How to Hold a Discovery Call: Steps, Questions & Free Script

Learn the key steps, best questions, and essential practices for conducting a discovery call that qualifies leads for nurturing.

A discovery call is an exploratory call between a salesperson and a lead with the goal of qualifying the lead as a prospect for further nurturing. Discovery calls typically occur as the last stage of the lead generation process where salespeople ask key discovery questions to assess a lead’s interest and fit. After the call, the sales rep decides whether the lead is a good fit; if they are, the rep logs the information they've learned about the lead and starts nurturing them.

How Discovery Calls Work

A discovery call is often the first verbal interaction a salesperson has with a lead, though sometimes the lead is pre-qualified by the marketing team and/or a business development rep using a lead scoring model. On the call, a sales rep asks discovery questions to verify a match to their ideal customer profile and qualify them as a sales lead. Because the call is qualitative, reps ask all leads the same questions within a framework to evaluate them in an objective and repeatable way.

One of the most widely-used lead qualification frameworks is BANT, which assesses the following:

  • Budget: Does the lead have enough funds to buy your solution? 
  • Authority: Does this lead have decision-making power? If not, can they at least influence the decision maker? 
  • Needs: Can the lead’s needs be solved by your product or service? Can your solution actually solve their problem? 
  • Timeline: Does the lead’s timeline work for you? Do they want results faster than you can deliver them? Do they need this implemented earlier than you’re capable?

Leads that meet a certain threshold are marked as a prospect or opportunity in your pipeline and move from the lead generation to nurturing stages of the sales process. If done correctly, discovery calls give salespeople a final check before deciding to invest more time nurturing the lead to close. Discovery calls are therefore often tangibly represented in the sales pipeline as the final qualification stage that bridges the gap between lead generation and nurturing.

Overall, discovery calls ensure you focus on prospects likely to convert while removing bad-fit leads from your pipeline. However, remember that you’re not trying to sell the lead during the discovery call. Instead, you’re attempting to learn about them and qualify them while building trust. An added benefit is that the details you gather about them will help you craft a personalized pitch, presentation, and proposal later on during lead nurturing.

Free Discovery Call Script Template

We’ve created a general free discovery call script template that takes into account the best step-by-step discovery call process to learn about your leads, along with top questions to ask. It’ll help you nail the main phases of a discovery call, including a rapport-focused opening and introduction, an agenda, discovery questions, and closing statements. We’ve included a screenshot of the entire template below and of specific sections throughout this article.

How to Hold a Discovery Call in 9 Steps

There are specific steps you can follow to ensure you leave a discovery call with a firm understanding of your lead and a correct decision about their level of qualification. These are the nine steps to plan and run a discovery call:

Steps to make a discovery call

Now, let’s get a 360-degree view of each step, using snapshots of our discovery call script to help you visualize some of the steps.

1. Schedule the Discovery Call

The first step to a successful discovery call is to properly plan the call with your lead so it will be worth your time and your lead's. Below are a few basic steps to follow before you get on the phone with them:

  • Explain the Call to the Lead: Give them a high-level agenda and the goal for the call so they know what to expect and can plan any questions or research anything on their end if they'd like. Tell them how much time the conversation will take so they can plan accordingly.
  • Add the Call to Your Calendars: Consider using a scheduling tool like Calendly so the lead can book a time and then automatically add it to your calendar and theirs. If you plan the call manually, create a calendar invitation with the key information and send it to your lead.
  • Plan to Follow Up With a Reminder: Schedule a calendar invite or a task in your CRM software for the day before the call. When you receive the notification, you can send an email to the lead to let them know you're looking forward to speaking with them and remind them of the time.

If you make these three efforts ahead of time, your lead will be more likely to answer the call, give you the amount of time you need, and feel more comfortable throughout. After you've scheduled the call, it's time to research your lead so you can sound prepared when you speak with them.

2. Research Your Lead

Like any other part of the sales process, your discovery call script, which we’ll show you how to develop in step 3 below, should be personalized to each lead. This results in a more fruitful conversation. To personalize the script, you need a foundational understanding of your lead, which you acquire through research across their web profiles: LinkedIn, their company’s “team” page, and/or other social profiles.

