Estimated Read time: 10 Minutes
This guide covers one of the most important tools I’ve found on my sales journey.
When I started using the Discovery Form as a part of my sales process, it drastically reduced the number of “head-ache clients” I sold projects to, it helped increase my ability to close deals, and it made me feel like I was entering a sales conversation from the position of a respected professional.
This resource will show you how to create a Discovery Form for your video business (including the exact questions to include), and show you two ways to host a Discovery Form (a free version that cannot be embedded on your website and a paid WordPress plugin that allows you to host your Discovery Form on your website).
So let’s get to it!
What Is A Discovery Form?
Simply put, a Discovery Form is an application form that a potential client must fill out before you enter a sales conversation with them. It’s best used as part of your sales process when you have direct contact with a business owner or team-member; it’s not for use in a “Request For Proposal” or job-bid style project.
It’s designed to:
- Give you a better understanding of your prospect’s business.
- Help you come more prepared to the meeting (i.e., you’re able to do your homework, see what their competition is doing/not doing, evaluate video opportunities in their niche, etc.).
- Weed out tire-kickers, time-wasters, or potential clients who are not in alignment with you and your business services.
Upon receiving their Discovery Form submission, you will also be in a position to choose if you would like to move forward with the sales meeting—or, if you feel they are not going to be a good fit (or they show too many “red flags”) based on their response, you can confidently refer them elsewhere.
Note: It’s not a bad thing to refer clients elsewhere. If you are moving into higher-priced projects and serving a higher-caliber kind of client, there is no shame in passing along the smaller projects to a fellow videographer who loves to fulfill the $300–$500 projects or who is just getting started! I wouldn’t pass a ‘red flag’ client along to anyone, however if it’s a business with a smaller budget than I am willing to work with I’m all for helping out local filmmakers on their journey!
Will Asking Someone To Fill Out A Form Before We Meet Turn Them Off From Wanting To Meet With Me?
Yes—at least for some people. But for others, it will not turn them off from meeting with you.
Let me break this down for you and explain why it matters to include this step before your actual sales meeting.
If you’re new to using a Discovery Form, it’s really easy to assume that everyone would feel like it’s an inconvenience to fill out an application form ahead of a sales meeting.
It can feel like a big request—I mean, can’t I just ask those questions IN the meeting?
The purpose of somebody completing the Discovery Form before entering a sales meeting with you is to help give you:
- A frame of reference for their business and needs AHEAD of the sales meeting.
- A sense of if they can be a good fit for you and your business without wasting your time on meetings that go nowhere.
- An indication of whether they can follow instructions and allow a professional to “lead” them in a process (or alternatively, it can reveal if they are going to be a micro-managing client more likely to nickel and dime you through the entire process, wanting endless revisions at no extra cost, etc.).
Using a Discovery Form allows you to play the role of a detective: you will see clues about your potential client before you commit 60 minutes to an actual sales meeting with them.
Let’s take it one step further: Using a pre-meeting application is a common practice in many industries.
I remember when my fiancée and I were looking to select a family doctor in a city after a big move. A clinic posted an ad saying they were accepting new patients, and before we could meet with the doctor, we had to fill out an application form.
If our application answers met pre-determined criteria, we were then invited to meet the doctor in person.
Only after that in-person consultation would he choose if he felt we would be a good fit for his practice or if we would be a bad fit (or a risk) to what he had built over the years.
Obviously, placing these “hurdles” in front of potential customers may annoy some—and that’s okay. You shouldn’t be the right fit for everyone.
When the doctor said he’d be willing to take us on as patients, we were so excited to “make the cut.” We were even more committed to the vision of working with him as a result of the hoops we had to jump through. At the end of the day, our family doctor wanted to ensure he was attracting the right types of clients and weeding out those who would be a thorn in his side (or even put his practice at risk)
How Do I Ask A Client To Fill Out My Discovery Form In A Way That Doesn’t Make It Seem Like A Hassle For Them?
When it comes to talking about the Discovery Form with a potential client, it’s really important that you frame your request around their filling it out in the right way. Here’s how we approach it in the Video Warrior community.
Typically, when someone mentions that they want to meet with me to talk shop (or about possibly working with me on a video project), I take the following steps:
- I set a date + location for the meeting.
- I lock the meeting in our calendars then and there (do this with them in real-time, even if they are reaching out over the phone).
This step is helpful because you will learn if they are serious about the meeting or just price shopping.
- Say something along the lines of, “Cool, the meeting is locked in my calendar. I look forward to seeing if what I do can be a good fit for what you do and aligns with your business goals. Before we meet, I have a short form I need you to fill out—I’m going to send it to you now, okay? It doesn’t take long to complete—should take only 5 minutes max—and it will help me show up to our meeting fully prepared. Can you fill this form out for me today?”
- Upon receiving their commitment to complete the form, e-mail them a link to your Discovery Form.
- Evaluate their Discovery Form submission to determine if you would like to move forward with the meeting or refer them elsewhere.
