28 Questions to Ask on a Discovery Call During the Sales Process


Closing calls are sexy. It’s the glamorous part of the sales process where a deal gets moved across the line, contracts get signed, and commission checks go right into your pocket. However, you can’t get there without first doing a discovery call.

Discovery call and discovery questions graphic with analog telephones and a magnet for attracting new clients and customers.

Discovery calls are important because they increase the chances of a closed deal later down the line. Depending on who you sell to and what you sell, you could spend 10 to 20 hours with your prospect. You should have a good idea of whether the deal will close and for how much.

Free Download: 101 Sales Qualification Questions (Access Now)

Luckily, you can find out right from the start. In this post, you’ll learn what a discovery call is and the best questions you could ask to uncover whether your prospect is a good fit. Let’s get started.

In many cases, the discovery call is the most important step in the sales process. It sets the tone for the entire relationship, both pre- and post-sale. Either you’ll be able to establish an authoritative relationship or you’ll be stuck playing catch up.

I’ve had deals that I thought would be relatively standard, but because I didn’t dive deep into discovery, they ended up being unduly complex.

Why are discovery calls important?

Discovery calls are crucial for sales professionals to understand the details of a prospect’s situation. Luckily, most prospects are okay with participating in a discovery call, as long as it’s not an interrogation.

Here are some benefits of the discovery call.

  • Helps your prospect understand your business and product. This is a chance to answer specific questions about your product and to gauge and capture customer interest.
  • Shows you’re invested in your prospect’s success. If you do the call well, you’ll show your prospects that you understand their problem and will make a professional assessment to help them if you can. This shows them that you’re invested in their success and not just getting their money.
  • Helps you gauge your chances of winning their business. The discovery call is an opportunity to qualify your prospect. This includes learning their pain points and organizational influence. It will also help you see if they’re willing to advocate for your product or how they compare your product with a competitor’s. You can use a sales qualification framework such as BANT or a BANT alternative to get this done.

It’s clear that the discovery call is an essential moment in the sales discovery process. And the way to get the most out of your discovery calls is to ask the right questions.

The questions below fit into the four parts of the sales discovery process: setting the stage, qualifying the prospect, disqualifying the prospect, and establishing the next step. You won’t be able to cover every question on every call — and it might not make sense to.

You’ll see that they’re all open-ended questions. That’s because open-ended questions do a better job of getting the prospect to talk beyond a “yes” or “no” answer. Qualify your prospect using the following questions and disqualify at any point if it becomes clear they’re a bad fit.

Let’s take a closer look.

Questions That Set the Stage

This is where you validate your research and learn about the customer’s situation. This gives you the proper insight you need to move forward.

1. Tell me about your company.

This seemingly simple question begins with an easy topic: The prospect’s own company. This gives them a chance to introduce themselves on their own terms, but be careful: If you ask this question too early, it might seem like you didn’t do any research at all. Begin by stating what you already know, then ask the question so they can build upon your description of their business.

2. Tell me about your role. What do you do day-to-day?

With this question, you can begin to find out more about the employee (not the business) in a more casual, low-pressure way. No need to dive into the details, and the best part is that they’ll be excited to share.

3. What metrics are you responsible for?

Here’s where the pressure begins to mount. If they don’t touch on what they’re responsible for during the previous question, then this will uncover that information. Note that the word “metric” is important here, since you’re asking about a quantifiable measure of success. That way, you can quantify how much your product can increase that metric.

Questions That Qualify

After you’ve learned about your prospect, it’s time to identify their goals and clarify their pain points. You can use the Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline (BANT) framework to help formulate the questions you’ll be asking during your discovery call.

Learn about their problems so you can solve for the customer.

Discovery call process: Budget Authority Need Timeline questions

4. Tell me about your goals (financial, customer-related, operational).

You might also append a timeline to this question: Tell me about your goals for the next month/quarter/year. Choose a timeline depending on the implementation process of your product. For instance, if you sell an enterprise-level tool that takes six months to set up, you might ask about yearly goals instead of monthly goals.

5. When do you need to achieve these goals?

While the prior question might hint at a timeline, this question explicitly asks when your prospect must achieve the goal. A yearly goal might be “To increase revenue by 5% year-over-year,” but the cut-off date for that is in three months, just in time for the New Year. “Yearly” does not mean “next year.” It could be as soon as this quarter.

