S3E13 – How to turn Discovery Calls into Customers with Chris Orlob

How to turn Discovery Calls into Customers

What questions are you asking your prospects during the discovery call? Is your approach effectively engaging your prospects during the discovery call, and more importantly, are you successfully converting them into paying customers? The key to a fruitful discovery call lies in a carefully designed and proven strategic process. If you’re aiming to enhance your customer conversion rate from discovery calls, then this episode is a must-listen.

Our featured expert on this pivotal subject is Chris Orlob, the CEO of Pclub.io. With a wealth of experience in sales, marketing, and scaling startups, Chris brings a formidable background to the table. His track record includes driving substantial growth, such as elevating Gong.io‘s revenue from modest figures to over $200 million during his tenure. Moreover, as the co-founder of PClub and an investor in numerous startups, Chris possesses invaluable insights into refining go-to-market strategies and establishing scalable sales processes. His expertise is particularly pertinent for SaaS startups seeking growth and market expansion.

What are Discovery Calls?

Chris elaborates on the concept of discovery calls, describing them as initial meetings between a company and a potential customer to assess mutual fit. He emphasizes the importance of uncovering customer needs, challenges, and pain points during these calls. Chris stresses the value of thought-provoking questions that prompt customers to think deeply about their challenges, ultimately creating value for them within the sales cycle. He highlights the significance of identifying the root cause of a problem to guide the customer towards the appropriate solution.

The Importance of Creating Mental Images

Chris discusses the power of creating mental images during sales conversations, emphasizing their ability to drive emotions and influence buyer behavior. By asking customers questions that evoke specific mental images related to their challenges, sales professionals can effectively engage and guide them towards recognizing the urgency of addressing those issues. Chris underscores the role of emotional responses in decision-making, noting that buyers are driven more by alleviating pain than by pure ROI calculations.

Common Mistakes in Discovery Calls

One common mistake highlighted by Chris is stopping too early in the discovery process. He emphasizes the importance of delving deeper to uncover the underlying needs and motivations of customers, beyond surface-level responses. By asking probing questions and exploring the root causes of customer challenges, sales professionals can gain deeper insights and provide more tailored solutions. Chris emphasizes the value of tactfully peeling back the layers to reveal the true pain points driving customer decisions.

Overcoming Challenges in Discovery Calls

Chris offers practical advice for overcoming challenges in discovery calls, emphasizing the need for continuous practice and iteration. He acknowledges that mastering the art of discovery requires persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes. By focusing on specific techniques, such as using softening language, seeking permission to delve deeper, and summarizing key points, sales professionals can navigate potential challenges and engage customers more effectively. Chris encourages a proactive approach to refining discovery skills and adapting strategies based on feedback and experience.

How to Set Up Discovery Calls

Different approaches are discussed for initiating discovery calls, based on inbound and outbound leads. The importance of setting agendas, understanding buyer motivations, and tailoring the conversation to match customer needs is emphasized.

Best Practices for Discovery Calls

Key best practices for conducting successful discovery calls are highlighted by Chris. These include setting clear agendas at the beginning of calls, tailoring approaches for inbound and outbound leads, and uncovering the need behind the need. By structuring discovery conversations around understanding customer motivations, pain points, and priorities, sales professionals can create value for customers and build stronger relationships. Chris emphasizes the value of personalized and thoughtful engagement during discovery calls to drive meaningful conversations and enhance the likelihood of converting leads into customers.

Product Demonstration in Discovery Calls

The decision to showcase the product during the first call is contextual and depends on the market and customer preferences. Chris advises aligning the product demonstration strategy with customer expectations and sales objectives.

The Goals of Discovery Calls

The primary goal of discovery calls is to determine mutual fit by identifying high-priority problems that the product can solve. Chris stresses the need to address significant pain points and provide value to customers throughout the sales process.

Looking ahead to the future of discovery calls, Chris predicts a shift towards focusing on creating value during the sales cycle rather than solely communicating value. He emphasizes the importance of guiding customers through the buying experience, providing insights, and helping them navigate decision-making processes effectively. By offering strategic advice, anticipating customer needs, and fostering meaningful interactions, sales professionals can enhance the overall customer experience and increase the chances of successful conversions.

Advice for SaaS Founders at Various Stages

Chris offers tailored advice for SaaS founders at different stages of growth. For those starting out and aiming to reach $10K in monthly recurring revenue, he recommends dedicating significant time to understanding their target market. By gaining deep insights into customer needs, fears, and aspirations, founders can better tailor their products and sales strategies to drive growth. As companies scale towards $10 million in ARR, Chris advises standardizing sales processes, establishing clear stages, and exit criteria, and implementing effective sales management practices to ensure scalability and consistency in sales operations.

Reflections on Past Knowledge

Reflecting on his experiences, Chris shares a valuable lesson he wishes he knew ten years ago. He emphasizes that people buy to alleviate significant pain rather than solely based on ROI calculations. Understanding the emotional drivers behind customer decisions and addressing their urgent needs are critical for successful sales outcomes. By focusing on identifying and relieving customer pain points, sales professionals can build stronger connections, drive conversions, and ultimately foster long-term customer relationships based on trust and value.

