Your sales discovery call structure can make or break a deal. So, when you call a prospect, do you have a plan for what to say if they actually answer the phone, or do you get caught off guard?

This week on INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl welcomes the authority on all things related to discovery calls, Richard Smith, the rockstar Co-Founder and Head of Sales for Refract. Darryl and Richard go over how discovery calls are the most important stage in the sales process and offer valuable advice on how you can use them to their fullest potential. They share tips such as having an agenda for what outcomes you want to accomplish, not rushing headfirst into a demo and spotting emotive nuggets to learn as much about your prospect as you can. Learn how to close more deals by getting the most out of your discovery process on this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales!




Host: Darryl PraillVanillaSoft

Guest: Richard Smith, Refract


Darryl Praill: How are you doing folks? Another week has gone by, you’re still there, I’m still here. You’re listening, I’m talking. It feels good to be back here, doesn’t it? I have missed you. I got a question for you. I know you’re on the edge of your seat, like freaking Praill, you always have a question. So, here’s my question. And then it’s, by the way, it’s a truly legit question. I’m not trying to lead you at all. When you get on the phone with a prospect, do you have a plan? Do you know what you’re gonna say? I know so many of you are saying, “Of course I have a plan.” I get it. And I’m sure you do. I don’t have any reason to doubt you. I think though, many of you think you have a plan and you don’t have a plan.

Darryl Praill: Here’s what I know from my own experience as a seller and as a buyer, is myself, my plan usually goes out the window the minute somebody answers the phone because I’m actually not expecting them to answer the phone. How lame is that, right? I’m actually, I always get shocked that I’m caught off guard when someone answers the phone and that just throws me for a loop. And he would, yeah, you get better with age and with time and experience, it’s true and… Cause part of it is you fall back on tried behaviors and proven lines that you use and they become almost filler while you get your head back in the game and then get back on course, it’s not uncommon. I’m always amazed as a buyer how so many of you, you truly don’t have a plan.

Darryl Praill: You’re like me, which is, that’s nice I feel less lonely that maybe you’re shocked that I answered the phone and then you go right into your pitch. You just go right into the pitch. Or you’re the complete opposite, which is you spend the first minute or two trying to assess my health and my wellbeing, even though we’ve never talked before and chances are you’re not gonna lose any sleep if my health or wellbeing is not optimal, but it’s like, it is what you do, right, cause we’re creatures of habit. What’s interesting in all that conversation is if we talk about having a script, or being ready or doing fillers, what we don’t talk about in all of that plan, all that conversation is we don’t talk about the things we’re not even aware about, which makes sense, right? How can we talk about it if we’re not worried about it?

Darryl Praill: Let me give you some examples. This is what I’ve become aware of over time is that when I do podcasts, like this, you may have noticed this. In fact, I’m gonna give you permission if you’ve noticed this. I have filler words and I’m bad for them. Umm, there’s one right there. That was a filler word. Now, that’s not a bad one. We all do it. If I did it all the time and excessive, now that might be bad. I will have bridges, expressions. “With that said,” I think is my number one bridge. “With that said” and now you’re gonna hear it from now till eternity. And some of it I use it so often, that when I listen to myself, which is not often because I had the conversation once, and I kind of move on, I got other stuff to do. But when I do listen to myself, when I hear “with that said”, “with that said”, “with that said”, over and over again in the conversation, I’m like, “Oh, Praill, you’re so freaking grating and annoying.”

Darryl Praill: I’ll hear when I playback certain podcasts that my guest was trying to say something and I cut them off. Ummmm. There you go. Another filler word. See, I’m doing it again. That’s my verbal thinking clue. You start to see that we all have habits that we do when we speak. Whether we’re public speaking almost like what I’m doing now. Cause even though I look at this as a conversation between you and I, clearly, you’re not in the room at this time. So, I’m looking at a video camera now, the big ass mic in front of me. And that’s, you know, I’m not getting anybody language from you. So, go figure that I’ve got all this reaction. Similarly, when a prospect is there and they’re just listening to you and they’re just really good listeners. They’re not doing “Uh, uh. Uh, uh. Yeah.” They’re not doing that. They’re just like listening to you. It messes you up and you see all these bad habits come out.

