Discovery Call Formula of Success: 50/20/20/10

I used to believe in the 60/30/10 rule when it came to booking sales appointments and discovery calls.

That rule stated that 60% of your prospecting success would come by hitting the right targets, 30% will come because you have the right message and 10% will come from all other reasons combined.

With the benefit of 25+ years of experience, a better rule is 50/20/20/10.

Table of Contents

How to prepare for more discovery calls?

50% of the results come from interacting with
the highest-probability highest-value targets you can with the time and resources you have.

20% of results come from your process of interaction.
When do you call, voicemail or email? How many times?

You must work a total process of outreach from start to finish, calculated to get the result you seek. The quality of that process and the quality of your execution is 20% of the reason for your discovery call success.

20% of the results come from your messaging.
Does your messaging give those with needs sufficient reason to meet?
Does your verbiage communicate value, credibility, and benefits clearly and concisely?

10% of your results come from everything else.

Discovery call process components


50% of your results come from just hitting the right targets.

Here’s the biggest mistake I see over and over again. Rather than carefully profiling the best targets to call, callers grab a list that is free or easy. Or, major assumptions are made about a list that is good enough.

This results in casting your net far too wide, and you are doomed to fail regardless of how good your call process or scripting is.

When you and your team do not properly select your list, you spend way too much time reaching out to low-probability and no-probability targets. A major cause of appointment setting failure.

If your target list is not properly selected you and your team are doomed before you make your first call. All the odds are stacked against you, and it is your fault.

Get this right, and you can screw up a lot of things and still be successful

Even if you have an average message and screw everything else up totally, if you select the right targets, you can have a successful prospecting program.

Setting discovery calls process and structure

If you choose the wrong targets, no matter what else you do, no matter how good your message is, no matter how efficiently you work, no matter how good your process is, you are guaranteed to fail.

How do you pick the right targets? Very simple.

Make a list of your best clients. Make a list of your competition’s best clients. Make a list of the specific accounts that you know would be great, profitable accounts for you to have. Then go to a database and look up those specific companies. Create a chart that notes their SIC or NAICS codes.

Every industry has a code. Do you sell to consultants, restaurants or retail? They each have a code. Find out what the SIC or NAICS codes are of the companies you are profiling. Make a note of their revenue range or number of employees. This information can be obtained for free using publicly available databases such as ReferenceUSA.

In addition to the information you find in public databases, make a note of how your best clients/customers/accounts first found you. What needs did they have when they first became your clients?

Write it down. What did your clients tell you their problems were when they first came to you? Write them down.

Do this enough times, and you will have an accurate profile of the people whom you should be calling. That is to say; you will know the exact industry codes and the size of the businesses you should be calling. These are the only people you should be calling.

Get the 50% wrong and you cannot succeed, no matter how well you work the other components. Get the 50% right and you can make some major screw-ups on the other components and still make money.

Typically, people focus on having a “great script” then start calling a list which is not segmented into groups by probability and value. Which means that 60% or 90% of the records they call, never should have been called at all. I am not exaggerating.

Here is an example. Real numbers.

Mature mid-sized firm doing well wants a higher growth rate than their referrals and networking is bringing them. Had prospected before with some success but never really focused on it or worked a complete system.

Here is what we do to get the 50% right.

They give me a list of their clients for the past three years.

We obviously want to clone the good accounts, so I research every client company they want to clone using the process above. 

Here is what is immediately obvious.

The vast majority of great accounts, the ones we want to clone, are found in just two SIC code ranges.

The vast majority of great accounts had at least $1 million in revenue.

Most of the really great accounts had $2.5+ million in revenue.

The next step? Find out how many companies there are in their geographical target area. All businesses. 42,750. All businesses with $1+ million in revenue. 11, 789

Now, how many businesses are there consistent with the great account profile? Those that are within the two dominant SIC code ranges with $1+ million in revenue.

Businesses within dominant sic code ranges with $2.5+ million revenue. 1,229

Business within dominant sic code ranges with between $1-$2.5 million in revenue. 1,858

What is important here for you to understand?

If this company had called from Chamber of Commerce lists or other generic lists 92% of their calling effort would have fallen outside of their high probability zone as only 8% of all companies are consistent with their best target profile.

