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6 Questions Sales Managers should Ask about Sales Team

How to find out what’s really going on with your sales organisation

6 Questions for Sales Managers

One of your sales team has a great prospect lined up and they are pretty excited about the opportunity on the table for the company and for their sales targets, especially as they head into the next business quarter. They may be experienced at selling, and have been meeting similar prospects like this for years. Easy and they do it every day. So what’s the challenge here for them, for you and for the company?

There is always the risk of defaulting to tried and tested habits that have won them business in the past.  A beginner’s mind is always a great mindset to have in  your sales team. Here are 6 questions to ask inside your sales organisation, on a regular basis. to increase awareness of the selling behaviours and get more traction in your sales meetings.

  1. How prepared are my salespeople for their sales meetings?

For any meeting, having a plan and a conversation strategy will get your sales people more focused, create a structure and strategy and make better use of their selling time. Why wouldn’t you plan in such a ways as to reduce the number of meetings to get to a close? There’s nothing more rewarding than making progress fast and increasing the chance of winning business.

So some key questions to ask, to find out how prepared the salesperson is for a meeting: Are all the decision makers going to be at the table?  Obvious question, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to find this out beforehand. What are the key issues each decision-maker is facing?  You might not know, but it’s worth a guess, based on their position in the company. What is the strategy for the sales conversation? What business issues can we focus on? What would trigger value for each of them and how are we going to sell that to the key stakeholders? How are we going to manage and progress the sales conversation? What is our outcome for the buyer at the table?

  1. What is the focus for the sales meeting?

At this point, the salesperson should be demonstrating their ability to step into a higher frame to discuss business issues, acting in a business consulting capacity and exploring how these issues can be addressed with your company’s solution. Depending on the stage in the buying cycle, the salesperson may just be exploring what prompted the meeting, or exploring what is motivating the buyer to want to know more. They may have to focus on increasing the buyer’s motivation to move further into negotiation stage of the meeting. A focus on structure over sales pitch, will increase traction in the sales meeting and keep the sales person connected to the outcome and goal of the meeting.

Asking this question leads you to exploring how much thought the sales person has put into the substance of the meeting. What is this meeting actually going to be about for the buyer and decision-makers in the room?  What is the theme  and focus of the sales conversation? The decision-makers are there for a reason beyond writing a cheque. They have problems to solve and think your company can solve it or they want something better than they have right now.

The focus of the meeting should always be about an implicit promise to the buyer; that if they take the conversation further, there is some real value on the table.  We are not talking here about a sales pitch, a demo or a testimonial, but a solution to their business challenges or future aspirations.

  1. What range of behaviours are actively going on at the sales meetings?

When we talk about behaviours, we are talking about the communication skills and style of interaction going on. Rapport has been taught in sales training courses for decades. At this point, your sales people should be doing this unconsciously and competently. Rapport ranges from non-verbal, body language to linguistic rapport, to understanding and exploring mutual values. What’s even more important is the balance between literal listening and asking high-quality thought-provoking question.

Asking great questions is the fuel for directing the conversation to where you want the buyer to notice business acumen, understanding, pacing and supporting and a possible match for them. A lot of talk has been given to buying signals and I would invite sales managers to think about the signals the salesperson is giving; are they listening, are the responding from the buyer’s point of view, are they pacing the buying decision rather than rushing the sale? The difference between buying signals and selling signals is huge. The right selling signals motivate the buyer to explore more and accelerate their decision to buy.

4. What key actions are they taking to get the buyer to make decisions?

Actions are what you do linguistically to move the conversation along. It allows the buyers to draw positive conclusions about the salesperson and your company; that they are trustworthy, competent and intelligent, and have a good understanding of the business issues at hand.

We are talking about the ability to track and summarise and ask about what has been said; it’s about using the information given to take the conversation in a direction that convinces the buyer that you are worth talking to. If you do it right, the buyer will be making decisions in their head to continue the interaction, to ask more questions, and begin to emote on the value of having the solution on offer. In other words, they have positive impression of the sales person and want to know more.

The actions I am talking about here are what the person is dong to direct and guide the conversation so that the buyer sees it as time well spent and worth paying for, if they choose to. Ask your salespeople, what are the 3 key things you did that got this buyer interested, where they agreed to the next meeting or shortlisted the company for the final selection round?

5. Can people in my sales team explain the process they use to close the sale?

When I talk about a sales process, I am talking about the steps the salesperson takes, to guide the buyer into the future and imagine doing business with your company.

In summary, what we are talking about here is a conversational process to close the sale. I usually have 8-10 steps, which don’t have to always go in a particular order, but doing it right, will always increase the motivation for the buyer and consider the offering. Ask your salespeople to explain it, so that if it worked, you can replicate it across the team. Track it and write it down. What did they do first, and then what did they do? If you have an exceptional sales person who can repeatedly create this conversational process. Sit down with them, capture it, document it and replicate it across your organisation. It’s called modelling. The best people have a model in their head and when captured, it can be a best practice in your sales organisation.