Key Timecode

  • (0:37) Show and guest intro
  • (1:18) Why you should listen to Chris Orlob
  • (2:12) What is a discovery call?
  • (3:14) How to ask provoking questions
  • (4:58) The importance of creating a mental image in the discovery phase
  • (7:12) The common mistakes companies make while doing discovery calls
  • (11:56) Understanding how the qualifier works 
  • (13:53)The strategic recommended process for setting up discovery calls
  • (18:23) Should you show your  product in the first call?
  • (21:17) What is the goal of a discovery call?
  • (22:41) How the qualifier works in determining your ICP
  • (23:25) The best practices for  doing a discovery call
  • (28:24) Challenges faced in discovery calls
  • (29:24) The future of doing discovery calls
  • (32:43) How to grow towards 10K MRR
  • (33:41) How to grow towards 10 million ARR
  • (35:26) Advice for SaaS founders
  • (36:25) What Chris wishes He knew 10 years ago


[00:00:00.000] – Intro

Welcome to the Grow Your B2B SaaS podcast. In this podcast, we cover all topics on how to grow your B2B SaaS, no matter in which stage you’re in. I’m Joran Hofman, the host of this show and the founder of Ready Test, which is a B2B SaaS that helps other B2B SaaS companies to set up, manage, and grow an affiliate program. Being a founder myself means I’m going to the exact same journey as you are, experiencing the exact same issues, and probably have the exact same questions. And this is why I started the podcast in the first place. Get advice from industry experts on to grow my B2B SaaS. So if you like this content, make sure to subscribe, follow, give it a thumbs up. Let’s just dive in.

[00:00:37.280] – Joran

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how to turn discovery calls into customers, meaning how can you improve your conversion rates from demos to actual paying clients. My guest today is Chris Orlob. Chris is the CEO of P Club, an online learning platform to increase your sales skills. Next to running P Club, he’s the co founder of Coda Signal, an advisor at DemoStack, and an early stage investor in multiple startups. With his investments and advisor roles, he focuses on refining the go-to-market motion and building up repeatable sales processes which help you to scale to 100 million and beyond. I’m really happy to have him on the show. Welcome to the show, Chris.

[00:01:13.850] – Chris

Yeah, thanks for having me here.

[00:01:15.220] – Joran

I always start with a really Dutch blunt question. Why should people listen to you today?

[00:01:20.270] – Chris

When it comes to selling and marketing software as a service or most B2B selling, then I like to think I have something to say. I think what I’m best known for is helping grow a company called gong. Io from a little less than $200,000 in revenue, which is when I started at the company, to a little over 200 million by the time I left over about a five and a half year span. That’s That’s really what I’m best known for. Then I started P Club 18 months ago with my co founder, and we’re already at a few million in ARR. At least this realm of life, when it comes to growing SaaS startups and other B2B startups, I have some things to say.

[00:02:00.060] – Joran

Nice. Love the intro. We’re going to start with the real basics. You grew your companies, right? Or going first and now your own company. It all starts with a discovery call, right? If you would explain in your own words, what does a discovery call mean to you?

[00:02:17.360] – Chris

I think it’s typically like the first scheduled meeting you have with a potential customer where you’re both trying to sort out whether there’s grounds for a mutual fit. Discovery, it can’t It’s always just be pure discovery. You’re going to have to give some information to the customer because if the purpose is to understand, should we have a next logical step, they need to learn something about you in addition to you learning a lot about them. Really, the purpose of discovery is to understand the need, the pain, the challenges that’s driving your customer to want to have a conversation with you to begin with, and asking them potentially some thought-provoking questions that make them think a little bit. There’s discovery to gather information which has a place, and then there’s discovery to get your customer to think, which actively creates value for them within the sales and within the buying cycle. That’s how I would define a discovery call.

[00:03:15.000] – Joran

Maybe then one follow-up question, like those thought-provoking questions, is it then also already, I might go a bit further already, but to create a problem in their mind, as in to really think about, Oh, we actually have a problem?

[00:03:27.270] – Chris

I think that’s one way you could do it. I think another way is asking them questions that get them to think about the ripple effects of the problem, that maybe they haven’t appreciated that before. Another one is questions that challenge them on a root cause of the problem. If they’ve got some challenge and you say, Why do you think that’s happening? And they give you an answer, there’s a lot of value in bantering with your buyer on what’s actually causing the problem. Because if you both agree that the problem is big enough to act on, then a lot of the work comes down to accurately diagnosing the root cause of that problem. Because that’s going to dictate what solution people purchase. The size of the problem doesn’t always dictate what solution is purchased. It does dictate that a solution is going to be purchased, but the root cause, or I should more accurately say, the perceived root cause dictates what people buy. Here’s an easy example. If you’re driving your car and it breaks down, just stops working, whatever caused the car to stop working is what you’re going to buy to fix it. If the battery died, you’re going to go buy a battery.

[00:04:33.770] – Chris

If you ran out of gas, you’re going to go buy some gasoline. If your transmission failed or your engine failed, you’re going to get a mechanic to fix it accordingly. But if all you did is stop at, Oh, I’ve got a huge problem. My car died, and you don’t co-diagnose the problem with your customer, you’re probably just creating a purchase opportunity for some other salesperson.

[00:04:52.980] – Joran

Yeah, love it. The other thing I want to get out of the way before we really dive into the topic, did some research on you and you talk also about that your potential bias create a mental image, a mental image. Could you elaborate on what in your words that is basically them creating a mental image in the discovery phase?

