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A 5-Step Discovery Call Checklist Proven to Increase Conversions by 580%

David Kurkjian

May 10th, 2018

Discovery Call Checklist

The most important sales conversation that your reps are having with your prospects is the first one. You not only need a solid structure for this call but also an airtight discovery call checklist to increase your chances of conversions.

Think about it. If that conversation doesn’t quickly deliver tremendous value, there won’t be a follow-up meeting, a demo or a proposal. Getting a prospect on the phone to have a conversation about your products and services is hard enough.

Jump right to the checklist >>>

We are currently in the noisiest selling environment in history. The American Marketing Association says that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day.

It’s becoming more and more difficult to reach decision makers as gatekeepers and decision-makers receive hundreds of emails and dozens of calls each day.

Cutting through the clutter and getting the attention of your prospect requires serious effort. The Online Marketing Institute says that it takes an average of 7-13 touches to convert cold outreach to a prospect willing to get on the phone with you.

The Problem with Winging It on That Discovery Call

Today you’ve got to research your target prospect and follow their activity on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. You also have to personalize the communication and build a cadence that delivers.

IF you are successful and manage to get your target prospect on the phone, you have to grab your prospect’s attention in the first few minutes of the conversation.  Then comes communicating enough value so they will agree to a more in-depth conversation.

A conversation where you can demo your product or go to another level of detail on how your product or service can benefit their world.

So why do so many reps try and “wing it” in the first conversation? Or worse yet, take an inquisition-style “20 questions” approach that today’s executives don’t appreciate?

And why are sales leaders not training their reps to execute a first conversation? It’s proven to predictably get prospects to agree to a more in-depth conversation!

The result of “winging it” and lack of formal training is a first call that doesn’t convert to an expanded conversation or demo. The sales professional blames marketing for poor quality leads, marketing blames the rep for lack of business acumen and meanwhile, no one is making their monthly number.

If You Can’t Offer Value, You’re NOT Making the Sale

We’ve seen seasoned sales teams with first call conversion rates in the single digits. They had a great product and the SDR team were providing plenty of first conversations, but the leads simply weren’t converting into sales.

The sales leader, their job in jeopardy, was stressed out and having to answer to the C-Suite for poor sales performance.

Perhaps this is one reason why Gong.io reports that the average tenure of an SVP of Sales has precipitously dropped to just 19 months.

Discovery call checklist: VP of Sales

The prevailing idea that reps can wing their way to a more in-depth conversation without certifying against a proven framework is possibly why Clari reports that more than 50% of sales reps are NOT hitting quota.

Prospects who need their products and solutions simply aren’t perceiving enough value in that first conversation to take the next step. No next step, no sale.

So what can you do today to stop the blame game in its tracks and significantly increase conversion rates in the early stages of your sales cycle?

Certify Your Reps On The Content Of A Proven Discovery Call Checklist

Even (especially) seasoned reps need to stay on message in the first conversation.

Worn frameworks like BANT are exhausting to the prospect who is getting the distinct notion they are being “qualified” for a sale and not listened to or understood.

Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of your prospect?

Think of having to sit through several different vendors back to back, answering the same 20 questions over and over again! Yikes.

New reps need a framework that is portable to their actual selling conversations. Something more robust than 60 slides of product and company knowledge from marketing.

Open a conversation, not a monologue

They need a framework they can remember and can live in, one that gives the prospect ample opportunity to respond.

The truth is, whether you have a quick, transactional sale or a long, complex sale, the first conversation should be structured in a way that your prospect perceives tremendous value and predictably agrees to a follow-up appointment or demo (if they are a fit).

It also needs to be simple enough that the most junior BDR can see results quickly. It needs to predictably convert, so senior sales reps on your team will adopt and execute.

So, how do you do that?

You provide a sales conversation roadmap that follows these 5 steps. You then train and certify your reps against it so that you KNOW they can and will execute it in every first call they have with prospects.

Related: Best Business Phone Systems: 35+ Tools to Keep You Smilin’ and Dialin’

Getting Started on Discovery Call Checklist

Here’s the rule. Before your reps ever talk about how long your company has been around or where corporate headquarters is located (your prospect doesn’t care). Before they ever talk about what your product or service does or drop a value prop, follow this framework!

  1. State their goals.
  2. Elaborate on their challenges.
  3. Tell them what it means.
  4. Paint a picture of a better tomorrow.
  5. Prove you have done it before.

1) State their goals

Discovery call checklist: Goals

As an expert in the space, your team should know exactly what your target title is trying to accomplish in their role at their company.

When we talk to sales leaders, we say something like,

“When talking to other sales leaders, we understand they are trying to exceed their revenue goal while retaining top talent.”

Simple. Succinct. Effective. This statement immediately positions us as experts in the field that know what our prospects are trying to achieve.

DON’T: Ask them what they are trying to achieve. It makes you look foolish and inexperienced.

DO: Succinctly state what they were hired to accomplish.

PRO TIP: Look up a job description for a similar company and job description to understand what people in that role are typically hired to do/areas they are hired to impact.

2) Elaborate on their challenges

Discovery call checklist: Challenges

Have your reps speak to known challenges in their prospect’s world.