Now, due to a one time investment of three hours doing some research 100% of their prospecting effort is to high probability prospects. None of their time is being invested with low probability targets.

Do  not focus on “not missing anyone.”

Let me tell you one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The phrase that I hear that tells me I am talking to someone doomed to prospecting failure… “I don’t want to miss anyone.” Surer words predicting prospecting failure will never be spoken!

The point of prospecting and appointment setting is to generate the maximum results for your limited time and resources.

When you start, you should call only those that fit the profile of your best potential clients. Usually, there are more of those targets than you could reasonably call in six months or more. So, you are not limiting yourself in any way.

After you contact all your targets that fit your “best suspect” profile and do it very well, then you can start thinking about contacting others.

Let’s discuss a close to real life example. You make some assumptions about whom to prospect, and your list universe has 5,000 targets.

If you do some basic research and analysis, you might find that about 7% of that list, 350 targets, most tightly fits the profile of your best clients. Let’s call those your “A” targets.

Another 7% or so, about 350 records, are close to your best target profile. Let’s call this the “B” group.

Then you have “all the rest,” about 4,300 records that possibly might become clients in shades of decreasing probability.

Strategic targets for a discovery call

Who are you going to call first? The A’s, the B’s or all the rest?

If you are like those that just jump in and call without knowing which targets are in the A or B group, you are going to spend 86% of your time calling “all the rest,” while the A’s and B’s get very little of your time and attention. A recipe for guaranteed failure. A scenario that is all too common.

This is where self-destructive thinking comes from. We all have clients that are great clients who don’t fit the profile of our very best clients. For example: if most of our best clients are businesses that have at least $2.5 million in revenue, we probably have some great clients that are much smaller, only doing say half of a million or a million a year in business.

It may be true that there are some businesses out there that only do half a million dollars in revenue which could be “great” clients. But, if you tried to prospect for companies in that revenue range, you would lose your shirt finding those “great” clients.

Jack hammer through prospecting gold

You want to jack hammer through a solid vein of prospecting gold. Not work through a pile of prospecting crap trying to find a nugget of gold.

You are not “giving up” on anyone when you resist the temptation to dilute the quality of the suspect pool you call.

It is financial suicide and sheer madness to invest limited prospecting time sifting through sludge panning for a few small nuggets of gold, when you could spend the same time jack hammering through a solid vein of gold.

The more you vary from a suspect pool that most resembles your typical “great” client, the lower your success rate will be in scheduling discovery calls. Not only that, your conversion rate from appointment to sale will be lower, and your average order size of the sales you make will be lower.

Do not make this mistake. Initially focus and prospect only those companies who fit the profile of your very best clients.

Once you finish prospecting that pool and have a baseline of results, you can then begin targeting other pools of suspects.

50% of your results will come just from communicating with the right targets.

20% of your prospecting results come from your process of interaction. How many times do you call, voicemail or email and when? If you don’t do enough or interact the right way, you will fail. If you do too much and work past your point of diminishing returns, your results will plummet. If you don’t do enough, call just a few times or randomly, then you are not doing enough to get steady results.

So, assuming you are calling the right targets, you must work an effective process when you interact with those targets. That process propels you through your high probability group and increases the odds that you will “bump” into a high-value prospect at the right time.

50% of results from calling the right targets.
20% of results from working the right process.

Discovery call scripts impact results 20%

20% of results from effective messaging. Simply, when you call the right people and work a system which earns you their attention for a few moments, don’t screw it up. Make sure that what you say holds value and is worth listening to. Articulate what you do, your credibility, and value with clarity and brevity.

In those few crucial moments of attention you worked so hard to get, you must communicate words that enable buyers (those that recognize a need) to conclude that you are worth more of their time. If your message is weak, watered down or non-existent in those moments, you are toast.

50% is the list.
20% is the process.
20% is the messaging.

10% is all the rest. All the other issues that suck up your time and attention that are on the fringes of what matters. I am generous when I say they affect results 10%.

Call the right people the right way and have something worthwhile to say and you are 90% there.

Don’t let other issues divert your attention.