8 Common mistakes that are robbing you of your mojo. 


In a recent post, I did the math surrounding the number of prospects we go through, to get to a sale. I don't need to tell you how I felt about these numbers, because hey, I'm preaching to the choir. 

I talk a lot about demos, obviously. I've been a sales rep, a sales engineer, and a sales leader. I do believe that the demo is where the deal gets made. In general, we also have more of an opportunity to engage with prospects, handle objections, and deliver value during a demo. So of course, we pay more attention to the demo. 

But we've all done the math at some point. We know that a poor discovery call-to-meeting ratio really hurts, even when we have mad demo skills because our prospects aren't getting there! The key sales metric here is your Discovery Call to Meeting Rate, and any improvement there gives you a pretty significant boost. 

Of course, demo and discovery need very different sets of muscles. You could be really good at doing demos, but not so great at discovery. You could also be using 'best practices' that don't work for you. And you could be making mistakes that really hurt your discovery game. 

Let's get into it. 

8 Common mistakes you're making in discovery 

Mistake #1: Jumping into a call instead of scheduling one

You've warmed up a prospect who's willing to talk, and you made the call. Now, you have them on the phone. No video, so you don't have any of the body language cues, and you aren't even sure how many other people may be listening in. Moreover, you don't have an agenda. You haven't set expectations. And you don't even know if this person is available for the full 30 minutes you need! Tsk tsk tsk. 

Mistake #2: Not validating your assumptions

You did the research, you think you know the company's pain points and you have a pretty good hypothesis about which of those pain points will be top of the mind for the person you're speaking to. All good things. But if you aren't going to validate these assumptions, it's very easy for you to miss the mark with your demo down the road, and of course, cause the prospect to lose interest in this call. 

Mistake #3: Asking questions you already have the answer to

You have 30 minutes in this call, of which, you can assume you'll have their fullest attention for about 15. You need to validate your assumptions and you need to build rapport, but it doesn't need to involve inanities. Layer in the information you're aware of in your questions, allowing the prospect to validate and build on what you know. Also, building rapport doesn't need you to go off topic - show them you're listening, show them you care, and show them you get it. That gets you most of the way there! 

Mistake #4: Going into interrogation mode

It's very easy to ask question after question when we're in fact-finding (pain-finding!) mode. Often prospects can feel interrogated when there's a lack of context - they need to understand why you're asking what you're asking. Make it a conversation. For instance, "I wanted to understand the approval process a little bit more. Clients who use [method A] and [method B] have had great success with our product/offering, so I'm curious to know if your process fits into either of those camps?" this gives the prospect context (and a minute to catch their breath); as opposed to "Can you walk me through the approval process used in x and y departments?".

Mistake #5: Doing the lion's share of talking.

It's super important to be aware of when you're dominating the call. The objective of discovery is to gather information and discover further pain points. The best way to do that is by asking well-considered, open-ended questions, and letting the prospect talk. Having said that, you do need to keep control of the meeting - having someone go into interminable detail doesn't help either. Balance is key. 

Mistake #6: Starting to sell

We can't help it, right? You hear something that sets you up just right to jump into your pitch. Please, don't. The prospect isn't ready to hear this yet. They're here to talk to you about their pain points, and feed you the right intel. Once they feel understood and heard, they'll be ready to hear you in turn. 

Mistake #7: Not listening deeply

As sales reps, we're almost programmed to talk. We pride ourselves on our ability to keep the conversation going, to handle objections, and to create engaging repartee. Discovery needs a slightly unused muscle - the ability to really listen, without interrupting. Yes, it counts as interruption even if you're doing it in your own head, because then you're playing out that conversation, instead of participating in this one. People know when they're not being heard. 

Mistake #8: Trying to do it all in one call

Unless you have a super enthusiastic prospect on the call, hold off on asking for a demo meeting in the first conversation. Instead, request a follow-up call to go into the details you couldn't cover, and ask for time to research what you need to. A well positioned, "What would you like me to come prepared with for our next meeting?" can yield great results. By spreading out your discovery over a few calls, you're able to get more nuanced detail out of these discussions. Also, once the prospect is warm(er), it becomes easier to get real answers to your BANT qualification questions


an illustrator of a person busy working

Discovery challenges sales reps in different ways. But honestly, if you can ace your demos, you've already got the right skill set for being great at discovery too. It can take a little practice to separate the mentality and attitude required for both. Pro tip: if possible, schedule discovery and demos at different times of day or week. I know I can't do discovery and then demo and back in the same afternoon without having one mental attitude bleed into the other. They're two very different head spaces

Don't stop at this list. Go listen in on a discovery call by a colleague who has the best Discovery Call to Meeting rates in the team. Better yet, ask them to observe you, and give you feedback. If you're in the habit of recording your discovery calls (I can't recommend this enough), go watch yourself in action and make adjustments each week. The best reps I know A/B test all their methods! 

As with everything else, I'm confident you'll find what works best for you.