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Sales Discovery Process

In the eagerness to make a sale, many companies rush into the presentation and demo portions of their sales process and overlook a crucial opportunity to see if the prospect is a match for their business. Discovery enables you to determine if your product is a fit and identify customer needs to make sure the sales demo, and ultimately your partnership with the customer, is a success.

The discovery call is typically a 10-20 minute phone conversation with a potential customer to understand the prospect's pain points, needs, and interests.  

The outcome of the discovery call is to: 
  • Determine if your product is a fit and there is value in walking them through a sales presentation or demo. 
  • Ensure you are pitching to and working with the right person. 
  • Identify the prospect’s needs and focus areas, so you can tailor the sales presentation to these points. 

Discovery Call Structure

Regardless of the buyer persona, the conversation should begin by setting an agenda and providing an extended elevator pitch of the value proposition. This will provide the prospect context during your discovery question phase and help avoid any feeling of interrogation if you start with questions first. 

While you want to extract pain points and areas to focus on for your sales presentation, leave details on how you can solve their specific pain points for the sales presentation and demo. 

Tailoring Your Discovery Calls

You may need to adjust your discovery call depending on the type of buyer you are working with. 

Active Buyer

Key Indicator: “Great timing, I was looking to speak with someone about this.”

With this kind of discovery call, more time can be spent on discovery questions, allowing the prospect to tell us what their potential pain-points are. This situation typically occurs with an inbound conversation or well-timed outbound prospecting. The prospect is “leaning forward” with needs and challenges as they recognize they have a problem.

Passive Buyer

Key Indicator: “You caught me in the office today, this wasn’t top of mind, but I’ll listen because you said something that caught my attention.” 

Spend a short to medium length of time on discovery questions; prospects are willing to listen but are less likely to share any pain points. More effort will need to be spent in carefully extracting information about what is important to them.

Cold Prospect

Key Indicator: “You called me. I don’t think I have a need, but I’m willing to listen.  Show me what you got.”

This prospect is unaware of the product and less willing to listen. In this case, this potential customer requires a shorter call length and more assumption about what the potential pain points are. 

It helps to give a few example pain points that you have solved for companies in similar situations. The key here is that you need to lead them more. 

Additional discovery can be built in through the sales presentation and demo. 


Key Indicator: A prospect that has previously been through a sales presentation and demo or has previously been a customer, but canceled.

Here you should review any notes you had from your previous conversations and be prepared to address any changes that have occurred with the customer that make it an appropriate time to re-engage. 

You may also want to confirm if your current contact was involved in the first evaluation and decision not to move forward. If they are new, you want to use the passive buyer discovery call structure above. If they were involved previously, you want to use the call structure and touch points below.

Discovery Call Outcomes

There are three outcomes you need to choose during your Discovery call.

1) Scheduling a Sales Presentation or Demo

If you believe that your product can solve a critical problem for the prospect’s business during the call, you should take the following steps:

  • Schedule a sales presentation and demo. 
  • Identify the stakeholders that need to be involved in the project. 
  • Confirm the focus areas and pain points that the potential customer needs to solve to help inform your sales presentation. 

2) Progress to Sales Presentation from Discovery Call

In some cases, you may want to transition from a discovery call to a sales presentation during the same call. However, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • If there is enough level of interest during the live response that warrants the need for a shortened discovery combined with a sales presentation.
  • The discovery process still needs to happen on the front end. You should be agile and competent enough to not only do discovery, but use the shortened discovery to tailor the sales presentation and product demo.

3) End the Conversation

If you determine that your product is not a match for their needs, you should not continue the conversation. This can occur for several reasons, including: 

  • The prospect doesn't have the resources or the budget to invest in the solution, and there's no ROI for both you and the prospect. 
  • The prospect is already using a competitor's product, and there's no compelling reason to switch.
  • The prospect doesn't have a clear timeline or urgency to make a purchase, and the deal may drag on indefinitely.
  • The prospect's pain points are not relevant to the solution or cannot be addressed effectively.
Bullpen Case Study: How to use a Bullpen to get a more accurate sales pipeline

Previously at Axonius, if prospects didn't pass discovery, salespeople would simply move on without any further nurturing. And if they were included in the sales pipeline, salespeople were held accountable for them even if there was uncertainty about their potential to close the sale. This resulted in poor forecasting and neglected leads.

As a solution, Joe Hoban, the 1st sales hire for Axonius, implemented a system where prospects were placed in the Bullpen if his team members were still determining if they would become a potential sale.

By implementing a Bullpen, the sales team was no longer held numerically accountable for potential customers who still needed to be fully qualified while providing a way to indicate potential opportunities. This allowed for a more streamlined sales process and improved lead nurturing.

Discovery Tips

Consider these tips when conducting your discovery conversations.

  • Nail your discovery questions: Keep asking questions until you get to the root cause of the prospect's challenges. Sometimes the initial response may not reveal the underlying issue, so it's important to probe deeper. Additionally, avoid asking questions that suggest a particular answer, as this can skew the prospect's response and hinder effective discovery.
  • Refer to pain points during your sales demo and presentation: Translate those pain points into the key focus areas that will be used throughout the rest of our sales campaign. 
  • Dig deeper during discovery: Ask second and third layer questions to identify the real challenges that your prospect is facing. 
  • Don't waste passive prospects’ time: When working with a passive prospect who is not willing to tell us any pain points, make an assumption about the best way we can help using


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