[00:05:12.340] – Chris

I think that happens not just in discovery, but And not even just the entire sales process, that’s really the basis of human communication. If you think about it, it’s actually a miracle that anybody communicates accurately with anybody else. Even the conversation we’re having right now, I have mental pictures going on in my head, and I’m saying words to try to describe what’s happening in here right now. Now, you’re receiving my words, and you probably assign a little bit different meaning and mental pictures to the words that are coming out of my mouth. And so the mental pictures both you and I have right now, what’s going on in mine and what’s going on in yours, based on the words I’m saying, are probably different. If you think about that, that’s a nerdy communication case study, or I guess it’s not the right word. But when you think about it, it’s a miracle that humans are ever on the same page on anything. When it comes to discovery, there’s a lot you can do. Actually, let me back up and say one more thing about mental images. The reason you probably asked about mental images and the reason they’re so powerful, is mental images drive emotion.

[00:06:16.720] – Chris

Different mental images that are happening in your mind drive different chemical reactions to squirt throughout your bloodstream. Different emotions drive different behaviors. And then those behaviors lead to a purchase or a lack of purchase. So all behavior change starts with a mental image. And so when you ask a customer a question like, what are some of the negative ramifications this challenge is happening or having on your business? If you’re talking about a problem, and then they start to imagine those things because you ask the question, the intensity of their pain starts to increase because now they’re imagining painful ramifications and emotions follow the mental image and then behavior often follows that. And so you’re almost, I don’t want to say artificially because that makes it sound manipulative. It’s not. It’s actually you’re doing a service, but you are creating a mental image in your buyer’s mind, which creates emotion, which more often than not leads to them taking an action that you hope they take.

[00:07:12.900] – Joran

You make it sound easy, right? But I think a lot of companies are doing it wrong. So I think it goes really well into the next question. What is the most common mistakes companies make while doing discovery calls?

[00:07:24.840] – Chris

I think it’s stopping too early. Let’s say you were trying to buy P Club from me. Let’s say you have 10 reps or so and I said, Tell me what motivated you to have this conversation with me. What’s going on? And you said, I really need to improve my rep sales skills. Most salespeople, most founders, whatever, they’re just going to stop right there and go, Great, I can help you with that, and they’re going to start demoing their product. The problem with stopping there is I didn’t find a problem at all. I found a solution. If you said something like, I need better sales skills, that’s not a problem. That’s a desired solution. You sell affiliate marketing software, right? Yeah. So if you were having a discovery call with a marketing-oriented founder or a marketer, and they came to you and you said, What motivated you to look into our software? And they said, I just really need to get better at affiliate marketing, or I really need to put an affiliate marketing program in place. And you’re like, Great, let me show you a demo. You don’t know what they’re actually solving for. If you then started to peel back the onion and understand the need that’s behind the need that they just expressed, and you said, Tell me a little bit more about that.

[00:08:26.240] – Chris

What’s going on in your business that’s driving you to want to invest in an affiliate program to begin with? They might say something like, Our revenue has flatlined. We’ve been selling to a warm audience, and we’re starting to tap it out, and there’s a big piece of our audience that’s cold that we haven’t really tapped into, so we need to expand our reach. An affiliate, that’s how we see us doing this. If you ask one more question, that’s something like, What happens if you aren’t able to do that? They go, I can’t scale my business. I’m going to be doing $100,000 in MRR a month for the rest of my life, and I’m to build a nine-figure company. That’s one example. It’s like the biggest mistake, and everybody does this, unless you are very well trained on discovery, most people just stop at the surface level and there is gold behind being able to tactfully start to peel away what’s actually going on beneath the surface.

[00:09:17.820] – Joran

I think I have two follow-up questions. I think a lot of people stop because they don’t want to keep asking question over question. I think we all been also on the other side of discovery calls where if people are almost doing an interview on me, you think about, I just want to see the solution, or I just want to actually have a conversation instead of answering all your questions.

[00:09:37.150] – Chris

Lots of ways to get around this. The first piece is it starts with expectation management. How did you set the agenda for that call? Because if you didn’t set an agenda at all and you just launch into a bunch of questions, of course somebody’s going to be irritated. But if you instead at the beginning of the call say something like, Look, I’m sure you have a bunch of questions for me and you want to learn more about what we do. I’ve got a number of questions for you as well. How about we do this? How about we play a little bit of a game of tug-a-war? Let’s spend the first half understanding what’s going on in your world and your needs, and then I can start to fill you in on what it is that we do and whether we can help. When you do something like that, you start to get around the irritation because people are like, Okay, he or she is going to deliver value to me in this conversation. Fine. That’s the first thing. The second thing is even if you do that, you can still irritate buyers because just asking question after question is emotionally exhausting costing if you don’t do it the right way to the buyer.

