How To Really Coach Sales Discovery Calls

Posted by Richard Smith

Here, I share how to really coach sellers on their discovery calls.

Recently, I watched some Business Development Leaders attempt to ‘coach’ sales discovery calls live on a webinar. The problem is, how they ‘coached’ the salesperson was exactly how I used to ineffectively coach sellers on their calls:


“You went off track here, what you should have done is….”
“A better thing to do here is…”
“You didn’t ask the prospect X here, here’s what I would have done instead…”


It was a classic case of ‘telling’ versus coaching. When all you do is ‘tell’, here’s what happens:

  • The salesperson gets lazy. They will always expect to just be given the answer

  • The salesperson gets disengaged from the coaching. They spend all their time hearing how you would have done it and end up zoning out

  • How YOU would have done it, is not always the ONLY way of doing it. Your ego can frustrate the sales person.

  • The salesperson’s rate of behaviour change is much slower when they are just given the answer, versus coming to the answer themselves. i.e They are less likely to implement it.

  • The coaching session becomes about you flaunting your expertise, versus an environment focused on the salesperson levelling up.


Here’s a better way of running a GREAT coaching session that your sellers will love, and will drive far better and quicker results:


  1. Start by asking the seller to give context on the call

    How did it come about? What did they know before the call started? What did their preparation look like running up to the call? 
    I often find pulling up the prospect’s LinkedIn profile and any activity in the CRM is a great way of getting the coachee to really think about the importance of pre-call preparation, and not just diving into calls and winging it. I also ask them about what the latest is with the opportunity. More times than not, the answer is ‘the prospect has gone silent on me’ or similar. Hence why they have brought that specific call along to be coached!

  2. Ask the seller what they wanted to learn and achieve by the end of the call

    Asking this question at the start of every coaching session may feel tedious. But it's crucial as a sales person to visualise possible outcomes at the end of each conversation, no matter what stage of the funnel the call is at. Is it a likely outcome to figure out the prospect’s big business pain? Is it to differentiate against the competition? Is it to get access to power?  If they don’t go into calls with a sense of what an outcome could be, then they are very likely going into calls under prepared.

  3. Play the call

    Try not to get too fixated on what the sales person is saying.
    Instead, focus on what the prospect is sharing early on in the conversation. Listen to why the prospect is on the call and what their potential interests are. Listen to them share their situation. Once they have done that, hit the pause button and simply ask the seller ‘OK, what did you hear there’? The key here is to hear from the seller how much they truly heard. How are their active listening skills? Active listening is key to sales success. So can they relay back all of the key information they heard from the prospect a second time round? If they were unable to relay back all of the key pieces of information, play the segment of the call back again. Resist just telling them the answer. Get the seller in the habit of listening for themselves. 

  4. Ask the seller ‘OK, where would you want to go next with the prospect?’

    Don’t focus on what the seller did in the sales discovery call itself. In some regards, that's irrelevant. It’s already happened. It’s in the past. It’s about what they would do moving forward that's the key thing. Does the seller move towards exploring some surface level pain the prospect has shared with them? Surface level pain sounds like:

"On this call because I’m interested in coaching"

 "Looking at ways to make our team more efficient"

 "We have some manual processes right now"

  "Keen to see how we could become more productive"

  "Exploring avenues for generating more leads"

All of these are indicators of surface level pain. Most sellers don’t explore these areas deep enough and  simply get in the habit of asking the next question on their list.


Once the seller has selected what they would explore next, ask the salesperson:

"let's imagine you were back in the call, what would you ask the prospect to explore that area?"

Listen to how the salesperson asks the question.

Do they sound like they are curious, and looking to understand and learn more? Or do they sound like a robot? If they sound like the latter, role-play with the seller. Get them to ask the question once or twice more until it sounds better, more natural, and more curious. Role-playing key parts of calls back is a critical element of helping sellers improve.

As you continue to play the call, stop the tape when you hear something the sales person does really well. The best way to get salespeople to consistently do the right things, is to praise them when you observe them doing the right things.


"Stopping the call here because I really love what you did just now. You pushed back on the prospect and got a very different response from them. What was the reason you did that?"


Notice here that I am still exploring WHY the seller did something, even if they did it really well. I want the salesperson to know why they got a positive outcome versus just doing something randomly. When they can demonstrate their understanding of why they got a positive outcome, then they are more likely to want to repeat that same action again moving forwards.

As you continue to play the call, stop the tape when you hear something the salesperson missed or perhaps did which took the call off track. Again, before telling the salesperson WHAT they did wrong or WHAT they missed. Ask them questions like:


“Curious, what was your thinking asking that question there”

“Listening back, is there anything you heard the second time round that you missed the first time round?”

“If you were going to ask that question again, how would you ask it differently?”

“Did you get the response you were looking for there? What do you still not know that you may want to try and learn moving forward?”


Great sales discovery call coaching can actually give the salesperson an action plan and things to figure out to enable them to move a deal forward.


Finally, at the end of the coaching session, ALWAYS end by asking the sales person:

“What were your top two or three biggest takeaways from today’s session?”


It’s crucial to hear what the sales person learned or what they found to be the most empowering thing from the coaching session. If they struggle to give you a response, then it’s likely they didn’t find the coaching useful. 


The best signal that they enjoyed the session? They’ll be asking when they can do it all again.

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