Qualification/discovery calls are much harder than we think

Qualification/discovery calls are much harder than we think

We’ve had “qualification calls” (or “discovery calls”) in sales almost as long as we’ve had phones. And still, most people seem to not understand the full breadth of how it actually works. It’s tricky — and you don’t want it to become a disqualification call. Here’s a new way to think about it.

It is a two-way qualification

This is the biggest mistake we’ve seen SDRs and sales reps make. They assume only they are doing the qualifying — in that case, of the prospect.


The prospect is also qualifying you.

We’ve never gone and mapped this data, although a few studies have tried to, but here’s a theory: the longer a qualification call goes, the higher probability that no match is made.

You can think of this in a dating context too. If you have a long-arse conversation with someone of the opposite sex at a bar, chances are you’ve exposed dozens of insecurities and reasons to not consider dating you.

The same happens in initial sales calls all the time.

Using that same dating analogy for a second…

One thing you see a lot is — oftentimes younger — sales reps getting on a qualification call and discussing product features very soon into the call.

Big mistake.

Who talks about engagement/marriage on a first meeting?

Very few people — except for the “friend who is always a bridesmaid” in romantic comedy movies. And we are supposed to laugh at her, not with her.

That’s the same context as discussing product features on a discovery call.

This prospect has no real background about what you do, and that might be true even if you’re a market leader with a strong brand name. He/she (the prospect) needs to know:

  • Who you are
  • Some backstory
  • Why he/she should care
  • What problems you solve
  • Is there such a problem
  • Do they want to change their status quo
  • Similar companies to theirs you’ve solved problems for

You’re not pitching features. You’re building the dynamic and the value.

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A better way to think of qualification calls

Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp, tweeted this in November 2013 — and in March 2018, oftentimes more than 1,400 people are still discussing or embedding it daily:


“Here’s what our product can do” and “Here’s what you can do with our product” sound similar, but they are completely different approaches.”

Again, we aren’t discussing product features directly on a qualification call (“Here’s what our product can do”), but we are going to start laying the value (“Here’s what you can do with our product”) once we’ve built some commonalities around the relationship.

Bottom line, as with almost everything in sales: it comes from the value you establish, not the relationship (can’t scale) or the suite of features (I’m sure yours is great, but a competitor’s is going to be very similar).

Qualification calls are tricky (and two-way). But if you know where your focus should be, you can do them better.

What’s next after the qualification call? Read our B2B Sales Essentials blog post.

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