[00:10:32.680] – Chris

And so a great salespeople will use softening language and other techniques to emotionally grease the wheels of the conversation. And so here’s an example. If I ask you, what motivated you to look in the P Club? And then you told me, and then I ask another question. On my third question, I’m probably going to say something like this. Hey, this is almost going to sound redundant because I’ve already asked you a couple of questions, but do you mind if I go one level deeper with you? When I ask for permission to keep going, it greases the wheels. Biers can emotionally exhale, and they’re willing to play ball with you a little bit more. So that’s one technique. A couple others are regularly summarizing. After every three or four questions or so, you should stop. You should take a step back and say, So let me make sure I understand where you’re coming from. Spend about a paragraph summarizing exactly what they said, and then saying, Did I get that right? Summaries like that act as lubricant for a conversation. They prevent you from wearing out your welcome from asking too many questions. The wrong way to do it is ask 7, 8, 10, 12 questions in a row with no softening language.

[00:11:43.020] – Chris

The right way to do it is every few questions, use some softening language, ask a permission-based question, or summarize so that you can continue without irritating another person.

[00:11:53.590] – Joran

Love it. Like all these, I guess, if you’re really going to drill down and really peeling the onion, as you mentioned, is it also a good way for you to qualify if somebody’s actually really relevant? Because nowadays- For sure.

[00:12:07.270] – Chris

One of the things I didn’t really understand early in my sales career was the value of disqualifying. If I ask three or four questions, and there’s just not a lot of pain there, and they don’t have a big problem. Ten years ago, I would have been in convince mode. I would have been trying to convince them that they do have a problem and I can actually help them. Today, my posture is very different. In fact, I just had a conversation like this a couple of days ago where if I get the sense that they have a lukewarm problem, there’s just not a lot of intensity, I’ll call them out about it in a nice way, but I’ll say, Hey, can I check something out with you? Notice the permission-based question before I go into it. Can I check something out with you? And they’re always going to say yes. And you say something like, I am getting the sense that you don’t really have an intense enough challenge that I can help with. I’m getting the sense that this is mildly interesting for you, but you’re going to forget about this challenge entirely a week from now when your slack is lit up like a Christmas tree and people are pulling you in a bunch of different directions.

[00:13:08.790] – Chris

Do you think I’m right? And some buyers will be like, Yeah, I think you’re right. I think we should just put a pause on this It’s a fair thing. In which case I’m like, Thank you. You just saved us both a ton of time. Now, occasionally, and you shouldn’t use this as a technique, you’re not trying to play a takeaway game. You’re just being authentic with somebody. But occasionally, maybe 10 or 20% of the time, a buyer then open up. They’ll go, No, I get why you’re perceiving it that way. Let me tell you what’s actually going on. And then they’ll tell you the thing, the need behind the need, in which case now you might have something.

[00:13:41.160] – Joran

It’s maybe also because you pause them, as in the problem is not big enough, we don’t have to do this. Then they think, Yes, I actually want this. And then they really dive into it. Exactly. We started with the mistakes. If you would go into a company or you would do it, for example, again, if you would set up the process internally for P Club, What would be the steps or what would be the strategy you would take to really set up the discovery calls in a good way?

[00:14:06.830] – Chris

I think it depends on where the lead is coming from, because I think you want to start discovery with an outbound lead differently than how you start discovery with an inbound lead. Because if I went outbound and I booked a meeting by cold email or something like that, and I get on the discovery call and I say, What motivated you to look into P Club? They’re going to be like, What the hell are you talking about? You sent me an email. Now, if I ask that same question to somebody who came inbound on my website, it’s a great question. Now they’re like, Oh, we’re looking to improve our sales skills. Great. Tell me more. What conversations are happening inside your business that led you to want to improve your sales skills? By the way, that’s how you start discovery within bound. If they come to you, you just ask them, What motivated you to look into what it is we do? And then after they’ve started to answer, you go back in time with them. They have explained, We need better affiliate marketing software, or whatever the case is. You say, Great. Typically, we can help with that, but let me go back in time with you for just a second.

[00:15:03.950] – Chris

It sounds like you probably defined this problem a week or two weeks or some time ago. I’m guessing you had a meeting with your colleagues or something that one action item was to explore affiliate marketing software. And what did that conversation sound like? What was the original challenge that made you want to explore this? So that’s what good looks like when it comes to kicking off discovery for an inbound deal. Outbound, totally different. You can’t say what motivated you to show up to this meeting or whatever. It’s more about earning the right to ask questions. And so that might sound something like this. Look, what you don’t want from this call, I’m sure, is for me to just jump in and start asking you 20 questions. So how about this? How about I spend the next four or five minutes getting you up to speed on some of the challenges that we solve. So you have context. And then if it makes sense, then we can transition into starting to understand some of the challenges you might be having in your business. Does that feel fair? And usually they’re going to be like, Yes, I was We’re really hoping you weren’t going to just dive in and start pummeling me with questions.

[00:16:03.630] – Chris

And then you spend four or five minutes telling them a customer story. You say, All right, let me tell you the story of Akinio, which is one of our customers. They originally came to us because they were struggling with multi-threading. They were struggling with running closing motions. They were struggling with this, that, and that. As a result, they had $500,000 in Q3 deals that were supposed to close, slip into Q4. Now, the short story is after working with us, they went through a number of our training programs and courses, and their VP of sales attributed a 30% increase in bookings to what the reps learned in peak up. Anyway, enough about us and the challenges we solve and some of our customers Tell me what’s going on in your world. So when you tell a customer story in a way that your buyer can see themselves in, they’re like, Oh, we’re struggling with multi-threading. We’re struggling with closing motions. I just had a bunch of deals slip at the end of the quarter, and it feels like you’re peering into their soul a little bit. And then you ask, Anyway, enough about us. Tell me about your biggest challenges.

