How to Stage an Effective Sales Discovery Call

By Chris Orlob

To move any deal through the sales process, you first need to have an effective sales discovery call, during which you uncover your prospect’s pain points. 

Uncovering pain points right off the bat allows you to immediately set up you and your potential customer for success. So, how do you get started? The data team at recently analyzed 519,291 sales conversations to discover what makes for a great discovery call, and how top reps determine whether or not the buyer on the other end is a good fit. These sales calls were recorded, transcribed from speech to text, and analyzed with AI. Check out the following tips, backed by this proprietary data.

Tip #1: Start with pre-strategizing and role-playing.

Think about your favorite sports team. Without practicing, they will have no means of improving or preparing in the right way. The best teams in the world have coaches, and they practice and train every day.  Why should sales be any different?

Before your sales discovery call, work with your own coach (aka your manager) and run through all the questions you aim to ask. You can then practice responses you are likely to give based on assumed objections.

Next, discuss the outcomes you desire for the call, and what information you hope to gain from the conversation. This is just like doing your stretches in the warm-up to the main event, which is the equivalent to getting on the phone.

Tip #2: Know how many problems to address.

As we mentioned above, the problems you address are the core of your sales discovery call. You’ll want to dive deeply into 3-4 customer problems, then wrap up with next steps.

Why zero in on 3-4 problems? Looking at more than that makes all the problems seem less urgent. You also risk spreading your prospect’s focus too thin. As you can see from our research, discussing 3-4 problems has the highest likelihood of moving the deal to the next step:

Tip #3: Ask the right number of questions during the sales process.

When you’re unpacking those problems with the prospect, ask around 11-14 questions total. If you ask more questions than that, you’ll see a diminishing rate of return. Ask fewer than that, however, and you won’t go deep enough to uncover useful information.

The types of questions you ask matter. Start with problem-related questions. Those look at the prospect’s business issues, challenges, goals, and areas of concern. They’re strongly tied to your chances of closing a deal.

Tip #4: Don’t just ask questions – talk about problems, too.

Remember: You don’t want to bombard your prospect with endless questions. You should aim to create a natural ebb and flow with the right number of targeted questions.

Top performers intersperse their questions naturally throughout the conversation. Meanwhile, their average-performing peers load questions at the beginning of the conversation.

Frontloading questions makes you sound like you’re going through a checklist. And it feels like an interrogation rather than a natural conversation. Be sure to listen and ask genuine and relevant questions while creating a two-way conversation – not an interrogation.

Tip #5: Know your prospect’s personal goals.

Once you have the background information on your prospect, the next part of the discovery call is learning about your buyer’s goals. Identify which personas are part of the buying committee, and know the ins and outs of their individual goals.

For instance, if you’re selling to marketing leaders, most are concerned about MQLs – not items directly tied to revenue metrics. In this case, you can influence that decision maker in the buying process by showcasing how your solution relates to them (e.g. helps them generate high-quality leads).

During this part of the discovery, you should also be on the lookout for short-term versus long-term goals. Are they trying to reach their goals this quarter, or this year? From there, you can ensure your solution fits their needs in a timely manner.

Chris Orlob is senior director of product marketing at, the number one conversation intelligence platform for B2B sales teams. Gong helps you convert more of your pipeline into revenue by shining the light on your sales conversations. It records, transcribes, and analyzes every sales call so you can drive sales effectiveness, figure out what’s working and what’s not, and ramp new hires faster. Join Gong at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on October 25-26.

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