6. What problem are you trying to solve?

If this question seems vague to you, that’s because it’s meant to be. You won’t pigeonhole the prospect into giving you a certain answer. By giving them a chance to bring up any problem they’re facing, you can find out their business challenges at a more overarching level.

7. Are you having problems in (area as it relates to the product)?

Now, this question gets a little more specific. We’re still keeping it open-ended, but you’re driving them toward a distinct area of the business. While this is a yes or no question, it’ll prompt the prospect to think more deeply about their challenges.

8. What’s the source of that problem?

It’s important to follow up with this question to uncover pain points or areas of friction. A prospect may know what their problem is, but if you don’t understand why they’re having the problem, you won’t be able to hone in on that source as something you’ll eliminate. Knowing the source of the problem is key to creating an irresistible sales pitch.

9. Why is it a priority today?

You could potentially skip over this question if your prospect naturally reveals why it’s a priority in their previous answer. That said, knowing exactly why it’s a priority can help you uncover how urgent this problem is for your prospect.

10. Why hasn’t it been addressed before?

Knowing the roadblocks your prospect has faced in solving the problem can hint at the roadblocks they’re facing now (or could potentially face in the future). For instance, if your prospect cites budget as an issue, then you’ll know to focus on that as a qualifying factor.

11. What do you think could be a potential solution? Why?

With this question, you’ll find out how the prospect envisions resolving the problem even without your product.

12. What would a successful outcome look like?

Here, you’ll find out what their image of success looks like. Is it realistic? Is it something your product can help them achieve? Listen without judgment, but be sure to take note of their expectations to confirm whether you can actually help.

13. If you didn’t choose a product, do you have a plan in place to address this problem?

Ask this question to find out, in a different way, just how urgently they need the product to solve their challenges. If they say they don’t have a plan in place or can’t envision solving the problem another way, then they are most definitely a good-fit prospect.

Questions That Disqualify

Next, ask questions that might disqualify the prospect. Find out what you can about the decision process, from budget to scheduling.

14. What are your primary roadblocks to implementing this plan?

Even if you have an idea of the roadblocks the prospect will face, it’s still important to ask this question so you can get an answer straight from them.

15. What’s your timeline for implementation?

This will give you a good idea of whether your product’s implementation timeline and your prospect’s timeline align. If not, then they’re not a good fit.

16. What’s the approximate budget for solving this problem?

Is there enough money to invest in a new product or project? When it comes to sales, it’s never too early to talk about budget.

17. Whose budget does the funding come from?

Measure up the tone of the conversation before asking this question. It might be too probing for a prospect who’s not well acquainted with you yet. If you and the prospect are on comfortable terms, find out where exactly the money will be coming from.

18. Is the budget owner an “executive sponsor”?

An executive sponsor is a senior-level employee who’s directly involved in a project and is committed to its success. Whether that’s your prospect’s direct manager or a C-suite executive, it’s important to know whether the owner of the budget is a single person or the entire department.

Questions that Establish Next Steps

Lastly, ask questions that move the prospect along the pipeline. Provide a solution and offer next steps.

19. Who else will be involved in choosing a vendor?

This is a critical question for understanding whether your prospect is a gatekeeper, influencer, or decision-maker. Indirectly, you’ll also find out just how involved the decision-making process is.

20. Do you have written decision criteria for choosing a vendor? Who compiled these criteria?

If you’re speaking with a smaller firm, then the answer will most likely be no. But this question is important if you’re working with enterprise businesses. Try to get access to the decision criteria if possible.

21. Have you purchased a similar product before?

Knowing what your prospect has tried before will be instrumental in establishing a competitive advantage. You should be prepared to uphold your product above the competition’s even if the prospect doesn’t mention them by name.

22. Is this a competitive situation?

Who else is your prospect considering purchasing from? This question will uncover that without sounding whiny or defensive.

23. What’s the process for actually purchasing the product once you decide on it? Are there legal or procurement reviews?

If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve probably built a high level of trust with your prospect. So you can ask right out about the purchase process without pushing them away.

24. What are potential curveballs?

While question #14 alluded to roadblocks, this question will reveal if there will be any unexpected changes that might bring the deal to a halt. Plus, if the prospect didn’t share too much when you asked about roadblocks, this question could do a better job of uncovering them.

25. How can I help make this easy?

The prospect might not have anything for you, or they might ask for additional resources and documentation. Either way, you want to give them a chance to articulate ways you can make the process easier.

