Not gonna lie — when I first started my business, just the thought of doing a discovery call scared the HECK out of me. I knew I had to do them to get clients, but I am an introvert! I absolutely hated getting on calls because I always felt put on the spot and like I needed to sell myself. It was awkward and uncomfortable.
But here I am today, telling you all about how awesome they are! What changed? Well, it was really two things that helped me get over my fear of discovery calls.
The first thing that helped was time and practice. OK, fine, that’s technically two things, but they go together! Just like anything else, you aren’t born knowing how to do a discovery call. But over time and with practice, you will get better and better at it. Within 6 months of starting my business, I became so good at them that I converted at least 90% of my discovery calls — and that still holds true today!
The second thing that was a HUGE help was developing a Discovery Call System.
What’s that? Well, it’s a system for completing discovery calls that, once put into place, made me feel so much more comfortable. Each discovery call started to run like clockwork. That feeling of knowing exactly what would happen on every call is what made me start to feel more relaxed about it. I was actually able to start enjoying them and have fun chatting with clients.
Yup, I actually think they are fun! I LOVE hopping on a discovery call now. (And the fact that they convert really well for me is awesome, too!). You can feel the same way about your sales process by using a Discovery Call System!
6 Steps of a High-Converting Discovery Call System
1. Use a Discovery Call Appointment Scheduler
When I first started doing discovery calls, I just had a contact form on my website. Clients would reach out and then we would email back and forth trying to find a time that worked for both of us. Eventually, I upgraded to using Acuity for my appointment scheduler and I will never go back! I love it so much that I actually get annoyed when other people don’t use them for scheduling calls. 😂
It just makes it SO much easier — not to mention, it looks hella professional 👌
Appointment Schedulers Help You Set Boundaries
It also makes it a lot easier to set boundaries with your clients. Whenever I’d try to set a call time with a client, I’d get roped into meeting at a time that I just didn’t want to meet at. I felt pressured because it was the only time they were available. With an appointment scheduler, I’m able to set those boundaries for myself. I only want to meet at certain times of the day and week, and now I’m able to easily stick with that!
Hint: As your business grows and you become busier and more in-demand, decrease your availability. Now, I only have appointment times available during a few hours of the week. This helps me be able to better manage my schedule and use time blocking more effectively.
Don’t worry about being too unavailable…if your schedule really doesn’t work for a prospective client, they’ll reach out and ask to meet at a different time. And then you can make a decision about that on a case-by-case basis.
But having your call times set with an appointment scheduler like this (and then only deviating from that in necessary situations) helps you set and keep your boundaries like 95% of the time, which is such a great thing for your productivity and sanity!
2. Send Out Discovery Call Reminder Emails
When you use a tool like Acuity (I’ve tried several and Acuity is my favorite hands-down), it also allows you to send out automated appointment reminder emails. You do have to upgrade to the paid plan to get access to that feature, but it’s worth it!
Before I used reminder emails, prospective clients would just forget to show up all the time (once I had like 5 people no show in one week…it was ridiculous 😅). Now, I have one reminder email go out 24 hours in advance, and then another one goes out 1 hour in advance. And my no-show rate has dropped significantly! I almost never have people no-show anymore.
Plus, when a prospective client makes an appointment, it will prompt them to add it as an event to their calendar. If it’s in their calendar, they’re much more likely to show up! And trust me, I know from experience — they will probably not remember to add it to their calendar if you set the date over email 😂
3. Prepare for the Discovery Call
This is arguably the most important part of your Discovery Call System.
Back when I first started doing discovery calls, I’d get so nervous before every call — my hands would start to sweat and I’d have trouble breathing. 😬 It was bad!
Preparing before the call really helped me feel more comfortable with talking to the prospective client, because I knew so much about their business and was able to tailor my questions and responses to their specific business.
The worst feeling is going into a discovery call feeling unprepared. I was running late for a call once and didn’t have time to prepare beforehand, and it was a horrible feeling. I had no idea what I was talking about and didn’t feel connected to the prospective client at all. Needless to say, I didn’t make that sale.
Preparing for each call before it happens is CRUCIAL.
What do I mean by preparing? Basically, you’re going to want to creep on them. Big time! Do your research and learn as much as you can about the person before you hop on the call.
Use an Intake Form
If you’re using a tool like Acuity, you can set up an intake form that each client has to fill out prior to the call. Add some probing questions to this form and you’ll get some really useful information from them, which will help you make the sale.
