Your Best Discovery Call Ever in 3 Simple Phases

by | May 1, 2024 | 0 comments

Image description: Black man in a suit sitting on concrete stairs, smiling into an open laptop on his knees. 

As Virtual Assistants and Online Service Providers, discovery calls are a valuable step in the client acquisition process. 

For some, it may seem daunting to put yourself out there on a 15-45 minute call, but those who choose to lean into these sessions will find that they’re an excellent way not only to decide who to work with but to start laying the groundwork of healthy boundaries and expectations, and also to sus out potential red flags or misalignments that could cause frustration down the road.

A discovery call is a free consultation you can offer prospective clients, this is before any agreements are made and any contracts are signed. As the name suggests, these calls are all about discovery. They function as a safe, non-committal session for the prospective client to discover if they want to work with you and if you’re the right person to help them achieve the goals they have in mind.

Likewise, it’s also your opportunity to understand the client’s needs and determine if they’re a good match for you. That part is essential to remember. A discovery call is not a job interview – these sessions are a two-way street where two professionals decide whether to collaborate. Listen to your gut and approach the call honestly about what you’re willing and capable of doing as a VA. 

 You’re probably asking yourself, “But Hannah, what should I do or say during this call?”

Excellent question! Today, we’re taking a start-to-finish look at the three phases of a well-structured discovery call experience.

Phase One: Booking and Preparations

The journey of a smooth discovery call starts long before you’re on Zoom with your prospective client. It starts with booking. Ensure your booking link is easy to find and user-friendly, with up-to-date availability for a streamlined journey. If the booking process for a free consultation is complicated, it will set a negative impression right out of the gates – so make sure this first step is an easy one!

Make booking a breeze by:

  • Choosing a user-friendly booking tool like Calendy or Acuity – reliable tools that let you schedule meetings and reminders to keep everyone on track.
  • Keep your booking link clearly visible in your profile or at the top of your link tree for easy access.
  • Ideally, ensure you have availability within 48 hours, which is often the sweet spot for interested prospects, and provide flexible booking options.
  • Be clear on how long your calls are, some opt for 15 minutes, others 45, anywhere in that range is appropriate. (You may find yourself going over, that’s ok too, if you’re vibing!)
  • Include a few preliminary questions on your booking form. Remember that a long booking form could scare prospective clients, but a brief questionnaire (1-3 questions) will help set you up for your next steps. Use this prelim to get their website and social links, a brief description of their business, the audience they serve, and what made them consider outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant.

Once you’ve scored that booking, don’t just sit and count down the days. Use that time to research your prospective client. Understanding their business, their goals, and unique challenges will help you speak to their needs directly during the call and show your proactive and tailored approach to your work.

Another important step in this phase is prepping your physical space. Sometimes, a bit of noise can’t be avoided, but to the best of your ability, find a quiet, clean environment to take calls. Not only does this show your professionalism, but it also shows your respect for their time. It’s a subliminal signal of the care and effort you put into your work. Just because I could, in theory, accept a call from the bathtub doesn’t mean I should.

Phase Two: Rock the Call

Boom! The big day is here. Once you’re on the call with your prospective clients, build rapport by asking open-ended questions to further assess their needs. You’ve already gotten some data from your assessment form, and you’ve already done your research, so now it’s time to expand with focused questions. Remember, you have a limited amount of time, so it’s important to get to the heart of things.

Here are some of my favorite discovery call questions that really get to the meat and potatoes:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • Explain what a typical day for you is working in your business?
  • How do you feel that things are going in your business? Good, bad, OK?
  • What do you do in your business that you hate doing?
  • What is your weekly or monthly budget?
  • What is important for you in regards to a working relationship with a VA/Online Service Provider?
  • Please explain the systems and tools (if any) that you already have in place in your business.

In the Virtual Excellence Academy, we give you a complete list of 20 fool-proof questions to ask that help you get the most out of the session.

Keep these questions in a word document or physical notebook and take notes of answers and important insights that come up along the way. If you don’t want to miss a beak, having virtual notetakers like Otter or Fathom record the call is always an excellent backup so you can review and pick up on the little details after the session, thanks to their automated recording, transcribing, and summarizing.

With or without a recorder, in the moment, active listening is a vital part of a successful discovery call. If you’re actively listening, you can adapt and tailor your response accordingly to discuss what options and offerings you can provide to help them reach their goal. That immediate reassurance from you tips the scales in your favor by showing you’re an attentive quick-thinker geared towards solutions.

