July 13th, 2021

woman on a sales discovery call

Discovery calls are an essential part of the sales process, allowing sales reps and prospects to determine if it makes sense to move the relationship forward. Kind of like a first date, right?

On these calls, your sales reps have one chance to make a great first impression — and set the tone for the entire sales process. No pressure, right? 

But here’s the thing: discovery calls often go wrong. They’re unnecessarily long and one-sided. And they often can leave prospects thinking, “what the heck just happened?”

But what’s the difference between a great discovery call that leads to a closed deal — and a bad one that leads absolutely nowhere? 

We took a look at thousands of discovery calls recorded and analyzed using Call AI, Mindtickle’s conversation intelligence solution, to get a better idea of the ingredients of a great discovery call. Read on to discover seven of our key findings, which might just make you rethink your entire approach to discovery calls.

Successful sales discovery calls are 30-40 minutes long

Think longer is better when it comes to discovery calls? Think again. 

But a short one might not be great either. 

As it turns out, the best discovery calls aren’t long or short. Instead, they’re somewhere in between. Our analysis found that discovery calls that lead to closed won deals are less than 40 minutes, on average.

stats about sales discovery calls

Top sales reps speak less than 45% of the discovery call

We’ve all been part of conversations where one person does the lion’s share of the talking. Frankly, it’s pretty annoying. 

The same is true for sales discovery calls. These calls are an opportunity for both parties to determine if it makes sense to move forward. And if a sales rep dominates the conversation, it’s easy for the prospect to completely disengage. 

Discovery calls should be a two-way street, with opportunities for both parties to speak up and ask questions. In fact, in the best discovery calls, prospects speak more than the rep. On average, top reps limit their talk time to 45% of the discovery call, allowing the prospect to speak the remainder of the time.

Winning reps ask between 12-15 questions

When it comes to discovery calls, preparation is key. Sales reps must do their research before picking up the phone. And they must come prepared to ask smart, thoughtful questions that demonstrate credibility and move the conversation forward. 

Our analysis found that top reps ask an average of 12-15 questions on discovery calls. 

But don’t rattle those questions off like a robot. Instead, work them naturally into the conversation, with plenty of time for discussion. Your prospects don’t want to feel like they’re being interrogated!

During an ideal discovery call, prospects ask between 8-10 questions 

A goal of any discovery call is to learn as much as you can about a prospect’s business and key challenges to determine if you offer the right solutions for them. But remember: prospects also use discovery calls to determine if your company and offerings are the right fit for their business. 

Be sure the conversation is balanced and encourage your prospects to ask their own questions. In an ideal discovery call, prospects ask between eight and 10 questions. 

Reps that close deals ask these four types of discovery questions 

It’s not enough to rattle off 12-15 random questions during a discovery call and hope for the best because you hit that “right” number. 

Instead, it’s important to ask the right kinds of questions. And it should go without saying that this isn’t the time to ask questions you could easily find the answers to elsewhere — like on the company’s website.

The most productive sales reps ask these four types of discovery questions:

  • Qualification: The answers to these questions help reps determine if an opportunity is worth pursuing. 
  • Problem area: These questions help reps identify the key need of a prospect, in a way that digs a hole that only your solution can fill. 
  • Methodology: These “nuts and bolts” questions help reps undercover insights to move deals forward. For example, it’s important for reps to get insights into who the key decision-makers and influencers are, the size and structure of the team, and the current tech stack, among other things. 
  • Credibility: Prospects want to work with sales reps that “get it.” Reps must ask questions that demonstrate credibility and an understanding of a company’s business model and industry-specific challenges.  

Great reps incorporate an average of two stories into discovery calls

Storytelling is an important skill in all areas of life — including sales. Relevant stories engage prospects and convey information in ways other methods can’t.

The discovery calls analyzed by Mindtickle’s Call AI, the ones with the most positive sentiments expressed by prospects included an average of two stories told by reps. For the purposes of this analysis, a story is defined as a monologue of 2-3 minutes that involves a personal or third-party story related to the topic of the meeting.

stats about sales discovery calls

Effective reps use 120-160 WPM

Have you ever been on a call where a sales rep nervously yammers at what seems like a million miles per hour? It can feel like your head is spinning. And sometimes, it’s easier to zone out than it is to keep up. 

In order to engage prospects, sales reps have to take a deep breath and maintain a calm, steady pace on discovery calls. Encourage your reps to assess their words per minute (WPM) by checking the transcript of a one-minute monologue from one of their discovery calls. The ideal pace is between 120-160 WPM. If it’s faster, it’s time to pump the brakes!

Start nailing your discovery calls

Discovery calls aren’t always a rep’s favorite thing. But they’re a necessary way for prospects and sellers to get to know each other and determine if it makes sense to move forward. 

Start engaging prospects and move more deals forward by rethinking your approach to discovery calls. A great next step is incorporating call recordings into coaching conversations to drive improvement. You can also role-play discovery calls with sellers to ensure they’re on-message and confident when it’s time for the real thing.