Welcome Richard Smith

Darryl Praill: Here’s what you may not realize. All of those bad habits, all of those reactions, all of those, “I’ve got a plan. It’s out the door.” All of those, “I’m not listening.” They’re kicking you in the ass in multiple ways. And I know you know this, but if you truly knew it, you’d be fixing it. So, you know it, but you choose not to deal with it, which, hey, you know, I get it. But they’re kicking you in the ass. If my guests, I don’t know why they don’t yell at me in the same… “Praill, if you say, with that said, one more time, I’m hanging up right now. We’re done.” And I wouldn’t fault them for that. I often wonder, when I cut them off, what nugget were they gonna give me that might’ve been just like the epitome of the show and could have changed the direction of everything.

Darryl Praill: Could have made that episode great instead of just good. Could’ve made that call amazing instead of just adequate. So, what do you do? That’s a good question. What I do is I reach out to my good friend, Richard Smith. Now, do you know Richard Smith? Richard Smith is with Refract. Now, I probably did get this all wrong, but what they do is they actually do conversational analysis, analytics. And they have artificial intelligence, they have amazing tools and they actually teach you how to be better. Richard, how’d I do on that? Did I even remotely represent what Refract does well, or should you correct me now so nobody’s misunderstanding what I’m saying?

Richard Smith: I think you set up perfectly. Quite well there, the story, I think that the key that I took out of what you said there is, do you know what most of the time when we’re on sales calls, we don’t have a clue what we sound like. And I challenge anybody here that you come off one of your sales calls, listen to that call right back. And I guarantee, you will wince, you will hear things you didn’t hear the first time around, you will have talked more than you think you would have thought that you were talking on the call. Without listening back, we live in complete false ignorance of what we actually sound like to our prospects. So, yeah, that’s kind of what we’re doing is shining a light on all of that and helping people understand how to have better conversations with our buyers.

Are you reviewing your calls?

Darryl Praill: There’s a line on your website that it jumped off the page at me so much so that I actually copied it and put it in my notes. And I don’t, I actually rarely do this, but it was so well done. Clearly, I’m gonna give Matt credit for that, instead of Richard. Matt, he’s the real brains man in the company. Richard’s just the playboy good looking guy, that’s what he is. And your one line says, Refract analyzes every call and demo, profiling, get this, this is the best part here, the revenue defining moments, revealing what leads to successful outcomes for your team. Revenue defining moments. Part of what I was talking about was really defining moments that probably don’t lead to revenue. And so, I’m looking forward to today’s conversation. The one question I guess I wanna start it off. Now, I don’t know if you had the answer to this, but do you know, or do you have any indication, how often do reps typically, on average, actually listen to themselves, and not just periodically once in a blue moon, but consciously make a point on a regular basis, go back and review their calls. Does that happen today?

Richard Smith: So, the users of our software do, we know that. I think the majority of conversations that I have with sales leadership is that that is a very alien concept. I think it’s one of those things I talk about Darryl where we talk about sales as a profession. Everybody listening to this podcast right now would classify themselves as a sales professional. Yet, we rarely act as professionals in sales. Because if you look at every single discipline in the world, whether you’re a doctor, American football player, a musician, a singer, a poker player, a chess player, you name it. Every one of those professions practices watches back what they did, listens back to how they sounded. They will test it and try it, new techniques, again and again, they’ll listen back, they’ll refine. They’ll watch back, they’ll do some more refinement. Because guess what? That’s how you get better at what you do. But, how many–

Darryl Praill: It is.

Richard Smith: sales pros are actually doing that for themselves?

Darryl Praill: And I suspect a lot are, I do. That’s why I asked the question because I know even when I did it, I didn’t listen to myself. And the ability to record a call has been around for working even now. My day, we had little suction cups over and the handset, right? And you had to intercept the whole phone track and everything else and record it and play it back. That’s what you had to do. Different era. My goodness, you guys have no idea how fortunate you are now. I won’t even go… Look it up. Seriously, how we used to record phone calls. It was really, really lame.

