Missing Key Details in Your Discovery Calls? Try this simple exercise

“I just had the best discovery call!”, shouted one of my reps as she burst into my office.

It was 10 days before the end of the quarter at my third start-up. Demonstrating growth with each sales period was critical. The crew was hustling but like most revenue operations we had a bit more revenue ground to make up before the final buzzer sounded.

“Really?!?” I responded with enthusiasm. “Tell me about it”. “Well…” she began, stumbling to catch her breath, ”he’s a sales manager at this software company and he loves what we’re doing. I think we can even get a deal done with him this quarter!”. “Amazing!” I said.

I then proceeded to ask the rep a series of follow-up questions about her discovery call.

“Did the customer articulate a time-frame he wanted to be up and running with our solution?”

“Did he share insights into the magnitude of the problem he’s experiencing and how long it’s been going on?”

“Did you talk about the purchase approval process at his company and how he could get a deal done in the next 10 days?”

“What about pricing and budget?”

“Oh…” she said with a bit of a sheepish look on her face. “I didn’t really get any of that.”

“I see then”, I said. “So it kinda sounds like you had a friendly conversation with a polite man who liked us?”.

“Shit! Yes…that’s about right”

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Discovery calls, while critically important, can be deceptively complicated. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the discovery insights we’d ideally like to have. And Unfortunately, no matter how experienced, sellers don’t often leave discovery conversations with all the information they want. 

Uncovering Critical Insights

One of the reasons we take tons of notes in our discovery calls but don’t leave with the insights we were looking for is because we didn’t go into the call being clear on what we wanted to know in the first place!

Or more specifically, the key pieces of information we needed to know in order to determine if and how to progress the opportunity.

I call these critical insights.

Never fear! Here’s a simple exercise to help ensure you always come out of your discovery calls with the critical answers you seek. It’s about preparing for your call with the end state in mind.

Imagine your discovery call has concluded and you’re looking down at all the amazing notes you took.

Ask yourself, what insights would need to be on that page in order to call the discovery a success? In other words…


Step 1: complete this sentence:

“If we don’t leave the discovery call with details about _____________, then the call was a failure”.

For example, your initial list might look something like this:

    • Budget
    • Decision-making process
    • Value of our solution to the customer
    • Competition
    • Compelling event
    • Timeline
    • The problem we’re helping to solve


Step 2: look at your list of insight needs and order them from most to least important. After all, it’s unlikely you’ll get to everything on your call, and if you don’t, you still want to leave with the most important piece of information to move the deal forward.

For example, your prioritized list might look something like this:

    1. The problem we’re helping solve
    2. Value of our solution to the customer
    3. Compelling event
    4. Budget
    5. Decision-making process
    6. Timeline
    7. Competition

The rationale behind this sample ordering is that if we don’t know the problem we can help our customer’s solve, and the value (either financial, business, or personal) of solving that problem, it doesn’t matter how much it costs. Once we’ve identified the problem and value, then we can consider the budget and decision-making process. Then, if we’ve done a good job establishing 1-4, we can dive deeper into the other factors needed to bring our deal to fruition. Again, these are illustrative. The priorities on your particular call for your particular product or service might be different, and even change from customer to customer.


Step 3: formulate a list of questions and narratives that help you uncover those insights. Aim to work through them during your discovery call.


Three additional tips to help you along here:

  1. Discovery is a team sport: to help build your sales engine quickly and consistently, it’s helpful to ensure that any list you create is discussed, shared, and curated across team members. Instead of each team member crafting their own list of discovery questions, create a master list with input from team members. A discovery playbook that leverages the collective wisdom of the team and that everyone uses will significantly shorten your road to maximum discovery effectiveness.
  1. No polite interrogations: Remember, discovery calls are conversations! Don’t show up and bombard your customer with your questions.
  1. Create the right setting: just because you have questions doesn’t mean your customer will answer them! Going into your discovery calls with the right mindset and creating the right setting for your customer to open up is just as critical.

Conducting high-value discovery is critical to the success of your sales operation because it helps move business through or out of your sales funnel. But if you feel you’re leaving discovery calls without the critical answers you’re looking for this simple tip can significantly help keep you on track!

Here’s a bonus video illustrating this approach


Looking for more insights to help conduct high-impact discovery? Check out my discovery resources here and the Discovery playlist on the Cerebral Selling YouTube channel.


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