[00:17:03.770] – Chris

Now, they will engage with you. If your story was resonant, very different motion doing discovery with an outbound deal, at least in a world-class way, than doing discovery with an inbound deal.

[00:17:15.690] – Joran

I’m going to use your technique. So make sure you indeed look at outbound and inbound. Completely different outbound, earn the right to ask questions, four to five minutes, challenges you solve, and then ask the question after, or questions after, and then ask Does that sound fair? So you give them the idea like you want to walk them through it, tell them a customer story, mention the challenges which they encounter as well so they can resonate with it, give them results with numbers, and then ask them the question, Tell me what’s going on in your world. Now, when you move to inbound, basically always ask the self-attribution question, what motivated you to look into us? And then go back in time and then ask, what is the original challenge? What made you to look into us?

[00:17:58.110] – Chris

That’s right.

[00:17:59.520] – Joran

This podcast This last episode is sponsored by Redditus. Redditus helps B2B SaaS companies to set up, manage, and grow an affiliate program. In short, it means you’re asking other people, affiliates, to promote your SaaS. You would only pay the affiliates a kickback fee when they deliver you paid clients, making it a very cost effective and scalable way to grow your MRR. See more at getredditus. Com.

[00:18:23.580] – Joran

If you then look at discovery calls, because now we only talked about the questions you asked, the process you follow, what do you think about showing the product in the first call? Is that a no go or is that something you would do?

[00:18:36.510] – Chris

I think it depends on your selling environment. A lot of sales leaders and sales trainers, some of them are very opinionated on this. They’re like, You should never show your product on a first call. And some are like, You should always show your product on the first call. And I think they’re talking past each other because I think it depends on your market and your selling environment. So at P Club, for example, we never show the product on the first call, but that’s because that’s not how our buyers buy. Our first call is a discovery call, but the way we position it is we’re going to do a skill analysis with you. We’re going to spend the next 30 minutes getting really clear on the skill gaps that you’re seeing in your business, and we’re going to share with you the skill gaps we’re seeing out in the market. Now, at the end of that call, we’re going to schedule a next step if it makes sense to, which is then to show you how we can solve some of this with our learning platform. And that works every time. Now, there are some businesses, like If you’re creating a new category like we did at gong, where it does make sense to give them a four or five minute teaser demo at the end of the first call.

[00:19:39.800] – Chris

You want to wet their appetite a little bit, because if you don’t do that, either they’re going to be annoyed that they didn’t get any value or they might just not show up to the next call because you didn’t really give them a reason to. And so that’s a long way of saying, I think it depends, but I think you can get a sense for what works for your sales cycle very quickly. What I What you shouldn’t do is listen to people who have a dogmatic opinion on that. As soon as you hear somebody say, You should never show product on the first call, or, You should always show product on the first call, it’s hard to listen to anything they have to say after that because they’re not expecting your market dictates whether you should show product on the first call or not.

[00:20:20.410] – Joran

If you would give advice, I guess, to other founders is, Try what works in your market and figure out if they really need to see the product to get to the next call or if they Yeah, so everybody knows about ChatGPT now, but let’s rewind 18 months when nobody knew what ChatGPT was.

[00:20:37.520] – Chris

It would be a huge mistake to not show ChatGPT on a demo if you were selling it because it would blow people’s minds. They would be like, Oh, my God, this is amazing. If you’re like, Hey, let’s talk for 30 minutes about all the manual processes in your business, and you never show this amazing product that even just for two minutes. Sometimes when you show the art of the possible, it opens It opens up buyers to think about what challenges they can solve, and it opens up the discovery conversation. It just depends on what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, your market’s level of education about your solution, a number of factors like that.

[00:21:14.220] – Joran

Yeah, I love the phrase show the art of what’s possible. If we go to the goal of a discovery call, what is in your opinion, the goal of that call? What should be the next thing you want, or what should be the thing you want to achieve from that call?

[00:21:27.930] – Chris

I think, number one, I want to make there are no disqualifiers, right? And that’s going to be different for every business. But did I learn something that makes it so I can’t serve them? That’s the first one. A lot of times you can take care of this through research rather than actually the discovery call. The biggest thing you’re trying to achieve is just, do we have grounds for doing business together or not? And to me, what that is, do you have a high-priority problem that I can solve? Both of those things have to be true, right? If it’s a problem, but it’s low priority, it doesn’t make sense for us to continue because you’re just going to keep procrastinating on this. If it’s high priority, but I can’t solve it, it doesn’t make sense for us to continue because you are going to act on this, but it’s not going to be by buying my product. Those are the two criteria. You’re looking for the business problem. What makes something the business problem is it’s a high priority problem, that’s one, and two, you can solve it.

[00:22:25.050] – Joran

Yeah, because in the end, if you will continue and they will purchase, they will have a big problem they want to solve, so they will invest time in the product, and in the end, they will be better clients as well. Regarding the first thing you said, there’s qualifiers, like two already in research. A lot of companies allow, for example, to book a demo on the site. If you did the research before the call and you already identified, they’re not actually a good fit for us, what would you do? Just email them already, reject the invite?

