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How to Run A Discovery Call

Sep 17, 2018
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Not all leads are created equal. Learning how to run a discovery call is essential to anyone using inbound selling. The discovery call will help you find out whether your lead is a good fit and help make sure that you close the right customers. In this video, I'll go over the do's and don'ts of customer discovery and share some helpful templates as well.



Video Transcript:

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So we're going to be talking today about customer discovery. This is typically the first or an early stage conversation that you have with a lead or a potential customer. Now a lot of people, when they get a lead and they have that first call, their number one goal is to sell, right? We want to always be closing. That's a quote that's really, really popular, especially in the sales industry. But the reality is customer discovery shouldn't be what we think it should be. We need to switch our viewpoint on this. This is something that I had to work very hard on. As a result, it's helped me close better customers, and helped me stay away from bad fits for my company.

So my name is Ryan Shelley, if you don't already know me. I'm the owner of Shelly Media Arts, or SMA Marketing. We're a digital marketing firm that focuses on organic visibility. We help businesses grow leads, we do inbound marketing and SCO. We help brands grow online. Some of my credentials include that we're a Hubspot agency, we're Hubspot Gold partners, we're a Databox agency as well. We're big on data and using data to help us make decisions. We're a premier partner there. I've earned, in a word, a master certification in business intelligence.

I've been in the search world since 2009. I really enjoy SCO and helping brands, and people grow their organic visibility. The thing that's really cool about SCO is you can generate a lot of high-quality leads, but not all the leads that you generate are going to be perfect fits for your business. So let's talk a little bit more about customer discovery.

What is the purpose of a discovery call or an email conversation? That's a great question. A lot of people think, "Well, it's discovering, 'Is this customer ... How can we close them?'" Maybe we're going to discover ways that we can do business with them. While those are all maybe parts of a discovery call, the reality is the purpose of a discovery call is to disqualify the lead. Your goal is to do everything you can to find reasons why you shouldn't do business with this specific person.

Now you don't do it in a punk way or in a way that's not respectful, but what you're doing is you're trying to do your homework to make sure that you don't bring on somebody who's not a good fit. If you can't disqualify them, they're probably going to be a great fit for your business. So that's the purpose of a discovery call.

How do you go about that? Let's talk about the interaction that you're going to have. Now most of the time, this is going to be done through a telephone call. I highly recommend that you use telephone. Talk to people. Business is personal. When you have that conversation, you don't have to put emotions behind the words like you would in an email. Use the phone. It's going to make this way easier for you.

The first thing you want to do is validate your research. You should be asking questions and making sure that you have got an understanding of their organization, that you know who they are, that you know who the players in their organization are. It should be a red flag if you're talking to somebody in a low-level position at a company who doesn't have purchasing power. You probably shouldn't even be on that call with them. The only thing you should be doing then is saying, "Who can I talk to that can pull the trigger?" Otherwise, you're wasting your time, and you're wasting their time because you can't do anything. They don't have the ability to actually make a decision. So you want to validate the research and get a better understanding of their organization, and honestly their role in the organization.

Then you're going to want to identify goals. You want to get deeper into their goals and find why they want to work with you. What problems are they trying to solve? What are some things that you can do to help them along immediately? If you are a good fit for them, what are these areas? If they don't have goals, again, that might be a red flag for you, saying these people don't really know what they want. That can be a very hard customer to work with, a customer who knows they have a problem but has no idea exactly what they want or even what their timeline is. So make sure you understand that they do have goals. That's going to help move the process along a lot faster.

You want to be able to clarify pain points. Do they even understand where their pain points are? Where are they at in that buyers journey? Sometimes somebody comes in and they're feeling a pain, but they're not sure what's causing the pain. They may be trying to address a symptom at the root cause of the pain. So you want to be able to hone in and find out what those setbacks are, what their pain points really are, and what is causing them not to achieve the goals that they want to achieve. Having the ability to clarify pain points is going to help you understand whether or not you have a solution for them. If you don't have a clear idea of what they're trying to achieve and they're not sure, then you're not going to know if you've hit that goal or not.

By identifying and labeling, naming the pain points, you're going to be headed in a right direction. Again, a red flag would be somebody who knows they have a problem, but can't really identify it. Doesn't understand what it is, and worse, can't convey that in a way that can help the sales rep understand it. You may have a good solution, but if it's a good fit for their pain point, it's probably not a good fit for your business.