As experts in the space and with experience working with others in their position, they can do that with 90% accuracy. You should already know the typical challenges your prospects are facing and be able to speak to them in a way that connects.

More than that, your reps will instantly be perceived as an authority and as experts in the field instead of a clueless moron who is running them through a sterile checklist of financial qualification questions.

We say something like,

“It’s harder than ever for your reps to get in front of your A-List prospect and even if they are successful, it can be difficult to communicate enough high value early in the conversation to predictably move your prospects through your sales process.”

Again, that may not be their #1 challenge, but that is a problem that most sales leaders are familiar with.

DON’T: PLEASE don’t let your reps ask something like, “What are your pain points?” or even worse, “What keeps you up at night?” YOU are leaders in your space and should KNOW.

DO: Lead with real insight and TELL your prospects what the typical challenges people in their role are facing. Even better, tell them what SHOULD be keeping them up at night.

PRO TIP: Review research from a trusted third party and incorporate it into your messaging. Don’t shy away from painful stats! People are 2x as likely to run FROM a problem as they are to run TO a solution.

3) Tell them what it means

Discovery call checklist: Impact

Understand that scientists have now confirmed what many sales reps have known for a long time, which is this: People make decisions based on meaning and emotion and justify those decisions based on logic and reason.

During the conversation, train your reps to find an emotional anchor point in the conversation. Emotion creates memory and without an emotional anchor, the chances of their presentation being remembered past day 1 are nil.

Also, because the most intense emotion we attempt to avoid is pain, your reps need to create a painful moment in the conversation and allow their prospect to live in that. This can be done by simply elaborating on known challenges and asking them, “What does that mean?”

Example: If a sales leader can’t hit their revenue goals quarter after quarter because they can’t move their prospects through the sales process, what does that mean? (It means they better dress up their resume!) OUCH.

DON’T: Have a purely factual conversation.

DO: Deliver meaning statements for an individual in that particular position. Go deep!

PRO TIP: Make it a conversation, not a monologue by asking, “That’s what we’re seeing in the space, I’m curious, what does that look like in your world?”

4) Paint a picture of a better tomorrow

Discovery call checklist: Do

Value is perceived in a contrasting worldview.

It’s in the distance between what their world looks like today (WITHOUT your product/service) and what their world could look like tomorrow (WITH your product/service) that your prospect perceives value.

But that doesn’t mean your reps have 45 minutes for a feature dump. Don’t let your reps tell them about what your product or service DOES, but have them show them what THEY can do differently as a result of using your product or service. This is where storytelling comes in handy.

This is the time to brush up your Value Positions, but you’ll have to do it succinctly, in a few short, “what if you could” or “imagine if you could” statements.

DON’T: Talk about your company/product/service yet… it’s still not the time! And, they don’t care.

DO: THIS is the place to “plant your flag” around the unique value you bring to the marketplace… without saying your name… Tell your prospect what they can do differently as a result of using your product/service.

PRO TIP: If you’ve done your homework and taken a position around your unique value, don’t hesitate to land the statements with, “You can. ONLY with <OUR COMPANY>.

5) Prove you have done it before

Discovery call checklist: Proof

Your reps can’t make claims that you can’t back up with proof. That proof is simply a customer testimonial or story.

But it needs to be brief, this is not the time to do a deep dive customer service. All your prospect needs to understand is that you have done this before. You can satisfy that need with what we call one sentence testimonials and it might sound something like:

(After stating value positions) “That’s how we were able to help <XYZ COMPANY> achieve <ENVIABLE METRIC> through our <UNIQUE SOLUTION>.”

DON’T: Detail the specifics of your solution or start a feature dump.

DO: Deliver a metric that matters in a succinct fashion.

PRO TIP: Make efforts to gather testimonial data at the end of each positive client engagement to build your library of one sentence case studies.

Bringing It All Together

Discovery call checklist: Value

When your reps deliver a conversation that starts with your prospect hearing about their goals and challenges, it demonstrates empathy, your reps are established as an expert.

When your reps talk about the impact of those challenges, drawing the prospect in to identify their unique challenges by asking, “What does this look like in your world?”, your reps demonstrate empathy and the conversation is memorable.

Then, when your reps deliver instant contrast by a series of “What if you could…” or, “Imagine if you could” statements, your reps leverage how the human brain perceives value.

Finally, they put the icing on the cake with a one-sentence case study, effectively proving your ability to accomplish what you just held out.

The result? Your prospect sees tremendous value and agrees to the next meeting or demo.

With this discovery call checklist, one of our clients was able to increase their first call conversion rates from 8% to 47% in just one quarter!

You should try this too! Drop us a comment here with your results.


Also published on Medium.

This is a sponsored guest post from a Sales Hacker partner.

About the author

David Kurkjian

David is a 35-year sales veteran with success both as a quota carrying rep and sales leader in companies like Bellsouth and CareerBuilder. An engineer by education, David sought after and discovered the secrets to his success by exploring behavioral psychology and understanding the science of human decision making. In 2012, he founded MasterMessaging to help clients increase their revenue by mastering the ability to elevate their value.

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