Here is the information you should find about your lead before crafting your script:

  • The Lead’s Job Responsibilities: Check their company’s website or their personal LinkedIn page and learn about what they do daily. This will help you understand their goals. 
  • The Lead’s Interests and Hobbies: Check their social profiles and their recent activity to see if you have anything in common. This can be a great opener to the call. For example: “I saw you were a Scout counselor for 10 years. I was an Eagle Scout myself.”  
  • Details About the Lead’s Company: Check their company homepage and figure out its size, industry, client base, and mission. That way, you can speak to their environment. 
  • Any Recent News About the Lead: Do a quick Google search for your lead and see if they’ve had any recent promotions or events worthy of celebration. Bringing this up is another great way to start the call.

This pre-call research is also another chance to protect your sales pipeline from unqualified invaders that marketing might have sent your way without proper vetting. If the lead seems unqualified, consider asking your more junior rep (if you have one) to handle a short initial discovery call or needs assessment before you take the reins. This will save you time and give them some practice.

3. Craft a Discovery Call Script

A written discovery call script is less a script and more a flowchart mapping your ideal conversation. It includes your opening, an introduction of your business, the questions you’ll ask, and your close. The main purpose of a script is to add structure to your discovery call and ensure that you acquire all the information you need to determine if the lead is qualified or unqualified. You’ll write the script and put it next to you for reference during the call.

Consider using the script template we wrote for you as a starting point for your own lead-specific script. When customizing, keep in mind that there are some key components all discovery call scripts should cover. These can be thought of as different conversational phases that guide the call to a successful end.

Here are the four main components of a discovery call script: 

  1. A Rapport-Building Opening: Your opening should kickstart small talk with something you learned about them. Example: “Hi, {Name}, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. I noticed in my research that you just got promoted! How’s the new gig?”
  2. An Introduction: Include your title, some of your credentials, your company’s mission, and the types of people/businesses you help. Also include the agenda for the call. This will give the lead context to better understand the meaning of your questions. 
  3. Your Discovery Call Questions: This is the crucial element of the call. Pick questions from your preferred framework that will help you uncover the right information to determine if the lead is in fact a good fit for your business.
  4. Craft Your Closing: Write two closes: one for if they’re unqualified, and another for if they’re qualified. You’ll typically ask qualified leads to schedule another meeting or demo, or a more in-depth discovery call.

We’ll talk more about each of these components below. Remember, however, that you can go off-script, especially if you’re onto something important. Perhaps you’ve identified the lead’s pain point, and you want to dig into it. Save the other planned questions for later and ask questions about the issue: its costs, annoyances, and how it's holding them back. Later in the sales process, your value proposition could involve this problem they mentioned.

bookmarks

Additional Reading:

For more information on how to craft a discovery call script, including a free template and examples to use, check out our article on how to write a discovery call script. There, you'll find key steps and ideas to create the most effective and repeatable script.

4. Build Rapport & Make Introductions

This will likely be the first conversation between you and the lead. So use the first five minutes of the call to get you and the lead feeling comfortable with each other, setting the tone for the rest of the call. Open with something about them you learned in your pre-call research.

Here are some other ways to build rapport at the beginning of a discovery call:

  • Bring Up Something You Two Have in Common: Bring up past experiences, job positions, or locations of residence you two share. Ask them how they like it. 
  • Be Yourself: During sales conversations, you probably have thoughts of funny replies or interesting remarks you’d like to make, but you dismiss them to maintain a certain level of seriousness. But let some slip out — your lead will see your humanity. 
  • Take an Interest in Their Life: If you saw on LinkedIn that they switched from finance to sales, ask why. If you noticed on Twitter that they’re training for a marathon, ask how it’s going. Get them talking about themselves.

After about five minutes of small talk, segue into the more formal portion of your discovery call with a short introduction of yourself and your business. This should set you up as a valuable resource to the lead. It should also give them some context about what you do and whom you help. That way, when you start asking questions, the questions won’t seem as if they were selected at random.

Check out our script segment below to see how to properly open a discovery call:

Discovery call script template opening, small talk, introduction
Script template opening, small talk, & introduction

5. Set an Agenda

After introductions, tell the lead what you’d like to accomplish on this call and how you’re going to do it. Typically, the reason for the call is to “see if we’re a good fit to help you and your business with {Original Thing They Said They Need Help With}.” Acquire this information from the business development rep who spoke with them earlier, the web form they filled out, or the past email conversations you’ve had with them.

Next, tell them you have some questions you’d like to ask to see if you’re a good fit to help. Then, get their buy-in to the conversation. The best, most direct way to do this is by saying, “Does this all sound good to you?” 

To make the lead feel more involved and ensure they get value from the call, consider asking, “Before we begin, is there anything specific you’d like to get out of this call?” If they say, “We’d like to learn a bit about your X feature,” be sure to dedicate a minute or two to talk about that feature. But, maintain control and remember that the priority is to qualify the lead. 