Darryl Praill: So, let’s do this. What I wanna do today. I was inspired by your… One of the blogs on your website. You talked about basically discovery calls. You kind of bring it up, and in it, you go into… Your blog goes into 13 great discovery questions, but then you had another blog, which was like, cold call eavesdropping and what we’ve observed. So, it’s kinda like the good and the bad. That’s kinda how I took it. So, I wanna mesh this all up. I wanna talk about discovery calls, but I wanna talk about where people go wrong. Cause I’m a big fan of train wrecks and car crashes, and I wanna see the blood and the gore so that I can learn that I should not drive really, really fast while drunk. That’s bad for my health and my long-term success. So, that’s what we’re gonna do today if that’s okay with you. Is that okay with you?

Richard Smith: Yeah, let’s do it. I’ve got lots of opinions to share.

Darryl Praill: Let’s do it. Okay. I love it.

Richard Smith: Yeah.

Darryl Praill: Okay. So, what we’re gonna do before we start, let’s just do this. I’m gonna get the commercial out of the way so that we’re not interrupted. If you guys aren’t listening to the commercial, not a problem. Go to Check out the company. Check out Richard, that’s what you do, or check those blogs I talked about. But in the meantime, we’ll be right back and we’re gonna hit up where you’re going wrong in your discovery calls.

Sales discovery calls structure: Where do we go wrong?

Darryl Praill: Okay. So, let’s just get right into it. And by the way, how many people here actually went to, alright? You should. Good tool pocket. Familiar with it? You can go and bookmark it and read it later. Just total sidebar. Okay. Richard, you’re smiling there. If those are watching the video, he’s like, “Praill, just shut up already and let me talk.” I can totally see it. Let’s talk about where people go wrong in a discovery call. So, maybe you could even set the stage. When you say discovery call, set the stage for me what you’re talking about, and then tell me where they’re screwing up. So, over to you.

Richard Smith: Yeah. So, I’ve always classified discovery as, first of all, the most important stage in the sales process. I would always frame discovery in the main, as that scheduled first conversation where we’ve got a new opportunity. They’ve committed to meeting with us for the first time. And this is that first conversation. So, before we start thinking about, pitching out products, showing everybody what we do, which leads me nicely in a pitfall. Number one, but this is the key stage in the process. This is where deals are won or lost. Get discovery wrong, you can forget about the rest of the process. And I think that’s why a lot of people, they get discovery wrong and they end up four months into a sales cycle with a prospect who was never gonna buy from them because they didn’t do all the right things at the start.

Darryl Praill: Yeah. I wanna emphasize what you said there. The one thing you said was this was a scheduled call. That was a really important part. So, it’s not a brand new cold call. This is a scheduled call. In other words, you’ve already got past the cold call and they’ve agreed to allow you to fundamentally interrogate them, to learn more about how the solution might apply to them. So, you’re already… This is the most important call ever. Alright? Because this will quickly determine if you can make a dramatic impact. They’re gonna give you all the information you need, mostly, to put together a compelling proposal. They’re gonna tell you their pain points. They’re gonna… So, in other words, instead of you selling features and functions, they’re gonna tell you the pain that you need to solve, to overcome for them. And if you do this right, you’re gonna establish the value of your offering. What you’re gonna use to overcome objections. And gonna use to negotiate on price. It all starts here on the discovery call. No pressure. This is the call. This is it, baby. Where do we go wrong, first?

Richard Smith: So, the first fundamental problem I commonly see is, is simply that salespeople are not dedicating enough time to this crucial stage in the sales process. A lot of people still think of discovery as, “I’m gonna ask you two or three questions to understand about your sales team and your marketing team” or whatever that, whatever it is that they sell. “But I cannot wait to show you my product and I’m gonna share my screen. I’m gonna show you these features and all these cool dashboards. And I’m gonna hope that you love it because everybody else loves it.” And lo and behold, you end up basically giving it the same demo that you’ve done 50 times over to other prospects showing the same features that you think are cool, most of which aren’t relevant, because guess what, you hadn’t actually allocated the specific and necessary amount of time in discovery to understand what stuff, even in your product, is worth showing. Not even that, whether your product is even gonna be relevant or valuable for that prospect full stop.

