What’s a discovery call?

The discovery call is the first phone call (or meeting of course) with a new prospect or potential client. It’s probably the most important part of the whole negotiation process because this is where you get a feel for each other and whether your skills and goals align.

Remember – this is a two way process and as a freelancer or small business you are just as important as the client. It’s about checking the client is a good fit for you as well as the other way round. This meeting can set the tone for your relationship so you need to be projecting your authority and expertise.

Why do you need a discovery call?

Just as the client needs to find out if you can help him or her, so you need to find out if the client is a good fit for your business. We have resources on dealing with nightmare clients in our membership, so if the client is ringing any alarm bells don’t take the relationship further.

In a discovery call you need to dig deep into a client’s goals, their target market, their understanding of their position in the market. You need to ‘discover’ if these goals are attainable, and at a reasonable price. If the goals are unrealistic, you will never be able to meet them adequately and the business relationship will only end in tears.

Once you understand the potential client’s problems, you’ll be in a position to assess whether or not you’ll be able to solve it. You should also assess whether you are speaking to a figure of authority in the business, and that they do have a tangible problem you can solve. If they don’t really know what they want you could waste an awful lot of time trying to find out. You are qualifying them as a reasonable and profitable person/business to work with.

What should you ask in a discovery call?

The questions you ask are of course going to depend on your industry and how well you already know the potential client or their business. But often questions will be a variation on the following:

  1. What’s a normal business day for you?
  2. What are the biggest issues your business faces?
  3. What will happen in 6 months’ time if you don’t tackle these issues?
  4. Have you tried to solve these problems?
  5. How would the business change if they were solved?
  6. Who is your target audience?
  7. What are their problems?
  8. What are your main goals?
  9. How can you track whether or not you achieve your goals?
  10. Do you have a time scale in mind to attain these goals?
  11. What would successful look like for you?
  12. What will get in the way of achieving these goals?
  13. What is your budget?
  14. Are you talking to other people about solving this problem?

At the end of the call you should have an impression of whether this is a credible client with a solveable goal, and the potential client should understand how you can help them. As long as it’s positive, processes can be discussed in another call. Give them some simple recommendations to indicate you can solve their problem, but don’t give too much away. You are displaying your expertise not giving it to them for free.

Follow up after the call with a quick email, and tell them you’ll provide them with a quote in the timeframe discussed. Once more, remember the relationship with a client should be an equal one. One should not be at an advantage, and an equal relationship will be much more beneficial and long-lasting than an unequal one.