Discovery Call: Definition, Steps, Scripts & Key Questions

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

Adiscovery 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. Here, we show you how to run a discovery call and choose the right questions to ask your lead, and we also give you a free discovery call script to use.

How Discovery Calls Work

A discovery call is often the first verbal interaction a salesperson has with a lead. Sometimes, these leads are pre-qualified first by the marketing team and/or a business development rep (BDR), whereas other times the lead is unqualified. Regardless, the purpose of the call is to assess the lead and qualify them as a sales qualified lead (SQL) or prospect worthy of moving from the lead generation phase to the lead nurturing phase of the sales process.

To do so, salespeople schedule a call to ask premeditated discovery questions that verify whether lead matches their ideal profile. One of the most widely-used lead qualification frameworks is the “BANT framework,” which uses questions to assess 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. If done correctly, discovery calls give salespeople a final check before deciding to invest more time nurturing the lead to deal-close. In this way, discovery calls bridge the gap between lead generation and lead nurturing, ensuring you focus your time on the prospects most likely to convert while removing unqualified 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. You’re also building trust and demonstrating your dedication to their needs. An added benefit is that the details you gather about them will help you craft a personalized pitch, presentation, and proposal later on.

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.

Template discovery call script Discovery Call
Template discovery call script

How to Conduct a Discovery Call in 7 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 seven steps to conduct a discovery call: 

  1. Research Your Lead: Find information online about your lead that’ll help you personalize your script. 
  2. Write a Discovery Call Script: Write a personalized script that includes an opening, business introduction, questions, and closing statement with the next steps. This guides your call. If you already have a generic script, personalize it for each new lead. 
  3. Build Rapport and Make Introductions: Bring up a piece of information about them and talk about it to show your interest in them. 
  4. Set an Agenda: Tell them what will happen during the rest of the call and the desired outcome, which is to determine whether you’re a good fit to help them. 
  5. Ask Discovery Call Questions: Ask your questions to ensure that the lead checks the boxes in your qualification framework (e.g., BANT). 
  6. Close the Call: If you disqualify the lead, end amicably and recommend another vendor. Perhaps ask for a referral. If qualified, set up another meeting for further nurturing.
  7. Record and Follow Up: Mark their status as a lead (SAL, SQL, or disqualified). Write down what you learned about them and, if they’re qualified, open an opportunity and begin nurturing the lead.

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. 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 #2 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 before you take the reins. This will save you time and give them some practice.

2. 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 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. Let’s go over them.

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 buyer context to better understand the meaning of your questions. 
  3. Your Discovery Call Questions: This is the crucial element of the call. Pick questions that will help you uncover the information to determine if the lead is in fact a good fit for your business. Use questions to assess whichever lead qualification framework you use. 
  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.

Pro Tip:

Don’t be afraid to 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.

3. 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 don’t in order 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:

Template discovery call opening small talk introductions Discovery Call
Discovery call template introduction

4. 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 BDR 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:

Set Agenda Discovery Call
Discovery call template agenda

5. Ask Discovery Call Questions

This is the most critical part of your discovery call. You’re asking pre-set discovery questions to use as a benchmark for fit. The questions you choose to ask depends 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; we cover them in our lead qualification article. Below, we’ll go over each criterion of BANT along with associated questions.

Budget

These questions assess if the lead and their company have enough money to pay for your solution. This keeps leads out of your pipeline who will never be able to afford the price. Some common questions include:

  • Do you have a budget set aside for this particular investment? 
  • How much is your team willing to spend on this venture?
  • Our starting package begins at $X; is that something you can afford?

Authority

Here you assess whether the person you’re speaking to has the power to make a purchasing decision, or at least influence one. If it turns out they’re not a decision maker or influencer, you’re going to have to ask to speak with the higher-up. Here are some questions to ask: 

  • Tell me a bit about your day today. 
  • What metrics are you responsible for? 
  • Are you taking the reins on this evaluation process?
  • What does your business’s purchasing process usually look like for this type of service?

Needs

Here you’re performing a needs assessment, where you’re trying to determine whether your product or service is capable of satisfying the potential buyer’s needs. We wrote an article on how to conduct a needs assessment, which you can read to learn more about the assessment and how it relates to a discovery call. Below are some needs-related questions to ask: 

  • What is the main thing you need help with? 
  • What inspired you to reach out to us?
  • What outcome would you like to see after making this investment?

Timeline

Timeline questions focus on assessing whether the lead’s timeline is something that you can meet. If they have unreasonable deadlines or unfeasible implementation lengths, it might be best to go your separate ways. Here are some questions to consider including in your script: 

  • When would you like to see these results? 
  • What is your deadline for this completed project? 
  • By when would you like this delivered/implemented?

You might wonder how many questions you should ask. We recommend coming prepared with eight — 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:

Template discovery questions Discovery Call
Template discovery questions

How to Decide to Qualify a Lead

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.

Make It a Conversation, Not an Interrogation

We also implore you to avoid just rattling off the 15 questions like a member of airport security staff. It’ll exhaust and bore the lead. Instead, have a conversation, and make sure you naturally flow into the next question. Include segues or introductions to questions to give the lead reference for why you’re asking it. This makes it seem less probing.

Here’s an example of a well-formed discovery call question and response to the lead’s answer:

  • 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?”

Instead of just saying, “Cool, thanks!” and moving on to the next pre-written question, the rep in the example does some further digging. This helps you learn more about the lead and also makes it seem like there’s no list in front of you. If you’ve listened to a good interview-based podcast before, you know what we mean. It’s hard to tell that the hosts had prepared questions at all. It seems so natural. Try to replicate this.

6. 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:

Template discovery call losing statement for disqualified lead Discovery Call
Template discovery call closing statement for disqualified lead

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:

Template discovery call closing statement for qualified lead Discovery Call
Template discovery call closing statement for qualified lead

Then, set up the next steps. Usually, this is to get another meeting on the calendar, but it depends on your sales process. Here are two main ways it could go:

  • Next Steps If You’re a BDR/SDR: Mark them as a SAL and pass them to a more senior sales rep, typically an account executive (AE), who’ll conduct a more in-depth discovery call. 
  • Next Steps If You’re an AE: Mark them as an SQL 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. Then 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.

7. Record & Follow-Up

After hanging up, mark them as a SAL, SQL, or unqualified. Then head to your CRM software and record everything you can remember from the call. This will come in handy later to you or the senior rep speaking with the lead next. 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. Lastly, open up a sales opportunity in your CRM.

9 Key Discovery Call Questions to Ask

Regardless of which lead qualification framework you use, you’re probably focusing on uncovering information about a lead’s needs, pain points, authority, budget, timeline, and priorities. So, here are nine discovery call questions that almost any sales rep can benefit from asking during their discovery call. Choose the best ones for you, and remember to personalize them to each lead.

"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.

"What Prompted You to Reach Out to Us?"

You’re asking this to get a good 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 can potentially solve their need but are only about 20% sure because it’s an uncommon request, speak with a manager or more 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.

"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.

"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 the evaluation of your product or service. This means they’re going to be a good prospect — one who never misses a meeting, provides you with the information or documentation you need in a timely manner, and, ultimately, buys your solution.

"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.

"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?

"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?”

"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.

"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. All that hard work of the sale goes to waste. 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.

Pro Tip:

Resist the temptation to sell. If a prospect says, “We’re struggling to generate leads with our Facebook ads,” a rep might want to preach the merits of their agency’s Facebook ad strategy. Instead, they should hold back and focus on their exploration. A better response than a long pitch would be “We’ve heard that from a lot of our clients. Can you tell me a bit about your Facebook ad strategy?”

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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