[00:22:50.800] – Chris

It depends on how certain you are. If you are 10 out of 10, slam dunk, guaranteed they’re not a good fit, then I would just shoot them an email and be like, Hey, I looked you up. I did a little bit of research. I want to save you some time. This isn’t going to be a good fit. You only want to do that if you’re 100% certain. If you’re only 90% certain, though, then I would still get on that call and I would start the call by sharing those reservations and seeing if you’re wrong because you might be. If you were wrong and you chose to email them, then all you did is push them to a competitor.

[00:23:21.000] – Joran

Fair point. We dived in the mistakes. If we turn things around, are there any best practices regarding doing a discovery call, which to come back to the topic of the podcast, to increase the chance of turning the discovery call into paid customers. Any best practices you can share here?

[00:23:37.620] – Chris

I think some of them we’ve already covered. Agenda setting is important because it dictates the expectations, kicking off inbound versus an outbound discovery calls and doing those two differently. The next thing is uncovering the need behind the need, which we’ve only touched on, but let’s go deeper on that for just a second because that is probably the most important thing to get right. I’ll give you an example. Five or six years I had a discovery call when I was working at gong. I was in the room with one of my reps, and we had a buyer come inbound to us. The buyer was two people. It was a sales enablement manager, and it was the SVP of sales at the same company. We said, What motivated you to look into gong? The sales enablement manager, this low-level person, took over the conversation and he was like, We need visibility into sales conversations. Now, most salespeople would stop there and they would be like, Awesome. Let me show you gong. So instead, we pealed back the onion. We said, Great. What’s driving you to crave visibility? What’s going on that’s making you want visibility in the first place?

[00:24:38.550] – Chris

And he said, We’re not very good at selling to power, so we need to coach our reps up on their ability to sell to power. Now, we still didn’t stop. We said, Okay, I totally get why you would want to do that. Selling to power, accessing the economic buyer, super important. What is telling you that this is an issue, though? Because you already said you don’t have visibility. And so how do you know this is the issue? And they said, Our sales cycle is three months longer than it should be. Our sales cycle is nine months long, and our annual operating model says it should be six months. So we’ve got a three-month gap. So now we’re at a problem. We went from surface-level desired solution to an actual problem. But we still didn’t stop there. We said, and notice the softening language and the permission-based questions, we said, Hey, can I ask you a super redundant question? They were like, Yeah, sure. And we said, I understand the value of wanting to your sales cycle. Don’t get me wrong, I get that. But I also have to imagine you have 10 or 12 problems going on that you could be solving.

[00:25:38.610] – Chris

And so what’s going on in your business that’s driving you to prioritize the sales cycle issue above almost everything else. Now, the SVP of sales took over the conversation. Power took over the conversation. That’s something that happens a lot when you start to get to the core of the onion. And she goes, We have a cash flow issue. When we close a deal, we close it on net 60 payment terms, which means when we close it, it takes another 60 days for cash to hit our bank, which means we have an 11-month cash cycle. From the time we start a sales cycle to the time cash hits our bank, it’s 11 months. And that’s putting the entire company in a cash crunch. And if we don’t fix this, we’re going to have to go raise capital in a bridge round, which will disintegrate millions of dollars of valuation in our company. That is a problem. That is a problem that is urgent and that people are willing to spend a lot of money to fix. Their willingness to pay was higher, their urgency was higher. And yet most salespeople would have stopped at, Oh, you need visibility into your sales conversations?

[00:26:43.080] – Chris

Cool. Let me show you a gong demo. And then that customer would have gone dark because there was no urgency or anything like that. If you could only get one thing with discovery, there’s a lot you do need to get right. Don’t get me wrong, but this is probably the most powerful thing is understanding the need behind the need. And the most simple way to do is to ask the question, what is going on in your business that’s driving you to prioritize this? Once you’ve started talking about the surface level problem, try asking that question, what’s going on in your world that’s driving you to want to prioritize this? You will get very interesting answers from people. Half the time, they’ll laugh. Half the time, they’ll chuckle to themselves and be like, Yeah, let me tell you about the train wreck that’s going on in my business right now, which is what you want. You’re here to solve problems.

[00:27:29.520] – Joran

Yeah, and I think, especially what you said at the beginning, the agenda setting, that’s going to be really important. So you can really start peeling the onion, as you mentioned. I love it because in the end, I think you asked four follow-up questions to get from visibility to the actual problem. You need to get that buy-in from the beginning. That’s really nice.

[00:27:49.600] – Chris

Very few customers articulate it right off the bat. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s just how humans form their thoughts. Maybe 5% of customers know exactly what to express, and you can cut to the chase. Most of them don’t do it, though.

[00:28:03.170] – Joran

No, I think it’s in every conversation, right? You just stay high level at the beginning, and the more, I guess, somebody shows interest, the more you’re actually going to explain. You’re not going to put your entire feelings on the table at the beginning. That’s why we have this conversation. We can dig deeper and deeper.

[00:28:17.870] – Chris


[00:28:18.530] – Joran

Guys, if a SaaS company thinks now this is great, we should definitely implement this. It sounds easy, right? But they’re definitely going to walk into challenges. Any challenges, you’ll probably see that they’re going face and any ideas to help them overcome those?