It should go without saying, but it’s also important to show genuine interest in their answers! We’re not just here to earn; we’re here to lay the groundwork of a good relationship because this may be the person that you’re talking, working, and dealing with for a long time to come.

While the focus of the call is the prospective client and their needs, don’t hesitate to share a bit about yourself and let your personality shine. If you’ve done your research and noticed some commonalities between you and your prospective client, mention them during the session to help ease any awkwardness and start building a friendship.

Know and highlight your value to prospective clients by letting them know what makes your services unique. Do you go the extra mile in your research? Are you thoroughly double-checking or triple-checking your work to ensure they don’t have to worry about errors? Is your turnaround time unparalleled? Whatever those value points may be, you want to let them know in a way that focuses explicitly on how you can solve the problems they’re up against in their business.

Quick tips!

  • Remember to stay flexible! Pre-planning is necessary, but every person is unique. Canned responses won’t get you far. While you can set a generalized flow for your discovery calls, embrace the fact that no two calls will be alike. Adaptability will be an ace in your pocket.
  • Highlight the time that you’ll save your client! Ask them what they would do or how they would feel if they could add 5-10+ hours back into their calendar every week.
  • Ask clarifying questions if something isn’t clear! Understanding the details is necessary to assess if this is a role you want to take on, so don’t shy away from asking additional questions (even in a follow-up email) to get things straight.
  • Keep it simple! Hyper-detailed explanations of the solution can be overwhelming. This is a free consultation, an outline of the solution is all that’s needed here. If they wanted every tiny detail, they would be learning the process themselves. They’re here for solutions, reassurance, and results, not process.

Now that you’ve dazzled your prospective client, it’s time to wrap up the call. This is where new VAs sometimes overlook an important step. As you approach the end of your discovery call, discuss clear next steps.

You may have already assessed from the conversation that you’d like to work with this client, in that case, you can discuss the process of getting started with a trial package, including payment discussions.

If you are still hashing out some details, outline what they can expect in a follow-up email or formal proposal. Only end the meeting after setting the expectation that they will hear from you again soon and what details to expect from that contact.

Phase Three: Follow-up & Seal the Deal

Assuming things feel right and you’re both ready to start this new venture together, taking the payment during the call can be an effective and exciting approach to seal the deal.

But if not, don’t worry! Promptly sending an invoice or proposal after the call is perfectly acceptable. Just make sure to strike while the iron is hot, try to respond within 24 – 48 hours. You’ve taken the time to build up their anticipation of working for you, so don’t delay and let that good energy fizzle out.

Alongside your invoice, you’ll want to submit a solid contract to be agreed upon by and signed by both parties to ensure everyone is well-protected. The Virtual Excellence Academy offers easy-to-use, customizable contract templates to fast-track this tedious (but vital) part of the process!

Even if you have yet to send your invoice/proposal, or if you’re still deciding if they’re a good fit, send a thank you email after the call to summarize the key points discussed and propose potential next steps to keep things warm while you finalize your decision. This is a great practice even if you decide not to work together.

Sending a follow-up to thank you to them for their time is highly recommended and shows your professionalism. You never know, they could become a valuable part of your network and refer you to a new client down the road.


Image description: Red haired woman in a wheelchair sitting at a table, smiling and waving into the laptop in front of her.

There you have it! You’re well-equipped for a smooth discovery call and an easier decision-making process for you and the prospective client.

As always, remember to Embrace Your Weird, and bring your true self and values to the table. Here’s to your best discovery call yet!

Are you loving your prospects but still struggling to land the client? Check out our blog post to see if you’re unintentionally scaring clients away. For a list of hard-hitting questions to ask and more in-depth details and strategies for discovery calls (and every aspect of running a successful VA business!), sign up to be notified for the next enrollment to the Virtual Excellence Academy!

Author: Hannah Dixon
Hannah Dixon is a Business Coach, Recruiter, and Founder of Digital Nomad Kit and The Virtual Excellence Academy (VEA). The VEA is a leading educational program and diverse global community that has honed the skills and confidence of over 30,000+ virtual assistants and freelancers. Committed to ethical hiring practices, she also provides VIP recruitment services. Hannah views freelancing and self-leadership as potent tools for social change, empowering anyone, anywhere, to unlock potential and create life-changing opportunities. As a 16-year digital nomad, she speaks internationally, demonstrating progressive business and lifestyle approaches, and powerfully compelling audiences to action.

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