• Nicole Papaioannou Lugara

What Happens on a Discovery Call?

The Discovery Call has been the single most important tool I have as a business owner to make early decisions about who we want to work with and how we can best serve their needs.


Just 30 minutes with a potential client can be a game-changer. It can establish rapport, facilitate alignment, and ensure you're proposing the right solution for the job.


I can't tell you how many phone calls I've gotten on where a potential client tells me they have no idea what they need, but they think it might be XYZ. In those moments, it's up to me as a learning professional to steer the ship. In fact, if I accepted the initial ask as my project, many times, I'd be failing the client.


The Discovery Call allows me to prevent that from happening.


Of course, making the most of that Discovery Call means having a plan of action. It's only as effective as the questions asked and the listening done.


So today, I'm going to share the strategies that have been most effective for Your ID when it comes to Discovery Calls.


Prior to the Call - The Inquiry


When the client reaches out with their inquiry, that's your opportunity to start doing homework.


Read their inquiry carefully. Is the problem clearly defined? Do they have timelines? Budgets? I don't ask about budget on my contact form, but my colleague Christy Tucker does, and it may be something you want to do too.


Look at their company website. Take 5 minutes to figure out who they are and what they do. It's challenging to ask good questions if you don't know anything about the business (although you can certainly ask).


Use some automation to standardize and speed up the workflow. This makes it less likely that inquiry will slip through the cracks or that you'll get so busy that you can't answer in a timely fashion. Automated systems might include tools such as:

  • scheduling apps (I use Calendly)

  • integrations with meeting tools (Calendly or Google Calendar + Zoom for me)

  • automated reminders and follow ups

  • automated intake forms


Email them to schedule a call (you can use automation, as stated above). I personally hate being called without a scheduled appointment, so I never just call a client. I always start with an email that asks when a good time to chat is for them. On these emails, I:

  • paraphrase the project request

  • ask them to schedule a time for a 30-minute call via my Calendly

  • let them know that I'm looking to see how I can best help them (because it is all about them)

  • invite them to add key players to the call calendar event

  • encourage them to bring critical sources of information


The First 5 Minutes


Set the tone and let people know how the call will go. Why are they spending 30 minutes with you? How will the time be used? Make sure they know.


Allow them to introduce themselves and their business.


Introduce yourself and the ways you help clients. No need to talk about all of the clients you've ever helped. Stick to the elevator pitch here.


The Next 20 Minutes


Focus on the problem they're trying to solve. What do they want to happen? What is actually happening? Is there a /why do they think there is a gap? Who is involved?


Ask lots of questions and listen carefully. During that call, I'm not just looking for gaps in performance. I'm listening for gaps in perspective or understanding. I'm looking for gaps in the definition of the problem. Does this client really know what they're solving for? Is there a change that training won't resolve this issue? I'm also looking to see if we're a good match and what it would take to help the client. Are there any indicators that this project would come with big challenges or hefty time commitment (e.g., overworked SMEs, limited knowledge of working with IDs, challenging work environment, super complex material)? Do I have the right staff to support their needs?


If you need help coming up with questions, you can always download our FREE Discovery Call Question List.


Show evidence that you can solve the problem, but keep it brief. While you will want to demonstrate that you've tackle similar issues for clients before, you don't want to make this call about you. Explain processes you would borrow from that situation and questions that were important to consider. Help them see what's important to getting results. Use these experiences to provide a framework that your potential client can imagine applying rather than show off that you've had a bunch of projects.


The Last 5


Paraphrase the key takeaways and confirm your understanding.


Offer a path forward. If you feel that the client has been clear in their ask, development might be the next step. If you feel there are significant areas that need clarification, the next step might be needs analysis. Let them know what you're thinking.


Tell them when to expect an agreement or proposal. Mine are a hybrid so that we can discuss or clients can immediately sign off to begin. It can take me a bit to put these documents together and determine appropriate pricing.


Thank them for their time.


After the Call


Be proactive. Send a quick recap of what you discussed and when they can expect a proposal. Send the proposal on time.


Keep a record. Store your notes on the call somewhere-- whether it's a folder organized by potential client or a proper CRM. You don't want to forget what was discussed, especially if you land the project.


Follow up if you don't hear back within a reasonable time frame. Sometimes, busy people forget things. It doesn't mean they don't want to work with you. Don't lose the opportunity because you were to shy to remind them.

 

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