How to master the sales calls — from prospecting to discovery and demo



8 min read

Cold calling is dead, they say. And yet there are millions of SDRs (myself included) who keep on dialing and keep on generating leads for their companies!

Multiple reports have proven email to be the preferred channel for business communication. At the same time, most of us will gladly jump on a call to explore the product in question or negotiate a discount.

Moreover, 41.2% of salespeople consider the phone to be the most effective tool at their disposal that can be used at every stage of the buyer’s journey — be it a cold one, a discovery, a demo, or a quick chat to sync on the details of the contract.

That is why it’s so important to know when and how to talk to your prospects. And that is why we’ve decided to share some of the proven tips to help you nail your next sales call.

The art and science of sales calls

Last year, many businesses have come to understand the importance of voice communication. Being unable to meet in person, we were left with just two options: wasting the precious time on email back-and-forth (often, just to breed misunderstanding down the road) or jump on a quick call to discuss everything you need on the spot.

Namely, there are multiple occasions throughout the sales cycle when a call would come in handy: e.g. prospecting outreach, discovery phase, product demo, negotiations, or even closing.

So, let’s go through the specifics of an effective call for every stage of your sales cycle:

  • Prospecting
    Prospecting calls fall into two categories, based on whether there has been any previous interaction with the specific prospect or not.

    The (notorious) cold calls are the ones where you proactively reach out to a prospect who might not even know about your product. This is the classic outbound prospecting tactic that has its specifics. Namely, you need to make sure that the prospects you reach out to match your ICP and are properly pre-qualified.

    Inbound or “warm” calls usually target the prospects who have shown interest in a product or service, e.g. interacted with your lead magnets, attended your event, or signed up for a trial. In this case, you don’t call out of the blue — the prospect is aware of your product and is more likely to have a positive response to your outreach.

    Pro tip: whether inbound or outbound, every prospecting call should start with a clear reason for outreach (Gong reports that this simple detail can increase your success rate by 2.1x).

  • Discovery
    This step typically follows the initial contact. A huge mistake would be to skip it in favor of a demo. While you might be eager to show your product at its best, it makes sense to find out what “best” stands for with this specific prospect, i.e. find out about the needs and challenges they are facing right now first-hand to be able to tailor your value prop accordingly.

    It’s also true that you might not always have the chance to dedicate a whole conversation to discovery. This might be just an intro to your demo or a part of the prospecting call with the inbound prospect. But it has to be done.

    Based on the insights by Mindtickle, the recipe for a perfect discovery call is:

    1. 12-15 questions asked (and 8-10 answered);
    2. 45% talking (at a pace of 120-160 words per minute) and 55% listening;
    3. 1-2 stories incorporated into the conversation.
  • Demo
    Arguably the most important part of the sales cycle in SaaS, demo calls offer an opportunity to walk the prospect through your product and show off its benefits.

    Yet, don’t get carried away here — feature dumping is one of the worst things you can do on a demo. Use the insights you’ve gathered during the pre-qualification and discovery to highlight only relevant information and offer specific solutions to the prospect’s needs.

    Namely, Demodesk suggests using the “rule of three” to make your demos effective: pick the three biggest pain points and focus on the three most important features to demonstrate a solution to those pain points.

  • Negotiations and closing
    Getting face to face with your prospects (even if it’s just a video call) is essential to successful negotiations. It gives you an opportunity to address all the objections right away. It’s also one of the proven closing techniques that helps you build trust with prospects.

    Just make sure you give a legitimate reason for a call. This can be related to their recent activity with your product, an update on a feature they’ve previously shown interest in, or some additional info related to something you’ve discussed earlier.

The ultimate sales call checklist

Every person who has been in sales for a while has their own story of a call gone wrong, from misspelling the prospect’s name or accidentally swearing (which might actually help you break the ice in some cases) to being yelled at by a cold prospect or presenting a demo while they do the dishes.

There are things you can’t control. But having a solid action plan can help you minimize the chance of a blunder.

  1. Before the call
    In sales calls awareness is the key. Knowing as much as you can about your prospect before you pick up the phone (even if it’s a virtual phone) can help you deliver personal experience and tailor your approach for the best performance.

    So, here are some to-dos to put on your pre-call checklist:

    • Do your research, especially when getting ready for a prospecting call. Look up the prospect online (Google, LinkedIn, or dedicated B2B databases) and write down every little thing that you think might help you build a better connection with them. Pay attention to possible intent signals (e.g. website visits, recent activity, etc.)

    Pro tip: when reaching out to the prospect for the first time, always look up the pronunciation of their name. Nothing annoys people as much as having their names misspelled by a sales rep.

    • Check your CRM or SEP for the previous activity related to this account (this might be useful at every stage of the sales process). And by account, I mean all prospects in the given company. This will give you an idea of where they are in the sales cycle and what’s the role of the person you are about to contact.
    • Go through your script (you do have a script, right?) and personalize it based on the info you’ve collected. If you’re having a discovery or demo call, review your qualifying questions, slides, or value proposition. This will help you keep your wits even if something goes wrong.
    • Have a minute or two to breathe and relax. Thus you will set the tone for the whole call.
  2. During the call
    Every sales call is different. It has much to do with the type of the call as well as the prospect’s personality. Some prefer an informal conversation, while others tend to be more formal and talk business without any deviations.

    Your approach to handling the call will also vary depending on the reason for the call. For example, you can’t expect to get a prospect to talk 70% of the time during a cold call whereas it’s quite possible (and even recommended) you do so during the discovery.

    Regardless, these are the must-dos for every sales call:

    • Start with a clear reason for the call and outline its purpose before you go into detail. Whether you’re about to give a demo or want to discuss some of the objections the prospect has brought up, this will make sure you’re on the same page.
    • Make it all about the prospect. From personalization to keeping a good I:You ratio, it’s the smallest, most subtle details that can help you with the prospect’s favor and build trust during the call.
    • Don’t sell! Aggressive pitching and using some tricky techniques to force the prospect to convert while on the call is rarely a good idea. It’s better to offer genuine help and value rather than trying to close a deal at all costs.
    • Sum up what you have discussed and lay out the next steps. Never leave a call without a clear action plan in mind. And that goes to both parties.
  3. After the call
    Don’t hurry to breathe a sigh of relief once you hang up the phone. There’s still some work to do.

    Before you move on with your day, make sure to complete the following tasks:

    • Send a brief follow-up summarizing the conversation and make it clear what you expect the prospect to do next. You might as well share the slides or any other materials that might be useful to the prospect and can help you strengthen your value proposition.
    • Update your CRM or SEP with the details of the call and the next steps you’ve agreed on. It would be a good idea to set a reminder or create a corresponding task to make sure you don’t forget about it.
    • Listen to the call recording, regardless of whether it was successful or not. This might not just help you learn from your own mistakes but also see the slightest signals or patterns in the prospect’s behavior so you can tailor your further steps accordingly.


You should have heard about the theory of 93% of communication being non-verbal. While some might disagree on the exact numbers, the fact is that spoken communication is much more than the words we put into sentences.

So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, one call can beat a hundred emails — but only if you make it right. Hopefully, this checklist can help you cover all the bases before, during, and after the call.

William Oleksiienko is the Sales Development Team Lead at Reply, the multichannel sales engagement platform. He is keen on automation, sales tech, and personalization at scale.

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