Always ask them the simple questions like their name, email address, and website URL. But you can also include some additional questions to your form to help you get even more information out of them. This part really depends on your service(s), but ask stuff like:
- What are you looking for help with?
- What are your goals with X?
- How long have you been in business?
Don’t ask TOO many questions. You don’t want to overwhelm them or scare them off. But ask a handful of key questions that will give you a foundation of information. This will make your discovery call run more smoothly and make your pre-call creeping process easier.
The Pre-Call Creep
Once you get all of that information from them, schedule some time in to creep on them before your call. You can do this whenever you want. Personally, I like to set aside a 20-minute block right before the call to do my creeping. That way, the information is really fresh in my mind.
The creep process is going to be a little bit different based on your target market and services, but here are some things that you can do:
- Check out their website
- Read a few of their blog posts
- Snoop on their social media accounts
- Watch a recent video
- Listen to a recent podcast episode
Creeping on your prospective clients may seem a little weird, but trust me that you will look SO much more prepared and professional when you actually know what you’re talking about on your discovery call. Doing your research shows the potential client you care enough to spend time on them before landing the job and shows the thoroughness of your work.
Creep away, my friend. I’m giving you permission! 🤓
4. Choose the Type of Discovery Call
There are actually two main types of discovery calls. You’ll want to figure out what type you offer before you set up this whole Discovery Call System, as it will change some of these steps.
The main 2 types of discovery calls are:
- The Interview
- The Strategy Call
I’m just making up those names, but they describe the two types fairly accurately.
The first type of call, which is what most people mean when they say “discovery call,” is the interview. It’s not necessarily a traditional interview (in fact, it shouldn’t be!), but it’s a call where you and the prospective client are meeting to kind of “interview” each other to figure out if you’re the right fit to work together.
Sometimes a client will come into the discovery call with you after meeting with several different other service providers, or sometimes they are just meeting with you. But they typically have already made the decision that they need help with something and are looking to see if you are the right fit to provide them that service.
The Strategy Call
The second type of call is not an interview at all, and I like to call it a strategy call (some people call it a “Clarity Call”). This type of discovery call is almost always used by coaches or consultants. It tends to work best with types of services that don’t have clear-cut or tangible deliverables, but instead are more abstract.
Instead of being like an interview, a strategy call is run like a deliverable service. There is some sort of goal or outcome of the call that is a free result for the prospective client. It gives the client a taste of what it would be like to work together, and then at the end, the service provider pivots into a pitch for their services.
Sometimes these types of calls actually cost money. Not all service providers offer free discovery calls, and that’s okay! If you’re a high-end brand serving high-end clients, offering free calls might not be the best choice for you. Instead, you may offer a paid strategy call that’s like a “test run” for what it’d be like to work with you long-term. Usually (although not always) these calls are longer, may have more consulting-based deliverables like a plan or strategy, and go more in-depth.
Mindset coach Kaitlyn Kessler does this with her Clarity + Confidence Call that costs over $500! As you can see, this call has several deliverables that you get as part of the process.
Unlike free strategy calls, paid calls typically do not include a pitch for your services. At this point, they’ve already purchased from you. So your focus shifts to blowing them out of the water with an amazing first experience. The idea is that they’ll be so enamored by you that they’ll be eager to work with you long-term.
Tips on Choosing a Call Type
While this Discovery Call System works for either type of call, I wouldn’t recommend using it for a paid strategy call. That one should be set up more like a service, with its own sales page, payment gateway, and onboarding process.
I also would recommend against offering more than one type of call. I’ve seen service providers do this in the past and it just confuses your audience. Either have a free discovery call, a free strategy call, or a paid strategy call — you have to choose ONE. Here’s my rule of thumb… If you have a high-end brand with high-end clients and an expensive signature service, use the paid strategy call. If not, use a free call (interview or strategy). But it really depends on your specific target market, your offer(s), and your pricing. Do what feels best for you!
5. Complete the Call
The main event! Now it’s time to actually get on the discovery call.
How the discovery call will actually go depends on which type of call you’ve chosen.
How to Complete an Interview Call
Although I call this an “interview” call, I want to stress that it is NOT like a typical job interview at all. In a job interview, a company is looking to hire someone and they interview lots of people for the job before they choose who would be the best fit.
When you’re first transitioning into the world of online business, that may be the only type of interview you’ve ever experienced. But that’s not how it works online! Because we as service providers are contractors, the power dynamic shifts so that we are our own boss and the client isn’t.
Instead, the “interview” becomes more open. It should be just as much (if not more) you trying to decide if your client is a good fit than them trying to decide if you are the person they should hire.