[00:28:33.310] – Chris

The biggest thing is you are going to fail the first time, probably five or six times you try this stuff because it takes a lot of practice. I like to say you need to get the marbles out of your mouth. I would try one thing, and I would do it six times in a row before trying the next thing. Take one idea you learned in this, try it six times. It usually takes five or six times to finally get comfortable with one new behavior. Then once you’ve gotten the hang of it, then go try the next thing. But I would almost ask answer the question differently than how you asked it. You’re like, What should people be aware of? How can you help them avoid mistakes trying this? I would just suggest you’re going to make mistakes. It’s going to be uncomfortable, and you’ve just going to accept that. That’s the pain and discomfort you need to go through to master this skill.

[00:29:17.270] – Joran

Love it. In the end, to create a good habit, you need to fail and just keep doing it. And in the end, you get better at it. That’s right. If you look at the future of doing discovery calls, because I think a lot of it’s changed, like especially in the last years or in general, maybe even. What do you think is going to be changing of the future of doing discovery calls to actually closing a client at the end of the funnel?

[00:29:40.580] – Chris

This change is already underway, and it’s been underway, is you need to find out how to create value during the sales cycle instead of just communicate value. Most salespeople just communicate value and gather information. They ask a few basic questions, then they tell you about the product. That’s communicating value, but you can do that on a video or other pieces of technology. The way to create value is to ask thought-provoking questions. It’s to banter with your buyer on the root cause. It’s to help your buyer avoid a in their decision making process. By the way, that one’s really valuable because most salespeople have sold their product like dozens or hundreds of times. So they’ve seen this movie before. Most buyers are buying your product for the first time ever. They don’t know what traps are waiting for them when it comes to selling something internally and going through a buying process. And so if you’re the guy or gal who can say, Hey, can I tell you how this usually goes from here and what we should try to do and what we should try to avoid? Now you’re a valued consultant. If all you do, though, if you don’t do any of that and you’re just like, Hey, let me know when you want to move forward and let me know when you get your shit figured out when it comes to your decision process, then you’re not valuable.

[00:30:56.560] – Chris

You’re not shepherding your buyer through a buying experience.

[00:31:00.170] – Joran

Yeah, I think this is really valuable, and especially, as you mentioned, if you do so many calls, it’s really easier to go to the questions and explain, but not really taking them by the hand and showing them step for step the things they need to do and the things they need to avoid to actually move forward.

[00:31:14.110] – Chris

Yeah, I’ll give you a super concrete example. When we have a discovery call with a VP of sales and they’re excited about seeing a demo on the next call and they go, I’m excited about this. Let’s schedule it. Do you mind if I bring my peer to the call? Can I bring my head of enablement moment or something. My guidance to them is, no, let’s not do that yet. And here’s why, I don’t always say this to them, but if you guys are seeing the demo for the first time, both of you, that means you’re evaluating me, and that means you’re not going to be on my side. Instead, I want to have just a demo call with you and only you, get you bought in, and then let’s have a demo with some of your peers, because now when we go into that room, you’re already sold on what we do. And now you’re going to be advocating for me, even as they object. If I didn’t do that, now I’m just walking into a meeting where I’m going to be dealing with a bunch of objections, including objections from somebody who could have been a deal champion for me.

[00:32:10.700] – Chris

I’m not saying you should do that or anybody listening should do that. I’m saying there is advice you can give buyers that only you know that can make their buying experience go much more smoothly, and as a result, your sales process goes more smoothly, and you close that deal faster and bigger and better.

[00:32:27.770] – Joran

It’s just typical happening with bigger ACV deals or deals with multiple stakeholders?

[00:32:32.960] – Chris

Not huge deals. Definitely true for huge deals, but I do that for $20,000 deals. Nice.

[00:32:39.570] – Joran

We’re going to dive into the final four questions. They’re almost getting famous nowadays. When we talk about discovery calls, what advice would you give somebody who’s just starting out and growing to 10K monthly recurring value?

[00:32:50.770] – Chris

I would say spend most of your time learning everything you can about your buyer. Put sales technique aside just for a minute and become an expert on your buyer to the point where you can peer into their soul. That’s one of the most valuable things that you can do as a sales professional is know your market. What are their fears, frustrations, hopes, dreams, aspirations? What are some of the conversations they have in their head as it relates to your value proposition? That’s the best thing you can do. If you have that knowledge and then you learn discovery, it becomes so much easier. If you’re great at surface level discovery, but you don’t know your market, you’re still not going to have great discovery calls because you won’t know what to ask next.

[00:33:32.130] – Joran

Yeah, and in the end, I think in this phase, if you really can peel the onion, as you mentioned, then you can also build a better product which is going to fit their needs better in this particular phase. Let’s assume we just passed a 10K money with current revenue. We’re going to make a big step, we’re going to grow to 10 million ARR. What advice would you give a founder here?

[00:33:49.880] – Chris

I would think they need to standardize their sales process. So 10K MRR, you don’t need a standardize sales process. You don’t even have product market fit at that point, right? Or maybe you just have an inkling of product-market fit. As you start to scale, once you hit, say, $3 million in ARR, now you’re starting to scale, you need to have a predictable, repeatable sales process that a 25-year-old kid can follow. So here’s how we do our first call. Here’s how We set it up. Here are the questions we ask. Here’s what we’re trying to do. Here’s what our second call looks like. Here’s what our third call looks like. You can color outside the lines a little bit, but here’s your compass. This is your roadmap for closing deals. Then putting a sales management team in place so that they can, I don’t want to say quality check, but for lack of a better word, quality check the sales team to make sure they’re following a process. If the sales team isn’t following the process, understanding why. Do they think the process sucks? That’s a problem. Maybe you need to change the process. But it’s really hard to scale if you sell B2B to 10 million, 20 million and beyond.