If they are not a fit I will call them and ask questions that will either confirm or deny any concerns.
For example if their submission leads me to think they have a smaller budget than I work with I would say something like, “Based on what you submitted it feels like you’ve got a good idea of what you want to shoot and are looking for someone who can come to your location, bring their gear and film quickly and at a relatively inexpensive price point, under $500 – is that correct?”
If they confirm this I then say that I would like to refer them to a local videographer that I know personally can get the job done.
I have done this exact example in the past and my videographer friend was excited to have a project in his price range ‘fall into his lap’. Strive to make everything you do a win for this person, even if they cannot yet afford to work with you.
A few things to note about why I frame the request as I do in Step 3:
I like to set the expectation that it’s not going to be a hassle to fill the form out, that it’s a part of my process, and that it’s so I can better serve them (i.e., it’s in their best interest).
It’s also important to ask them if they can commit to filling it out because if anything comes up and they delay, you are able to reach out and follow up without sounding like a pest.
You’re literally just following up on a commitment they gave you—pick up the phone and call them! Don’t e-mail—there’s too much room for delay or getting buried in their inbox.
Remember, the best clients are often very busy people and it’s easy for them to lose track of tasks when they are trying to juggle all that it takes to run their operation! Try not to take it personally or automatically “write them off” as a flake. I try to be forgiving and give room for one chance to honor their agreement.
Lastly: You DO NOT want to send a Discovery Form out to “cold traffic”; that is, people you have never met, spoken with, or identified as interested in talking with you about video.
Do not be the person that sends it cold. It’s just bad etiquette and no one will respect you.
What To Do If The Meeting Is Coming Up And They Have Not Filled Out My Discovery Form?
If you have followed the steps above and your meeting is happening in a few hours, you can go a few ways with this.
Personally, I will not meet with anyone who has not completed the Discovery Form application.
Their action is a tell-all sign of how they handle their life and business. If they cannot respect the word they give, then I cannot respect them and do not want to associate with them.
This may sound extreme, but if you’ve done all you can to facilitate an easy-to-follow process, think of it this way:
If a potential client can’t honor their word in the small act of filling out a simple form, imagine what life would be like if you “seal the deal” with them on a project? What happens when you’re trying to schedule and organize a shoot? What would the post-production process be like? As you build a professional business you will only want to work with professional clients who honor their agreements.
Remember, there might be many reasons a Discovery Form submission is delayed. It’s okay for you to follow up (do not write them off because of one slip). Folks can get sidetracked with the ins and outs of the day-to-day of running their business.
If you follow the process and it’s still a chore to get the form filled out, first ask yourself, “Did I do everything to the best of my ability in framing the request and explaining why it’s an important part of my process?” Always look inward first and lead with the best intentions.
The majority of people are not out to ruin you or make life difficult, so if you’re new to using a Discovery Form, just take a breath, relax, and remember that it becomes easier the more you do this.
So with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the actionable steps of this guide so you can build your own Discovery Form today.
How To Create A Discovery Form:
Let’s start by looking at a sample of a Discovery Form.
1) What Questions Should Be Included In A Discovery Form?
I’ve created a Discovery Form Template you can refer to with Google Forms. It has a breakdown of all the questions to include in your Discovery Form.
Click on the following blue text to see the Discovery Form Template resource that I have created for the Video Warrior community. You can copy and paste the questions into your own form.
2) What Software Can I Use To Build A Discovery Form?
There are a few options when it comes to creating and hosting a Discovery Form for your video production company.
If you’re just getting started and don’t have a ton of money in your operating expense budget, I recommend you use Google Forms.
You can watch this Video Tutorial I created on how to set up this exact form in Google Forms:
Google Forms is perfectly fine for getting started; however, at some point, once you have your website up and running, it will be more professional to host your Discovery Form on your own website.
If you’re using WordPress, I suggest you check out my favorite WordPress plugin, “Gravity Forms“.
I’ve tested a few plugins over the years (including some of the free plugins) and I keep coming back to Gravity Forms for all my website form creation needs.
A basic “1 website” license costs $59 USD per year (at the time of creating this guide), and I’ve found it to be the easiest plugin to wrap my head around without having to be a professional website coder.
Another feature I like is that it can be set up to send any submitted applications directly to your e-mail inbox in an easy-to-read format.
(Disclaimer: The above link is an affiliate link, meaning if you sign up for Gravity Forms using the link in this article, I will receive a commission from your annual subscription.)
You’ve got everything you need to get started right away, so get to it!
Using a Discovery Form may take a bit of practice to get comfortable with in your sales process—it’s kind of like the first time you learned how to edit videos. It may have felt clunky or intimidating, but the more you use it, the easier it becomes to integrate.
It’s been field-tested by hundreds of Video Warriors since June 2017 and is a tool we swear by. I hope this guide helps you on your sales journey.
PS: What do you think? Share your feedback below. Let me know if you’re already using a Discovery Form or if this is brand new to you.