Your agenda portion could be as simple as the one from our template:

Discovery call script template agenda
Script template agenda

6. Ask Discovery Call Questions

This is the most critical part of your discovery call. You’re asking discovery questions to use as a benchmark for fit. The set of questions you choose to ask should be the same for every lead and will depend on your lead qualification framework — a checklist of criteria that a lead must satisfy to be considered an SQL.

For example, the most commonly used framework is called BANT, which focuses on assessing a lead’s budget, authority, needs, and timeline. There are other qualification frameworks as well, such as GPCTBA/C&I and CHAMP, that might be more suited to your sales process. Below, we’ll go over who should use each main framework along with each one's criteria and associated questions.

BANT Framework

CHAMP Framework

GPCTBA/C&I Framework

Who Should Use It: Businesses that sell an expensive product or service and want to ensure that they can help their lead — and the lead can pay for the product — before nurturing them.

The BANT framework is a lead qualification framework that judges leads on the criteria of budget, authority, need, and timeline. When using it, sellers are first supposed to ensure the buyer has the money to afford it. If they don’t, the lead is immediately disqualified. Because of this focus on money, it has fallen out of fashion with customer-centric sales teams.

Ask your leads questions such as the below:

  • Budget: Do you have a budget allocated to this investment? Our starting package begins at $X; is that something you can afford?
  • Authority: Will you be the one spearheading this initiative? Will you make the final purchasing decision, or are there others involved?
  • Need: What prompted you to reach out regarding our product? What challenges and pain points is your team facing?
  • Timeline: When were you hoping to implement this solution? When do you plan to get started with this initiative?

Many sellers find this framework useful. If price is usually the holdup of a sale, this way you deal with it early in the process. An enterprise software company with a product costing $10,000 per month might use this approach.

Who Should Use It: Businesses that want to show their leads that they truly care about their challenges, even above their budget.

CHAMP is a lead qualification framework that judges a lead based on their challenges, authority, money, and prioritization (how much the lead values this initiative). It contains three of the same criteria as BANT, but prioritizes qualifying based on a lead’s challenges over their ability to pay. The logic goes that if the lead seriously needs this solution to solve their challenges, they will find a way to pay for it.

Ask questions similar to the below:

  • Challenges: What are your team's main challenges, and how do you think we can help?
  • Authority: Are you in charge of this evaluation and purchasing process?
  • Money: Are you comfortable with this pricing?
  • Prioritization: Compared to your other initiatives, where does this one rank on the priority list? By when do you want this problem you mentioned solved?

Use this framework if you want to clearly put the customer’s needs first. This is especially useful in B2B sales. Instead of dismissing a lower-tier employee at your target company for their lack of authority or budget, you’d view a relationship with them as an opportunity to learn more about the company and get an introduction to the decision maker.

Who Should Use It: Sellers whose solution is complex, so they want to run through an exhaustive checklist to ensure the lead is highly qualified.

The GPCTBA/C&I framework judges a lead based on their goals, plans, challenges, timeline, budget, authority, and consequences and implications. It was designed to help sellers come across as problem solvers since the first three types of questions are all about the customer’s business needs, rather than their title or budget.

Ask your leads questions such as these:

  • Goals: What are your team’s current goals? What prompted you to reach out to us?
  • Plans: Tell me about your plan for reaching these goals. Do you have resources in place?
  • Challenges: What challenges are you encountering while working toward these goals? How are you handling them?
  • Timeline: What’s the timeline for rolling out this tool?
  • Budget: Has your team allocated funds for this initiative?
  • Authority: How many decision makers are involved in this process?
  • Consequences and Implications: How will a failure to solve these problems impact your business’s success?

This framework is great for businesses where relationship building is key — think of a financial advisor or marketing agency. If you're speaking with a well-informed buyer, you'll get the full picture of their situation with the GPCTBA/C&I framework.

You might wonder how many questions you should ask. We recommend coming prepared with two per category (two for budget, two for authority, etc.) But, you’ll likely find yourself asking more unplanned questions, further exploring details that the lead reveals as the conversation unfolds. Or, you might ask fewer than you had planned because you found out early that the lead was qualified.

For further inspiration, here are some potential questions from our discovery call script:

Discovery call script template discovery questions
Script template discovery questions

7. Decide Whether the Lead Is Qualified

As you ask your questions, interpret the answers you receive. If they fulfill a category of your framework, check off that letter on a notepad next to you. For example, if you find they have decision-making power, check off the authority (A) box. Once all boxes are checked, the lead can be considered qualified. 