26. How will this solution make your life better?

You can instill relief in your prospect by helping them envision how their work life will improve after they purchase your product. This will do a lot of work when it’s time for your prospect to present your solution to stakeholders.

27. If you implement this solution, how do you hope things will be different in one year?

Will they have more customers? Or will they have wasted less time doing menial tasks? Again, nudge them to envision how things will be better with your product on hand.

28. Can I follow up with you on mm/dd?

Close the call strongly by suggesting a date to follow up.

You’ll know that you’ve run a good discovery call if you and your prospect are able to create a written sales plan and delineate the next steps. If there’s still uncertainty when you hang up the phone, schedule another call to iron out remaining details.

Next, I’ll review the sales discovery process, talk about how to run a discover call, and share a full discovery call template that you should follow for a greater chance of success.

This process is the first step in the connect phase of the sales process.

While the discovery call is the focus of the sales discovery process, you’ll need to do a bit of preparation to get the most out of this sales process stage.

Research the prospect and their company.

Spend as much time as you can researching and understanding your prospect’s business. Know their vertical, their challenges, and their goals. Take a look at their engagement history with your company. Did they download a specific resource? That will give you a hint of their goals and needs.

This will provide useful background information and may inform questions you’d like to ask during your call.

This sales meeting playbook can help you target your research efforts.

Gather what you’re looking for in a customer.

You’ll want to be clear on what you can and cannot offer the prospect before speaking with them. Review your buyer personas, and take into account any region or pricing restrictions. These prospecting best practices can help you focus your pitch.

Separate your questions into 4 segments: Staging, Qualifying, Disqualifying, and Next Steps.

This will help your conversation flow in a natural chronological progression.

Share relevant insights.

Do you have industry insights that would be relevant to your prospect’s concerns? If so, share them. This could be statistics or case studies that show how your product helped similar organizations.

Be ready to connect your solution to the prospect’s goals.

Discovery calls help you qualify a prospect, but they are also an important opportunity to sell your product. Prepare to show how your solution will help their organization achieve its goals. Everything you suggest should be specific to their needs.

Check out these sales pitch examples if you’re looking for inspiration.

How to Run a Discovery Call

How to run a discovery call graphic

1. Research your prospect’s business ahead of time.

As discussed above, research is key to a productive discovery call. Keep doing research until you feel like you know your prospect’s business better than they do.

2. Create an agenda and send it to your prospect.

This is a critical tip. Never forget to create an agenda for the sales meeting. Discovery calls may seem to have lower stakes than other sales calls because you’re still early in the process. This is wrong. Discovery calls have the highest stakes because they decide where the deal will go.

Send an agenda to your prospect to ensure you’re covering everything they want to talk about. Then, give them a chance to add more items if necessary.

3. Set a time and date that works for both of you.

When you send the agenda, set a time and date that works for both parties. Ask your prospect how much time they’ll have. If they’d prefer to meet for 30 minutes instead of an hour, take that into account.

Depending on their flexibility, you might even be able to do a product demo during the discovery call. Be careful with this approach: If you demo the product too early, you might forget to focus on the prospects’ needs and challenges.

4. Open the call conversationally.

Next, when you’re on the call, open it up with easy conversation. Ask how their day or week has been, or what they did over the holidays. As you go into the following steps, be sure to keep the tone conversational. This isn’t an interview; it’s a way to get to know each other better.

5. Set the stage.

It’s time to use the discovery questions above. These questions are a great place to start:

  • Tell me about your company.
  • Tell me about your role. What do you do day-to-day?
  • What metrics are you responsible for?

You can skip the last question if they share their metrics of success when they describe their day-to-day work.

6. Qualify the prospect.

Just by the previous questions alone, you’ve probably gotten a good idea of whether your product can help. Further qualify the prospect by asking at least three of the following questions:

  • Tell me about your goals (financial, customer-related, operational).
  • When do you need to achieve these goals?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Are you having problems in (area as relates to the product)?
  • What’s the source of that problem?
  • Why is it a priority today?
  • Why hasn’t it been addressed before?
  • What do you think could be a potential solution? Why?
  • What would a successful outcome look like?
  • If you didn’t choose a product, do you have a plan in place to address this problem?

Remember to keep the tone conversational. These questions should flow naturally.

