Discovery Call Questions — Most Important Step in the Sales Process

BY Jessica Helinski
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The discovery call questions you ask are vital to uncovering insights into your prospect, and it’s the most important step in the sales process. But if you don’t listen well to the responses, those questions won’t matter. Engaging in active listening will ensure you’ll truly hear what the prospect has to say and use that information accordingly.

Why Discovery Call Questions May Be “the Most Important Step”

What is a discovery call? 

It’s the first conversation after a prospect shows interest in your product or service. As Dan Tyre notes for HubSpot, “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.”

The questions you ask will help determine whether the prospect is a good fit or not. Properly qualifying prospects can uncover excellent opportunities or save time and money by walking away. 

Sellers Say Discovery Call questions can be a Challenge

SalesFuel’s most recent Voice of the Sales Rep study revealed that nearly 21% of sellers say discovery questions are a top weakness in their sales process steps. Reps may falter at this step because of a lack of listening.

Sure, the seller hears the responses to their questions, but are they listening? Maybe not, as many people don’t truly listen. “Listening is hard,” writes Stephanie Vozza for Fast Company. “We come into conversations with our own agendas and low attention spans, which can be a dangerous combination.”It can be especially true for sellers, who most certainly come into a discovery call with an agenda.


To get the most from your discovery call questions, engage in good listening habits. One of the most fundamental steps is to be present and in the moment. It ensures you take in everything that is said instead of thinking ahead about your response or what you want to ask next. 

Vozza introduces an acronym from Cash Nickerson, author of "The Samurai Listener." The acronym “ARE U PRESENT” can help you remember important aspects of good listening. 

  • Awareness: Be aware of what is happening now with the prospect, and block out distractions, including your phone and a wandering mind.
  • Reception: Be willing to receive new information by letting go of your own biases. Be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
  • Engagement: Stay engaged by not overpowering the conversation. Engagement involves a back-​and-​forth dialogue in the sales management process.
  • Understanding: “Listen with the intention of interpreting what the other person is saying,” Vozza explains. “Get into a place of understanding, where you’re both speaking the same language, figuratively and literally.”
  • Persistence: Stay attentive, even when there is a pause or the other person is rambling.
  • Resolution: Don’t leave the discovery call without a next-​step plan.
  • Emotions: Respect the existence of emotions and their roles. “Emotions can work for you or against you,” says Nickerson. “Recognize their roles and learn to discern them and their effect on your ability to hear others.”
  • Senses: Active listening involves sending others’ body language and being mindful of your own. 
  • Ego: One of the biggest mistakes when asking discovery call questions is being guided by ego. Remove your ego from the situation. 
  • Nerves: If you're feeling tense pre-​call, practice breathing techniques or relaxation methods. You don’t want your nerves to keep you from listening well.
  • Tempo: Tap into the speaker’s cadence, tempo, and manner of speaking. Mirroring is a successful technique to employ here. 

Set up your discovery calls for success

Don't let your discovery call questions be for nothing. Instead, engage in active listening to connect with the prospect and learn as much as possible. Only then can you make the most informed decision of whether to pursue the lead or not. Need some help with generating effective questions? Check out these past articles:

Photo by RODNAE Productions