Sometimes, you’ll only have checked three boxes after asking all of your questions. In this case, qualification is usually a judgment call. If the lead had the budget, timeline, and needs, but lacked authority, you might continue nurturing them to get an introduction to their boss. If the lead lacked just the budget, you can try to help them secure funding or, if you have a busy pipeline, disqualify them and reach out every few months to see if things have changed.

8. Close the Call

By now, you’ll know enough about the lead to make a decision. They’re either qualified or unqualified for your solution. Let’s go over how to close the call for both situations. Each closing strategy offers a potential value-add: a referral or another meeting on the calendar.

Closing the Call If the Lead Is a Bad Fit

Instead of just taking the loss and wishing a disqualified lead the best of luck, try to get something valuable out of the discovery. Ask them if they know anyone who might be in need of your product or service. To increase the chances that they want to help you and give you a referral, try giving them recommendations for other services or products that might be a better fit. Give and receive.

Here’s our closing statement for a disqualified lead:

Discovery call script template closing if disqualified

Script template closing if disqualified

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Closing the Call If the Lead Is a Good Fit

If the lead is a good fit, finish by stating that you’re confident in your ability to help them and their business with their needs. Restate their needs, and tell them your proposed solution to get them excited to continue their evaluation. Do it like so:

Discovery call script template closing if qualified

Script template closing if qualified

Then, set up the next steps. Usually, this is to get another meeting on the calendar, but it depends on your sales process. For example, you might mark them as a sales qualified lead and get a meeting on the calendar to give them a demo or presentation. Or, if you want to learn more about them to prepare a more personalized presentation, schedule another call.

If they agree to your proposed next steps, suggest some dates and time slots for the next meeting. Tell them what you’re going to include in the meeting invite. Always be clear and avoid confusion so that you avoid leads skipping meetings because they’re confused about what to expect.

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Always end the call by giving the lead a clear answer on whether you can help them and, if they're qualified, establishing next steps before hanging up. You're more likely to keep them interested if you plan another conversation while you're still on the phone than if you hang up and try to reconnect later.

9. Record & Follow-Up

After the call, head to your CRM, and if they're qualified, open up a sales opportunity and and record everything you can remember from the call. This will come in handy to you when you speak with the lead again. Some reps like to use call recording software like Gong so they don’t have to remember the key details.

Next, if they’re qualified, send a follow-up email and your calendar invite. Tell them you enjoyed talking with them and what they can expect to occur in the next meeting. You can use the calendar invite details section to write your follow-up message if that’s easier.

9 Best Discovery Call Questions to Ask

Regardless of which lead qualification framework you use, you likely want to uncover information about a lead’s needs, pain points, authority, budget, timeline, and priorities. So, here are nine discovery call questions that most sales reps can benefit from asking during their call, organized into the sequential order that will keep the conversation moving and bring you the best results.

1. "Tell Me a Bit About Your Company."

For B2B sales reps, this is just a great way to begin the conversation. It gets the lead talking and helps you see how they view their business and its purpose. Seeing it through their eyes will give you the language necessary to talk about their business.

2. "What Prompted You to Reach Out to Us?"

Ask this to get a sense of why they want your business’s help. If their need seems like something you can’t help with, consider them disqualified. If you're unsure because it’s an uncommon request, speak with a manager or experienced colleague to see if it’s worth pursuing. And inform the lead that you need to speak with someone on your team because this is something your business rarely does.

3. "Can You Tell Me About Your Day-to-Day Responsibilities?"

This question helps you get past their job title and into the nitty-gritty of their life at work. Two sales directors could have vastly different average days. The question also tells you about their decision-making status. Does their daily activity match that of your typical buyer? Finally, it gives you some clues as to what pains they might be feeling, which, hopefully, you can remedy.

4. "What Is Your Top Priority at the Moment?"

Ask this question to figure out how important this venture is to them. If their top priority is to fix the problem you solve or reach a goal you help with, they’re likely to devote time and effort to evaluating your product or service. This means they’re going to be a good prospect — one who never misses a meeting, quickly provides you with the information you need, and ultimately buys your solution.

5. "Can You Walk Me Through Your Company’s Typical Buying Process for Ventures Like This?"

The answer to this question will tell you how much authority the lead has in making a purchasing decision, and how long the decision will take. You’ll also know what hoops you’ll have to jump through to get the deal signed. A nice primer question to this can be “Have you ever purchased a solution like ours before?” If they say no, take charge and illustrate the route your past clients usually take when evaluating your solution.

