Just as first dates are always tricky and nerve-wracking, having discovery calls with potential clients should be fun yet handled with utmost care if you want a second date to progress.
After years of trying to figure out the ‘perfect’ discovery call formula and countless calls with different prospects, I realized that it’s not about being perfect at all but about being consistent in your message and in applying these 7 principles so you can run a discovery call that converts prospects into clients.
1. Weed Out Non-ideal Clients
Just as you would use first dates to sus out each other’s favorite cuisine, secret guilty pleasure, or favorite genre of movies to see if you two are compatible, a discovery call works pretty much the same way when you begin a coaching relationship.
How do you know if you and your potential clients are right for each other?
That initial call not only determines the tone and dynamic of your coaching relationship but also the path of your business direction.
If you work with just anyone, especially with people who don’t align with your values, vision and business goals, it will be a lot more challenging. They’ll be difficult to work with, and what you say won’t resonate with them. More importantly, they’ll likely drain your energy, you probably won’t end up working well together, and the whole exercise is just a waste of time and effort for both you AND your client.
So how do you determine if they’re the right fit for you?
It’s as simple as niching in early on.
This is why ideal client avatars shouldn’t be ignored in the early stages of your coaching biz. You should already have your ICAs ready even before that eventful first call. It’s also important that you have a crystal-clear marketing message about who you are, who you want to work with and how you can help them.
Your Marketing Message Is Important.
Because let’s face it. Everyone does a bit of stalking on social media. And your prospects will most likely do the same.
Your prospect will most likely check out your Insta account, or go through your Facebook page before they’ve even met you. Just to get a sense of who you are, what you do, and to see if you’re the right coach for them. So it’s important for you have a clear marketing message from the very beginning that will resonate with your ideal prospects even before the discovery call begins.
Because if you’re not clear on your marketing message, your prospects won’t be either.
“A confused mind never buys”
2. Keep It Short, Sweetie (KISS)
As clichéd as it sounds but time is gold, for both you and your potential clients.
Applying the KISS principle works best. They’re not here to hear about your life story (they’re here to talk how you can help them), so keep your storytelling short, and get straight to the point about how you can help them.
Your prospects are just as busy as you are, so you wouldn’t want to take up anymore time than what is necessary.
Too often, I see coaches who book themselves for a 50-minute discovery call, and because they’re ‘locked in’ for 50-minutes they feel obliged to use up the whole 50-minutes for their sales call, just to fill up time!
You don’t have to do this!
In fact, if you could get your point across in 20 minutes… great! That’s all you need.
Take as much, or as little time you feel is the right amount of time for this discovery conversation.
You won’t need to force it. The whole conversation process should feel very natural to the both of you. And to extend the dating analogy, asking for the sale is like swooping in to steal your first kiss at the precise moment you feel the timing is right on that first date.
Dragging things out isn’t creating ‘value’
Some coaches, especially those who are newer at selling, may feel obliged to fill the whole 50-minute consultation up just because they want to provide as much ‘value’ to the prospect as possible. They also want to flex their coaching muscle and showcase their coaching acumen, so they end up throwing everything at their prospect.
But when you over-teach, you overwhelm.
If you keep dragging things on for the sake of it, things could get a bit awkward and uncomfortable when your calls are ‘forced’ to keep going. You might even end up giving free coaching advice unintentionally which defeats the purpose of why you’re making a discovery call in the first place.
The purpose of a discovery call is to figure out whether they’re a good fit for what you offer, and if so, you extend an invitation to them to work with you.
There’s no ideal length of time for a discovery call, you’ll just have to find the right amount of time that works for you. Personally, I aim to take about 20-3o minutes and by then, I already have a very clear idea about whether they will become my paying client or not.
3. Selling is Caring
When we think of selling, many of us immediately associate selling with sleazy, slimy, con-artistry, used-car salesman-esque kind of behaviour:
If you happen to think like that, I want you to stop that thought immediately!
For the sake of your business, of course!
If we start thinking negatively about the sales process, then your less than positive attitude will affect how you show up on that sales call.
Your voice begins to tremble, your breath becomes shallow, your body stiffens, and you’ll start inflecting your tones at the end of every sentence simply because you’re nervous…
That’s because you don’t fully believe selling your coaching services will change their life (just yet).
Change your mindset.
That’s why you need to change your mindset and believe what you do provides great value to your client. Your services are life-changing. By extending an invitation to them to work with you (i.e. through the process of selling), you’re able to change their lives forever.
Selling doesn’t have to be slimy.
Selling doesn’t have to be slimy if you don’t want it to be. In fact, if you’re only offering a product to someone because they genuinely need it, then you’re selling with integrity.
By extending an invitation to them to work with you, you’re indicating to them that you care.
Isn’t that a better way to think?
Until you adopt the belief that selling is the necessary path you two will need to walk down together before you can help your client open their gates to ultimate ‘liberation’ / ‘freedom’ / ‘self-actualisation’, you’ll always feel awkward when asking for the sale on your sales call. So if you haven’t done so already, I invite you to change your mindset to embody the belief that ‘selling is caring‘.
4. Ask in Advance
They say, success is where preparation meets opportunity.
Asking in advance isn’t only about asking your prospects the right questions, but more importantly, asking yourself a few critical questions as well.
• Am I mentally prepared for this call?