Now, one of the ways that you can build your credibility is providing tactical suggestions. We use these in a discovery call to say, "Have you ever thought about X?", or "Have you ever thought about Y?" "What if you used your blog to enable your sales team to get more content to a customer?" There could be a lot of ways that you could provide a suggestion, depending on the product or service that you're offering. It shows that you value working with people, and that you help them solve problems, and you're not having them pay for anything. You're giving them some free advice. That, again, builds rapport, builds trust.

Also, listen to how they respond to that. Some people will say, "Hey, thanks. That was really great." But people who are maybe defensive when you give them some sort of advice or tactical suggestion, or maybe act like they know it all, again, these are red flags that you might want to put up in the air if you're having this conversation. Again, because you want to make sure that the people that you're closing are customers that are going to work for your business as well as somebody that you're going to be able to provide value to.

The next steps are also really important. If a prospect wants to see a demo or something, you want to nail those times on the discovery call then. So if it's a good fit, you want to set the meeting up for the next call, which would be that demo or the deeper discussion right then on that call. Now, if they're not a good fit, and you know it, you probably want to close the conversation right then as well. Say, "Hey, this is really great. Based on the conversation we've had today, I'm not sure if we're the best fit for you." That way you can break the ties, and you don't have to waste time in this awkward in-between phase, then wait for somebody to not respond. That happens a lot, where they're not a good fit, but neither person knows how to close the loop. Offer the next step. Either move them forward in the buyer's process, or cut them off and move them off of your radar, and focus on the people who are going to help you generate the business that you need for your company.

Email is a great way to follow up or continue the conversation, or nail down that first meeting. Now you shouldn't be doing all of your meetings via email. You shouldn't be doing all your discovery through email, but you can use email effectively in discovery, in follow-up and engagement. So let's look at a couple templates here.

So this first one is all about adding business value. The contact first name, things of that ... Those are customizable options. The reason we use templates, again it's going to help us to move the process along faster, so you don't have to write the same thing over and over again. But we also want to make sure that we customize the template, so that we're not generically throwing the same information out to everybody.

Again, this one's all about adding business value. So you address the person by their name, "Working with other companies like yours, one of the key issues that they struggle with is this." This is really good for setting up that first discovery call, where you can pull out some key issues, understand that you know the industry a little bit. "Last year we've helped a number of companies do this, and see the results that we've had. If this might be a challenge that you're experiencing, let's set up a quick call." Again, this is going to help you set up that discovery call. This can be very powerful because it brings in some empathy. It helps you align with them and lets them know that you understand their industry and you also understand the pains that they're going through.

Now if you've got an inbound lead, you're doing inbound marketing, you're going to be able to see some of this stuff, depending on the software that you have. So if you have Hubspot, you're able to see the interactions that people have with your website. So you can, "Hey, you visited our site and you downloaded this piece of content. Did you download this just to learn about the topic? Or are you looking for a way to solve that problem?" This is where you can build that relationship early on and start to add in some tips. Let them know if you've thought about this.

So this is early on. You're having that interaction. Maybe you've chatted with them before. Maybe you've had a call with them and they didn't really take the first step, but then they went back and downloaded some content on your website. Here you can give some tips, and then you can say, "Hey have you thought about X or Y?" Again, it puts you in the position as a thought leader. It puts you in the position as a guide. It's not really sales-driven at the moment, it's relationship-driven. You're not asking them for a meeting, but you are asking them to respond, "Have you ever thought about this?" You're building that communication, you're building that relationship.

It's very important to build the relationship. Just because we do things online and we can interact via really never having to talk to somebody, it's still important. Especially when we're selling higher ticket items. You have to have those conversations. You have to be able to walk somebody through that, and let them know that, hey, you value them as a person. This is a great template to do that with.

Quick lead introduction. This is something very early in the stage. Maybe you saw them view a page or download some content, or visit a blog or something. You wanted to check in to see if they found what they were looking for. Give them some other resources, and then say, if you've done some prospecting, set up a time. You want to set up times that you're available.

If you've got a calendar link, that works really well. But what I've also seen is today everybody has calendar links ... A lot of people do, not everybody, but a lot of people do. It can still put the ball in the court to go and schedule a time. It can kind of seem impersonal, like non-personal. So instead, I really like to say, "Hey, would you like to talk tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.?", or "Would you like to talk tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. or 2:30 p.m.? Let me know if those work for you. If not, let's find another time." So this is a way, just to build that relationship, get somebody on your calendar so you can take that next step into a discovery call and kind of figure out if they're a good fit for your business or not.

So if you've got any questions about the discovery call or the templates that we walked through in this video, please comment below. You can also shoot me an email, that's my email address. Or hit me up on Twitter. I'd love to continue the conversation with you there. Until next time, Happy Marketing!


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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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