6. "Do You Have a Budget Secured for Solving This Problem?"

This question ensures the lead actually has money saved for this investment. If they say no, ask them what steps they’re taking to secure the budget and ask if you can help them do this. Is there a higher-up you need to speak with about the costs of leaving this problem unsolved?

7. "What’s Your Timeline for Implementation?"

Ask this question to get a sense of when they expect to have your software, service, piece of equipment, or product up and running. If your timelines don’t line up, you might have to disqualify the lead to avoid future disappointment on their end. A variant of this question could be “By what date would you like to see results?”

8. "Who Else Will Be Involved in Choosing a Supplier/Vendor?"

This cuts right to the big question: Is this lead capable of making the buying decision, or will they be an influencer or one of many decision makers?

If they’re the decision maker, great. You can sell to them and them only. If they’re an influencer, figure out who the real decision maker is and start thinking of a strategy for how to engage them in the conversation sooner rather than later. If the lead is one of many, it’s good to ask for the names and titles so you have them on your radar as the sale progresses.

9. "If You Were to Purchase This Solution, What Results Would You Like to See?"

This ensures you can meet their expectations. Signing a client and giving them less than they’d anticipated is a surefire way to lose them quickly. They might give you an answer about metrics, performance, cost reduction, or efficiency increases, both qualitative and quantitative. Be ready to compare that expectation with what your clients generally see, and if it’s too high, tell the lead the truth.

Choose your questions from this list, ensuring that the ones you ask will help you gather the essential information for your unique business. Also don't forget to ask each lead the same questions, but personalize each one so it sounds like a conversation. For example, changing "Tell me about your company" to "Tell me about {Company Name}" is a small tweak that can make a significant difference in how your lead views the discussion and responds to you.

Top 5 Tips for Holding a Discovery Call

Discovery calls can be nerve-racking at first, but as you hold them more often, you'll become more comfortable and will sound more natural throughout. Below are five tips to keep in mind whether you're new to discovery calls or a seasoned pro:

Make the Call a Conversation, Not an Interrogation

Have a conversation and include segues or introductions to questions to give the lead reference for why you’re asking it. For example:

You: “So I know you’re the marketing manager. We work with a lot of people with that title, and it seems like each one has a different job description. Would you mind telling me a bit about your day-to-day responsibilities?” 

Lead: “I spend most of my time either writing high-priority marketing content or managing my team of writers."

You: “And what would you consider high-priority?”

This will help you learn more about the lead. You'll also sound like there’s no list in front of you and avoid making the lead feel probed.

Note Your Total Qualified & Disqualified Leads

As you have discovery calls with new leads, keep track of the ratio of qualified to disqualified leads. If you find yourself disqualifying many leads and the calls start to feel like a waste of time, reevaluate your lead generation efforts.

If you find your own leads through sales prospecting, make the changes you can or see if your sales manager can support you through better lists. If you have a marketing team that attracts leads through online lead generation, give them the feedback so they can consider adjusting their strategy.

Give Your Lead Time to Speak

After you ask a question, allow your lead enough time to answer it fully. If you're worried about going over the amount of time you allot for calls, tell the lead when you schedule the discovery call and at the beginning of the call that you're going to ask several questions to see if you can help them. This might inspire them to be more concise in their responses without your having to cut them off.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Avoid "yes or no" questions, or have a subquestion ready in case your lead doesn't automatically elaborate. For example, if you ask whether your lead has a budget secured for their pain point and they say yes, have a secondary open-ended question about their budget to gather more information.

Resist the Urge to Sell

Remember that this call is to learn more about your lead so you can decide whether to nurture them. It's solely a learning opportunity, and it's usually inappropriate to try to pitch them on your product or service. If they state a pain point you know you can solve, make a note of it — when you eventually pitch to them after building trust, you can reference your discovery call to show you were listening.

If you follow these best practices, you'll improve your ability to get through your questions in a way that feels right for you and your leads. You'll likely also find yourself enjoying discovery calls more and deciding whether a lead is qualified more quickly and easily.

Bottom Line

A discovery call is your chance to get to know your lead and assess if you’re a fit to help them. It’s also an opportunity for your lead to get to know you and your business. While they won’t know the intimate details of how your solution works, they’ll still come away with a high-level overview of what your business can and can’t do for them. Plus, they’ll have formed an opinion of you, which should be high as long as you were helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable.

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