7. Ask disqualifying questions.

It’s just as important to disqualify the prospect as it is to qualify them. That way, you don’t waste your time. Ask the following questions:

  • What are your primary roadblocks to implementing this plan?
  • What’s your timeline for implementation?
  • What’s the approximate budget for solving this problem?
  • Whose budget does the funding come from?
  • Is the budget owner an “executive sponsor”?

Feel free to make the tone less conversational here and get a little more firm. You want the prospect to think carefully through their answers and not just throw out the first thing that comes to mind.

8. Establish next steps.

Last, set up next steps. There should be no question about what the prospect (or you) should do to move the deal forward. Be sure to ask:

  • Who else will be involved in choosing a vendor?
  • Do you have written decision criteria for choosing a vendor? Who compiled these criteria?
  • Have you purchased a similar product before?
  • Is this a competitive situation?
  • What’s the process for actually purchasing the product once you decide on it? Are there legal or procurement reviews?
  • What are potential curveballs?
  • How can I help make this easy?
  • How will this solution make your life better?
  • If you implement this solution, how do you hope things are different in one year?
  • Can I follow up with you on mm/dd?

Discovery Call Template

Step-by-step template for sales discovery calls

You’ve done your research, have your questions ready, and are set to begin your first discovery call. But if you’re new to sales or are trying to meet aggressive goals, it can be tough to keep conversations casual.

If you need some inspiration to keep the conversation flowing, it can help to have a discovery call template with some quick scripts, like the ones below.

These suggestions are organized in chronological order, so you can create a custom template from the choices in each section, or pick and choose from the sections that are most useful for you.

Introduce yourself.

  • “Hi there, (prospect’s name), it’s (name) with (company name). It’s a pleasure to speak with you today. I’m hoping to learn more about your business and how we might be able to help.”
  • “Hello (prospect’s name), I’m (name) with (company name). I’ve been doing some research on (your company) and I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far. I’d like to learn more about (name a specific goal, challenge, or opportunity) to see if there is a way we can work together.”
  • “Good (morning/afternoon) (prospect’s name), it’s (name) with (company name). I was initially referred to you by (referral name). They mentioned you’re looking to (insert potential pain point). I’d love to learn more about your situation and see if we can help.”
  • “Hey (prospect’s name), it’s (name) from (company name). I recently noticed (something positive about the company/compliment). I wanted to connect with you to see if there might be a way we could work together.”

Create a connection.

  • “Just so I can make sure I understand your needs, could you tell me a little about what your company has been focusing on lately?”
  • “What challenges are you currently facing with (related pain point)?”
  • “I noticed your background in (related industry or experience). I’ve actually worked with a few companies in your industry before. Can you tell me more about your current situation?”

If these starters feel too fast or formal for your prospect, check out this list of conversation starters.

Set expectations.

  • “Just a heads-up, our call shouldn’t take more than (specific time you have in mind). I’m hoping to get a better understanding of your business and the challenges you’re facing. Does that sound good to you?”
  • “I’m looking forward to our call today. My goal is to get a better understanding of your current situation so that I can see how we may be able to help. How does this fit with your objectives for the call?”
  • “To make the most of our time, I’ve prepared an agenda with a few items I’d like to discuss. We’ll start with (first item) and move on to (subsequent items). Do you have any questions before we get started?”
  • “By the end of our call today, I hope to have a clear understanding of your business and goals and share how we could help. Then the next step would be for us to schedule another call to dive deeper. Does that sound like a good plan?”

Find top pain points.

  • “I have a few questions I’d like to ask to get a sense of your organization and the challenges you’re dealing with.”
  • “I saw on your website that you recently posted a (blog/article) about (topic related to pain point). Can you tell me more about the situation that led you to publish that post?”
  • “I’ve been talking with other companies in your industry and it seems like (pain point) is a common challenge. Is this something your team is experiencing too?”
  • “I know it’s been a tough time for businesses in your industry. What challenges has (your organization) faced over the past few months?”

In addition to the qualifying questions above, creative open-ended questions are a great way to surface pain points.

Figure out how pain points impact your contact.

  • “Thank you for telling me about what your organization is dealing with right now. How do you think these challenges are impacting your role?”
  • “I’d like to get a better understanding of (pain point) you mentioned. How does (pain point) impact your business and goals?”
  • “Just curious, what happens if (pain point) isn’t addressed? What are the potential consequences?”
  • “How do those challenges impact other departments or stakeholders? Would it make sense to collaborate to solve (pain point)?”

Find and explain your best solution.