Richard Smith: So, in my opinion, there’s a little bit of kind of debate about this. I see in the sales, in the sales world, is that discovery, the scheduled discovery calls should be completely separate from the demo. You should not even think about showing your product off in the session. When you do that, you make sure that that entire time slot that you schedule with the prospect, that’s 30 minutes or 45 minutes or an hour, is dedicated to discovery, information gathering, understanding how you can help. There should be no temptation to show any wonderful features and functionality. People, your prospects, some of your prospects won’t even deserve a demo. That’s for you to decide through discovery. So, the fundamental flaw number one is make sure that the discovery is a completely separate conversation. Put it on the pedal stool that it deserves the most important part of the sales process. And don’t dilute it with your product demonstration.

Darryl Praill: Oh dude, I gotta open this up. I got lots of opinions on this. Okay. I agree with you in an ideal world, the demo should be a separate conversation. I fully agree with you. But let’s table that for a second. Here’s what I know to be true. My schedule as a buyer is very finite. It’s very scheduled. And if you can give me two short meetings, as opposed to one long-ass meeting, I’m gonna take that every time. The chance that I will be able to handle two short meetings, we’ll say two 30 minute meetings. So, on separate dates, are so much more likely than one 60 minute demo, I’m sorry, meeting as an example, as point number one. Point number two, is many of you are worried that if I don’t do the demo now, I’ll never get a chance to do the demo, which means you’re relying upon the product or the solution and the features and the functions to be what actually closes and hooks that buyer when the reality is it has nothing to do with your features or your functions.

Darryl Praill: It has everything to do with them having a pain, and you being able to fix that pain, not your features. Your features are just… it’s a process to get to the end. That’s all it is. So, two meetings much better. The next thing is, if you spend your time doing that discovery properly, then a couple of things happen. One, you can listen to the call again and again and again. You can seek input from other people at the office and say, “Did you hear what I heard? What are the priorities? What did I not understand? What did I not ask?” And I can maybe even follow up with an email after the fact and say, “When you said this, I wanna be clear, do you mean this? Or do you mean that?” So that when you get to the demo, which is the second call, then all you do is you open up and say, “Okay, let’s recap. This is what I heard you say were the real top pain points. a, b, c, d, and e. ” That’s it, okay. “I’m gonna show you how I solve a, b, c, d, and e. And if you’re still interested and you wanna see more about the product, okay, great, we’ll do that, but I don’t wanna waste your time.”

Darryl Praill: And you hit such a powerful point, which was after that discovery call, maybe they’re not worthy of a demo at all because they just don’t fit. But too many of you are so desperate for a sale, that you just wanna go all in on the demo and pray and hope that something changes. I would say to you, are you not respecting your own schedule enough, your own efforts? If you’re wasting your time on a demo with them, you know what you’re not doing, you’re not prospecting. You’re not qualifying that other opportunity. That alone, Richard Smith, that alone was solid, solid gold. They go into demo mode as opposed to discovery mode because it’s what they know, it’s what they’re comfortable with. And they’re just missing out on so many opportunities. Brother, that’s a high five.

Richard Smith: Oh man! I feel just goodness flowing through my veins. But let me just come back to something that you said, I think it was a very… What I love about listening to the show, Darryl, is so often you provide the perspective as the buyer that I think for so many salespeople that they very rarely get to hear that. And you just said two short 30-minute meetings works better for you. And some people out there be thinking, “Oh! 30 Minutes to do a demo? That’s not enough time.” Well, hang on. If you did 30 minutes discovery, you’d figure out probably the 20% of your product that’s gonna be relevant for that prospect. And so, instead of showing the other 80%, which isn’t relevant, you focus on the 20%. You demonstrate the prospect, specify the specific parts of your product or service that can address their specific pain points and challenges. You will only need 30 minutes to do that.