Note: This is not always how it works with subcontractors or very large online businesses, which may include an application and traditional interview process. For the purposes of this post, I’m talking specifically to service providers who work with small business owners, in the circumstance that one of those small business owners has booked a discovery call with you.
Because it might feel like a strange concept to you, that can make running a discovery call uncomfortable or awkward. You might not feel like you understand exactly what you should be doing or saying during the call. (And the client might not know either!)
The best thing that you can do is take charge. As the service provider, this is your call to run and it’s going to go exactly how you want it to go. Right from the very beginning, you’ll want to command the call and lead it in the direction you want it to go in.
Interview Call Formula
Here is an example of the way I like to organize my free discovery calls:
- Introduction: Ask the client to introduce themselves and tell me about their business.
- Identify the Problem and/or Goal: Have the client explain what they need help with. May need to follow up with some clarifying questions.
- Invite Questions: Ask the client if they have any questions they’d like to ask me.
- Pitch: Describe exactly how I can help them and how much it costs.
Each call is going to be slightly different, but for the most part, I follow this loose outline. I do this so that I always know exactly how each call is going to go. I feel more comfortable knowing the steps I need to follow.
Depending on your pre-call research, you may even have some specific questions you want to bring up on the call. Make sure to have some way to take notes before and during the call. You can also write down your call outline in your notes to help keep you on track!
When I was first doing discovery calls, I actually wrote down my discovery call outline on a sticky note and kept it right on my desk so that I could glance at it during my calls. It helps to have a roadmap of where you need to go.
How to Complete a Strategy Call
If you utilize a strategy call as your discovery call, the actual time on the call with the client is going to be a lot more defined and is easier to predict. You’re the one in charge of this call! And it typically follows a set formula that you’ve decided ahead of time.
You may want to follow a formula like Kaitlyn Kessler’s. She actually covers this right on her sales page, where she identifies the components of the call.
An example formula for a mindset coach might look like:
- Introduction: Introduce yourself and invite the client to tell you a bit about themselves
- Pinpoint Their Goals: Discuss what the client’s vision of success looks like
- Find Things to Work On: Identify 1-3 sticking points that may be holding them back from achieving those goals
- Map Out a Plan: Put together a list of next steps for the client to take that will help them make progress
- Pitch: Talk about how you can support them as they take those next steps
Having a set way that you always run each call will help you feel more confident and comfortable to lead the call and give the client a great experience!
6. Post-Call Follow Up
Some people like to get really aggressive and process the client’s payment on the discovery call, but I prefer to wait until after and that’s what I recommend doing.
Once the discovery call is completed, you’ll be in one of 3 situations:
- You are definitely (or most likely) going to work together.
- The client needs to think about it, but you want to work with them.
- You are not going to work together.
This is a great time to use email templates! You’ll want to craft 3 email templates (or you can grab them here if you’re in the Systems Society!) that you can use for each of these situations.
The first template should give them next steps for how to work together, like “go here to purchase the package” or “pay your invoice.”
The second template should go over the offer(s) they’re interested in, with all the deliverables and pricing options. Keep your tone upbeat and let them know that you’re excited to get started whenever they’re ready.
The third template is typically used when you’re just not the right fit for each other. So you can either offer them a downsell or a referral to someone who can better help them. Or you can just thank them for the meeting and wish them well.
Keep Following Up!
The post-discovery call follow up email should NOT be the last email you ever send them. Utilize a CRM tool (I cover this in-depth in the 5-Day Client System!) to remind yourself to continue to follow up with them until you get a yes or no answer.
The key is not to be too aggressive about following up. But also to be insistent enough that they do eventually get back to you.
As you probably could tell, while there is a lot that you can put into place to make your Discovery Call System easier and convert better… mastering discovery calls in general is a little bit of an art.
That is why practice is so important! Discovery calls used to fill me with fear when I first started doing them. I would get so nauseous before a call and want to throw up. I would get flustered, had no idea how to answer questions, and would always feel like they went horribly. But eventually…I got better. I actually got really good at them. Even though I’m an introvert!
After about the first 3 months I was in business, I was able to consistently close about 90% of my discovery calls — and I still do! Having a Discovery Call System can really help you feel prepared and in control, which will help the call go better. Implementing systems like these helps reduce my anxiety surrounding situations that can be nerve-wracking! But it still won’t be perfect right from the beginning.
It takes practice, and it can feel a little bit like a balancing act. But eventually you will feel confident and in control on every call!