• Who do I want to work with?
• What exactly are my offerings?
• Am I setup for business (e.g. my business name, marketing message and materials, payment methods, contracts, forms etc.)?
• Do I have a concrete next-step plan after these discovery calls?
Using a questionnaire you can send out in advance, it’s worth asking your prospects:
• What they’d like to change the most in their life
• Their experience working with a coach before (if there’s any)
• How much time, energy and resources they are willing to invest in to make their dreams happen
• Rate their willingness to invest in a solution to their problems (i.e. your service)
• How open they are to new ideas, concepts, and being coached in general
Personally, I love Typeform. Typeform lets you create beautiful questionnaires you can send out before your call. This can make a world of difference in terms of weeding out ideal clients from tire-kickers. Those who are just there for some free coaching, from those who are willing to invest in themselves.
Asking prospects open-ended questions can give you a glimpse of what’s going on in their minds that you can then use in developing your discovery call questions and offerings.
5. Show Your Leadership
Clients who are interested in coaching are often looking for leadership in certain areas that are currently disorganized in their lives. They’re looking for a leader who can take them by the hand, guide them out of their struggles, and lead them out of the woods (so to speak). So you need to show leadership, and guide them to higher grounds.
And this begins the moment you start your discovery call.
You will need to take charge from the outset of the session. Give them an outline of the session at the beginning of your call, and let them know your intention. If your intention is to find out if you two are a good fit, and if you are then you’ll extend an invitation to them to work together… then tell them! No one likes to be sneaked up on and suddenly realise the discovery call was actually a sales call in disguise halfway through, so if you have an intention to offer your services at the end, then tell them at the start!
Let them know clearly and concisely what they could expect on this call.
Lead the way in terms of asking questions otherwise prospects will end up asking unstructured questions that could lead your sales conversation off-track, which means you will never get an opportunity to close the sale because they’ve steered you off course!
Of course, they’ll have their chance to ask you questions later, but it is your job as a ‘sales rep’ is to maintain the flow of discussion.
The secret to doing discovery calls that convert is to set an agenda (your agenda) from the outset and maintain control of your agenda during the entire sales conversation.
6. Always Have a Plan B, C, D…
What I learned from my past discovery calls is the idea that not all prospects want to work with you immediately.
From then on, I’ve made a follow-up approach that has allowed me to handle objections or hesitations with grace and eventually turn their reluctance to readiness.
Did you know, research show that 44% of sales reps give up after one follow up call and yet, 80% of sales require up to 5 follow-up calls?
Put simply, nearly half of us are taking our first ‘no’ as a definitive sign that these prospects don’t want to work with us, and we leave a lot of money on the table in the form of unconverted prospects!
Handle Objections with Confidence.
Even serious buyers raise objections. But instead of running away defeated, here’s what you can do instead.
When it comes to raising objections, there are 6 common objections that come up time and time again on sales calls. So it’s best to be prepared for them, and have your prepared answers ready (don’t wing this one!) because, trust me, they’ll be headed your way no matter what!
Here are the 6 most common objections you should prepare for:
- But I don’t have time to do this right now…
- But I don’t have money right now…
- Will it work?
- Will it work for me? (but my situation is unique)
- I want to ask my partner first…
- Let me think about it first, I’ll get back to you…
Anytime one of these 6 common objections come up, you’ll need to handle them gracefully. Have good answers for all of them. Don’t let them off the hook so easily, especially if you KNOW you can help them, and the real reason why they don’t buy is because they’re actually scared of change…
Just remember to prepare your responses beforehand. And remember the way to help them improve their lives begins by making that sale.
“Everyone loves to buy, but no one likes to be sold to”
7. Make Your Offer
If you like them and they like you, then it’s time to make them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Start by giving them the right package that best suits them.
However, when you’re first starting out, you may not have enough credibility built up just yet. In that case, your prospects may be fearful and want to ‘trial’ your services for a shorter period of time. You may want to give them an option to try you out for 1-month or 3-month with the option to extend into a 6-month package.
I like to think of it a bit like going through a ‘probation’ period when you first get a new job.
Make your recommendations.
Give them the right options but don’t confuse this with coaching them or giving them a free advice. Making recommendations means you offering them a package that will best suit their needs and problems. Tell them exactly what you will be working on should they decide to choose a certain service.
People like to know you have a plan, so by addressing what you’ll be working on should you work together, helps reassure your prospect that you know what you’re doing and that you will help them get the results they’re after.
And while you’re at it, make them feel valued by reassuring them that you truly and deeply understand their pains.
Your clients are not buying coaching sessions, they are buying results.
So by coming up with a high-level structured plan, you give your new client more reason to trust you!
Pro tip: In session 1, make sure you help them achieve a small win. Why? Your clients are the most enthusiastic when they first start with you. It’s also the time they feel the most motivated to do the work, but also most skeptical of you. Simply because you haven’t gotten any results for them (specifically) at this stage. So by helping them get a small win from the very beginning, they have more reason to trust you as their coach, trust the process, and help them really get into their future sessions!
Following these seven steps will help you get more clarity over your discovery call process and the way you deal with your prospects. Remember, preparation is always the key. And if you’ve got any discovery call experience to share with us, you’re more than welcome to share them in the comment box.
Good luck on those discovery calls!
Keep on shinin’