[00:34:49.410] – Chris

If you don’t have some standardized stages of your sales cycle and exit criteria, you’re trying to knock off during each one of those stages.

[00:34:59.610] – Joran

A I love it. I think the processes will change. At the beginning, you will need to keep iterating them based on what you said, but make sure that people can actually follow. When they come in, they know exactly what to do.

[00:35:10.760] – Chris

It’s never perfect. Your whole sales team is not going to follow your sales process to perfection. Success and sales are messy things, but you need to have the foundations in place, and hopefully we’re following at least 70% of the process.

[00:35:26.400] – Joran

Nice. Then we just zoom out and you would give more general advice towards other SaaS founders, no matter where they are in the journey, but at least they’re growing their SaaS. Anything you can say to them?

[00:35:37.730] – Chris

I would say spend at least 60% of your time in sales and marketing. I think most SaaS founders really I appreciate how much you need to lean in on customer acquisition and sales and marketing. A lot of SaaS founders are engineers or product people. A lot of times it takes them years to get to even just a million in ARR because of that. Me and my co founder, we’re lucky. He’s a CTO. I’m the CEO. He hadn’t spent any of his time really on sales and marketing. He doesn’t have to, though, because I do. But if you don’t have a co founder who is great at sales and marketing, you better become that guy. Because if you don’t, you will be held hostage by somebody like me who is very good at sales and marketing, and you don’t want to be in that position.

[00:36:24.730] – Joran

Yeah, love it. Final question, what is one thing you wish you knew 10 years ago?

[00:36:29.080] – Chris

I think it would be people don’t buy because of ROI. They buy to relieve significant pain, and then they need ROI to justify it. But people do not buy because of ROI. I used to think ROI felt like… I used to think I could say, Hey, let me do this ROI calculator for you, and it would like, logically convince somebody into wanting to buy because I’m selling to a business. Isn’t business all about money? Turns out no. Business is run by people, and people are irrational and emotional. And so had I understood some of the concepts we’ve talked about today about understanding the need behind the need and the pain, and then talking about ROI, I’m not saying never talk about ROI, but people do not buy because of ROI. They just need it to justify their purchase, both to themselves and other people in the business. This one sit in my mind because in the end, this is exactly what we’re selling, for example.

[00:37:20.100] – Joran

We really help them to grow their MR. But that’s not just ROI. That’s emotional. If they’re struggling to grow their ARR and their business is flat-lined or they can’t make payroll or they’re just worried about making payroll, that’s pain.

[00:37:31.780] – Chris

Logical, hey, spend $5, get back $15, and that being for its own sake, you’ve got to find the emotional hot button. Revenue, it turns out, almost always has an emotional hot button to it. So you’re in good shape there. Nice. If people want to get in contact with you, Chris, what should they do? In You can follow me on LinkedIn. You can connect with me on LinkedIn as well. I probably have a backlog of about 5,000 connection requests, so I might not get to you.

[00:37:57.900] – Joran

You can even reach out to me, too.

[00:38:00.280] – Chris

I don’t respond to everything, and I think people get that, right? If you have a big following, I can’t respond to everything, but I would I’ll invite you to reach out to me because maybe I will. At the very least, follow me on LinkedIn. If you’re looking to dramatically improve your SaaS sales skills, go check out pclub. Io. Exactly. I think for people who love this show, which I definitely as he did. Check out pclub. Io. Check out the profile of Chris.

[00:38:25.580] – Joran

We’re going to link him in the show notes, so we’re definitely going to make sure people can find you. Thanks again for coming on. If you’re listening to Spotify, make sure to check the poll we have and the question we have. I’d love to hear your feedback so we can keep improving the podcast and make sure to hit subscribe. Thanks again for coming on, Chris. Thanks for having me. It was fun. Thank you for watching this show of the Grow Your BDBSAS podcast.

[00:38:50.950] – Chris

You made it till the end, so I think we can assume you like this content.

[00:38:55.620] – Joran

If you did, give us a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel.

[00:38:59.200] – Joran

If you like this content, feel free to reach out if you want to sponsor the show.

[00:39:03.940] – Joran

If you have a specific guest in mind, if you have a specific topic you want us to cover, reach out to me on LinkedIn. More than happy to take a look at it.

[00:39:13.830] – Joran

If you want to know more about Reddit, feel free to reach out as well.

[00:39:18.540] – Joran

But for now, have a great day and good luck growing your B2B SaaS.

Joran Hofman
Meet the author
Joran Hofman
Back in 2020 I was an affiliate for 80+ SaaS tools and I was generating an average of 30k in organic visits each month with my site. Due to the issues I experienced with the current affiliate management software tools, it never resulted in the passive income I was hoping for. Many clunky affiliate management tools lost me probably more than $20,000+ in affiliate revenue. So I decided to build my own software with a high focus on the affiliates, as in the end, they generate more money for SaaS companies.
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