVP of Global Sales for Klaviyo, an email marketing tool, Sean implemented this with extensive training programs for his sales team. Each rep was trained to know the product inside and out, and was a true expert when it came to questions about the product or email marketing in general. When you know your products well, you bring expertise to the table, which will draw people to you. 

“Teach prospects something so that they behave differently and benefit from meeting with you,” Sean says.

7. Invest in the right virtual meeting tools

The pandemic expedited the evolution of video conferencing tools, and the adoption of Zoom quickly jumped by 84% over a short period. However, when video conferencing became the norm, the bar was pretty low. Features were mainly focused on the ability to have three simple things:

  1. High-quality video 
  2. Clear audio
  3. Ability to screen share

While these minimal features may fit the bill for most meetings, they don’t offer the personalized experience a discovery call needs. This is why Salesroom exists.

Salesroom is an advanced virtual meeting tool designed for the modern seller—particularly the 67% of you who don’t feel effective in virtual sales. 

Salesroom helps you course-correct during the call with our Real-Time Insights, People Intelligence, and Meeting Hub features. These tools keep you one step ahead of the conversation—and the competition.

As an advanced virtual meeting tool, Salesroom also helps introduce structure and process into the chaotic universe of sales. Salesroom provides templates and call structures that leaders can configure instead of starting with a blank screen.

“This is really attractive because it standardizes the experience for your sellers, which leads to better outcomes,” Mike says.

It’s time to elevate the virtual meeting experience from what’s expected, to the unexpected. Invest in virtual meeting tools like Salesroom, and it’s a quick way to provide an unforgettable top-tier experience for both the buyer and the seller.

Making the most of every minute

Discovery calls have always been crucial, and during a bear market they’re more important than ever. Sellers are under scrutiny and now is the time to evaluate what you’re doing well, and where there is room for improvement. Instead of scrambling for more leads and more calls, these sales experts recommend doing a deeper dive on perfecting the sales process you’re using—starting with the discovery call.

Every second counts.

Start strong by preparing in advance. Know your product and know the prospect’s product. Lead with an engaging first question that draws them in and builds trust. Move into qualifying questions to understand their pain. Repeat back what you’re hearing to confirm they feel understood, while deciding on your own if they are a good fit or not. If not, offer ways you can help but communicate that this might not be the right time for the sale. If they are, speak with expertise about how your product is uniquely equipped to relieve the pain they’re feeling—and communicate it in such a way that they leave the call knowing they can’t live without it. Finish by clearly outlining the next steps needed to close the deal.

Easy, right?

It’s not easy, we know. But we’ve built a tool that can help make it easier. Salesroom is like a virtual assistant that comes with you to each discovery call, and can equip you with helpful information in real-time. With it, you’ll create a memorable experience and differentiate yourself from competitors. Book a demo today, and take your discovery calls to the next level.

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