  • “Based on what we’ve discussed, it sounds like (product/service) might be a good fit for your organization. Can I give you a quick overview?”
  • “I’ve been thinking about how we might be able to help solve {pain point). Our (product/service) is designed to (brief value proposition). Would you like to hear more about it?”
  • “I’ve been through similar challenges with other clients in the past. We were able to help them by (brief case study or testimonial). Does this sound like it would work for you?”
  • “It seems we both feel (related topic) is important, and our conclusions on (pain point) aligns with that. Do you think (product/service) could improve your situation?”
  • “Can you walk me through the specific needs of (project), so I can share how we can customize (product/service) to meet those needs?”

Anticipate and handle objections.

  • “It sounds like you may not be ready to put this solution in place. Let’s address any concerns so we can find a way to work together.”
  • “I’ve found that some clients are hesitant to move forward because of (related objection). Do you want to share your thoughts on this?”
  • “It’s not unusual to have concerns about trying something new. I’m here to listen to any objections you may have so we can fully address them.”
  • “Some people may not be ready to use a new resource because of (related objection). We’ve gotten results for other clients with similar challenges. I’m here to work with you to develop a solution that meets your specific needs.”

This guide to objection handling is essential if objections are a deciding factor in the outcomes of your discovery calls.

Summarize your conversation.

  • “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Based on our conversation, it seems like your top priorities are (insert priorities). You’re looking for a product that can help you (goals for solution or product). Is that right?”
  • “To summarize, it sounds like you’re facing (insert challenges) and you want a solution that can help you (insert priorities). Does that sound right to you?”
  • “To recap, you’re looking for a tool that can help you with (insert priorities). And the features that are most important are (insert features). Is that a good summary?”

It’s also a good idea to take notes on your summary so that you can include specific details in your follow-up email.

Confirm the next steps.

  • “To pin down the next steps, I’d like to learn more about (questions you didn’t get to ask during the conversation).” After this intro, follow up with Qualify Questions, Disqualifying Questions, or Questions that Establish Next Steps.
  • “Thanks again for your time today. Based on what you’ve shared, it seems like the best next step is for me to send over some more information about (specific product or features). Does that sound right to you?”
  • “To get started, we’ll need to complete some specific steps. First, I’ll (specific action, like send you a proposal), and then we can schedule a call to review it. How does that sound to you?”
  • “It sounds like we agree that (product) can help solve (pain point). What would be your ideal next steps to move forward?”

Discovery Call Tips

1. Prioritize qualification over process-based questions.

Focus on whether the prospect is ready for your product before figuring out how to implement it. For example, a legal or procurement process isn’t a roadblock to a sale, but a lack of a business plan is.

Get the big-ticket items out of the way first. For example, establishing a pain point or goal and talking through potential choices. Then you can move on to the details of the deal.

2. Confirm understanding before moving to the next question.

Clear communication will make the difference in whether you close a sale. It can be tempting to jump to the questions that will bring you closer to close, but that could lead to missed opportunities.

Let your prospect share any insights that could give you context for their business needs and goals. “Why” questions can help you uncover the root of a prospect’s challenges. They can also help you understand what has motivated them to find a solution and how urgent the problem is.

3. Keep asking questions until you fully understand your prospect.

Ideally, a discovery call will either clearly surface a sales opportunity or definitively disqualify a prospect. You should come out of your calls with an understanding of your prospect’s needs and how you can help solve them.

4. Listen closely and don’t interrupt.

While your prospect speaks, actively listen. If you can, take notes on what they’re saying too. These notes don’t have to be perfect, just quick reminders about key challenges, priorities, and preferences. This info can help you form more targeted solutions that meet their needs.

It can be tempting to break into a good discovery call with your product solution. But it’s important not to interrupt your prospect. Give them a chance to speak and actively listen to make sure that your suggestions are on point.

5. Add value in small and subtle ways.

Always add value to each discovery call. This may mean offering recommendations or simple ways to help. And be sure to personalize so your value-add doesn’t seem self-serving.

If you leave the prospect with a positive impression, they are more likely to reach out when they become sales-ready (if they aren’t currently).

Great Discovery Calls Will Help You Close More Deals

Investing time and energy in creating a great discovery call will let you know for sure whether a prospect is a good or poor fit for the product. This will help you focus your time on the prospects who are more likely to close. This can help you exceed quota and become a standout performer in your team.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

sales qualification



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