Darryl Praill: I’ll even go one step further, because this is what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna show me in my example a, b, c, d e, cause that was my pain point. And I’m going to say, “Yep, I can see you can do it.” And then I’m more than likely gonna hand you off to somebody else on my team that says, “Okay, now drill down, integrate with salesforce or whatever or whatever, how does it fit into my stack, and what are my options and blah, blah, blah.” I don’t care about that. I trust my staffer to do that. You pass the litmus test with me. I have now anointed you, cause I’ve handed you off. Go have that one or two-hour demo with them. Rock yourself. It’s great. That’s what I want you to do, but I don’t wanna see it. I just wanna know that you can fix our problem. So huge point.

The importance of having an agenda

Darryl Praill: Okay, let’s move on. What’s the second thing you see people going wrong when it comes to discovery, as you listen to all these calls and you analyze them over and over and over again.

Richard Smith: Point number two, salespeople start discovery calls with no agenda whatsoever. What I mean by that is, I’m not expecting, “Okay, Mr. Prospect, we’re gonna talk about topic a, topic b, topic c, topic d.” It’s not what I mean by an agenda. I’m talking about, this is the expectation of what the purpose of today’s call is. And these are what the outcomes are of this conversation. Too many salespeople, I see, they start a discovery call, they say, “Hey, Darryl, how are you doing? How’s the weather in Canada?” Yeah, blah, blah, blah. And they go on with their questions and Darryl’s at the other end of the line thinking “I’m still unsure about what happens at the end of this call. Is the sales guy gonna ask me to get my credit card out? Is he, you know, what happens next?” So you do, you don’t know what the purpose of is, the purpose of the conversation is. So, too many salespeople are just kind of bleeding into their discovery calls and they’re not getting any sense of buy-in or commitments from the prospect about the purpose of the discovery conversation. And instead, all that’s doing is putting trepidation on the buyer. It’s making them resistant to give away information as freely as you would want them to be. And also it doesn’t set a clear objective about what happens at the end of that discovery call, which is so key.

Darryl Praill: So, since you asked about the buyer’s perspective, this is what I value. And I have coached reps on this over and over again, whether you are on my team, or you’re just trying to sell me something. When you start my call with, “Okay, Mr. Praill. Okay, Darryl. Okay, dick head.” Whatever it is you wanna call me that we agreed to, I’m okay with that. “Okay, sir. Let’s do recap. We still have one hour. You have to be off the phone at 3:00 p.m. Is that correct?” Yes. Great. Because if the answer’s no, it’s 2:45, we’ll have right away. You know you wanna do this. Great. “Now, what specifically do you want to accomplish today?” Oh, I wanna accomplish this, now I wanna learn about your product, whatever it might be. Okay, great. “Here’s what I want to accomplish today. And if this goes, well, then we can agree to carry on the conversation or do X or do Y, does that sound reasonable to you?” Yes. Great. When you do that, oh my gosh, I love you. And then in the next call, this is when you’re gonna have me high-fiving you. “Okay, good to talk to you again. Do you mind if I recap our last call, make sure we’re in alignment? Just to get us up to speed. I know you’re busy. Your mind’s probably in a thousand places.” Yes. Okay. “So, I heard you say was, you said a, b, c, d, and e. And you wanted me to follow up in this call today to do one, two, three, four, and five. Does that sound about right? Did I miss anything to you?” No, that sounds great. Perfect. Great. “And we still have one hour?” Yes, okay. “And then if we do this right, then the next will be this. Does that sound right to you?” Great. “Let’s get into it.” Oh my gosh, I love you. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to coach you, reps, on time management, on agenda setting, on clear outcomes, on not wasting my time, spending the first 15 minutes me saying, “We talked about this. We talked about this. We talked about this.” Stop it. Just stop it already. Okay.

Richard Smith: Yeah.

Darryl Praill: Number three, number three. Where do people go wrong?

Richard Smith: Number three, is that too many salespeople don’t appreciate that their buyers often don’t know how to buy their products and services. They’re dealing with inexperienced buyers. So, what they do is they come to the end of their discovery conversations and they’re kind of asking the prospect about where do we go next and what happens next? And guess what, the people that they’re speaking with have never bought anything before. They’ve never made an investment in a product or service that you’re selling. So, what you get is a prospect who just sort of guesses says, “Oh, well, I think I’ve gotta go, speak with this person. And we’ve, maybe, gotta look at getting this team involved, and maybe we can do some sort of trial.” And there’s one thing I learned some time ago from a brilliant sales trainer, Darryl, who said, “This is your sales process. Take prospects by the hand and guide them through your process.”

Richard Smith: It’s not saying that you have to force them there because we can’t force prospects to do what they don’t wanna do. But for those inexperienced buyers, if we say, “Okay, so typically, in these situations, Mr. Prospect, when we’ve identified that we can help you in this, this and this, this is what would typically happen next. And then that next stage, which is a sales demo, what would normally happen is we would also get involved with other people who this issue is important to.” And you’ve got the next inexperienced buyer that says, “Okay. Yeah. That all makes sense. Well, this is definitely important to this person, and yeah, getting a demo certainly makes sense.” Is you’re guiding that prospect by the hand, and you’re taking them through your sales process, you’re making it easy for that prospect to buy off you. But too many times, salespeople just think this is an experienced buyer and they let their buyer do all of the, they kind of let the buyer take them by the hand. And so often that just leads to dead ends.

Darryl Praill: And the beauty of what Richard just talked about there is everything he just said ties in exactly with setting of the agenda cause the agenda is also guiding the buying process. So, they go together. But yes, he’s spot on. Never assume they know how to buy if they bought before. It’s also, they don’t know how to buy, they may say to you, “Oh, I can’t make that decision. I’m not the person for that.” Great. Who is, just so I understand. Cause I wanna make sure I give you what they need and then you can circle around and reach out to them. So, brilliant, brilliant point. Okay. 30 seconds or less. What is one more mistake people make on a discovery call, where they go wrong?

Richard Smith: They don’t pick up on the emotive nuggets. “What’s an emotive nugget?” I hear everyone scream. An emotive nugget is those little words that people prospects drop in, that almost silent, almost irrelevant when they say it because they see it under their breath. You tell them something about your product. And they say, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Or “Yeah, that can be a challenge.” These words that indicate surface pain, levels of interest. And most salespeople, what they do is they hear these words and they smile and they think that’s a great answer, but they go on to the next question.

Richard Smith: What they should do is if I’m talking with you, Darryl, and you say, “Richard, yeah, that sounds interesting.” I stop. And I say, “Darryl, you said that sounds interesting. What is it specifically that interests you about that?” Identify the emotive nuggets and get the prospect to elaborate on why they found it interesting. Why it’s a challenge. The prospect’s dropped in their stake in the ground, let them elaborate, and the oftentimes you will learn 10X by just saying, “Tell me more about why you just said that word.” Then you will ever learned before, if you just carried on with your set of questions that you wanna ask the prospect, listen for the emotive nuggets and get the prospects to tell you more about why they said them.

Darryl Praill: Which ironically is how I started off the show where I said, “I often wonder what were they gonna say? that I cut them off on? Like I missed on. It’s exactly, those are emotive nuggets. Okay. So, what do we know here? We know that Richard Smith is a rockstar. The reason he’s a rockstar is cause he works for Refract. Refract is a kick-ass company that is all about understanding conversational analysis, to make sure that you, my friend, are actually having more revenue defining moments in your sales cycle. Specifically, what you need to do now is you need to check them out. You need to follow him. He’s big on LinkedIn, as you might imagine, but you can also find him in a lot of other places, including Twitter. You can email him. [email protected], check him out. He wants to hear from you. You’ve got a question, send it to him. But, if you liked this episode, my friend, beyond following Richard on LinkedIn and Twitter, you need to share it with all your friends because what Richard said today was gold. That’s another episode folks we’re done. We’re outta here. It’s been wonderful talking again. I hope you have a fantastic week. Take care. We’ll talk to you soon. Bye-bye.