6. Are my team able to explain how the buyer closed the sale?

I always say the buyer closes the sale, because, they are the ones who say yes. As a salesperson, the skills required centre on observing and tracking your buyers decision-making patterns. How buyers make decisions is where the real value in asking questions lies. Consider focusing weekly and monthly sales meetings around where key prospects are in the decision-making process. It can tell you a lot more and get your team to focus on the buyer’s view of the world, where they can be more effective in closing the sale.

CRM software puts salespeople in the tempting position of using their own biased thinking about how close their are to 100%. Of course it all depends how you measure the close rate. It doesn’t always tell you what’s going on for the buyer, but it does show you the level of optimism your salespeople function from. The buyers always close the sale, when they make a decision to say Yes. If you can get your salespeople to explain how the buyer made the decision, it will train them to view every buyer as unique and tweak their sales approach accordingly.

I talk a lot about buying filters when I work with sales teams and we always do a short profile on buyers and their typical buying patterns. We stick to 10 so as not to overwhelm them!  An example of this is, whether a buyer looks at Options or Process, what motivates them, the past pain or the future possibilities, whether they are focused on the big picture or the details. So asking your salespeople, “what do we know about the decision makers in this organisation and how they decided to buy and can we map it?”

If you are a sales director or manager in a competitive industry, test these questions with your team at the next sales meeting and see what you discover. Questions empower and expand your sales team capacity to win more business. What would it take for your team to become more curious about how they create their success and how to have more of it?

Building Self Confidence

The Most Popular Topic in Coaching

The start of any coaching conversation starts with a question. This is followed by more questions. It becomes an exploration. It is about getting to the heart of what somebody desires in their life, their work, their career, business and their relationships with others. I often say to people ‘A coach will ask you questions you don’t often ask yourself.’

It often takes you down avenues you never thought possible. That is the beauty of this type of conversation. So many things can be uncovered and explored in the safety of sacred, safe conversations. Anything is possible when you commit to growing in a coaching conversation.

Where the journey starts

People often decided they want to work with coach. They look to get someone outside, impartial, who has some skills that can help them get clear on some area of their life.  The list varies from a career change, going for a job interview, starting a business, being better at public speaking, a better sales person, a better manager and even a better parent. There is no subject that doesn’t show up for discussion. The reason is simple; you are not just your job, your career or your business. Your life and who you are shows up when you choose to work with a professional. They are just expressions of you. So the questions asked can often be about how you operate in life and it can end up as a conversation about your life.

Why does confidence as a topic show up so much?

As a person who loves noticing patterns and how they shape people’s lives, jobs and self-concept, I started of course to notice a pattern. The single theme that seems to come up over and over is this idea of having more self-confidence to take a risk and do something different. People will say things like “I’d like to have more confidence in myself to do or be X.” Indeed, when you read this question, I am sure you have an area where you’d like a way of building confidence. So let’s look at what that means.

The interesting thing is, people start with a challenge or a desire to change. Once the conversation begins, they begin to get insights into themselves and get to the place of realising that the challenge was a symptom of something else they were seeking, deeper inside themselves.  This can be expressed in many ways; such as feeling more at ease or having the guts to do something they’ve always wanted to do.

Everybody thrives on confidence

“So why can’t I just have confidence?” you might ask. You can! You just have to know how to “do” confidence. Confidence has structure to it. Confidence has reference points to what you have done before. They can be positive or negative. One black-and-white way to look at it is this; you will never try something again because you think you failed the first time.  Or, you will give it a shot and see how it goes, because you learned from it and can improve, if you try it again. There is truth in the ‘fake it until you make it’ idea. The risk-takers and people who look at the options will always give it one more shot. These are the people are more likely to build and expand their confidence. It them becomes the place they function from. And from there, they develop the skill of knowing how to build confidence.

Where does a lack of confidence come from?

Confidence is a multi-layered state, is how I can best describe it.  It’s a combination of knowing enough and believing enough that you can do or be something.  So why does a ‘perceived’ lack of confidence show up in coaching so often and how can you build confidence in yourself? Here are a few things to help you explore your own confidence in areas of your life and why we often find it hard to do confidence. Here are the key things I have noticed.

Using the past as a reference

This is where we did something once. It didn’t go well. We decided we would never do it again. If this is true for you, think of times where you did something similar and felt well-able to do it. An example I have is, a client I was coaching around his leadership skills, which he needed to demonstrate in a second-round group interview. He had completely missed the fact that he had been team captain on the sports pitch for years. He didn’t make the connection unti we had the conversation. Once we captured all he did well there, we translated it across to the group interview, which secured him the job. He was looking in the wrong places and not mapping across his skills to lead a team of men to sporting victories of which there were many.

Using other people’s points of view

This is a big one. What will other people think? Many times we don’t take the risk because we are pleasing some invisible “authority figure” from the past, present or further. This I describe as the judgement of ourselves through the imagined negative judgements of others. I hear this often said to me in a coaching session “you probably think it’s crazy, but…” I don’t, in fact, because I am too busy listening and hearing what you are saying.

What if you dared greatly and tried something new?  At least you gave it a shot. What if you did what other people wouldn’t dare to do? It builds a stock of experiences to create your own reference points of view. An example I give to people when preparing presentations for public speaking is to practice reading aloud to get used to the sound of your own voice. If you have children, even better! You have no excuse then, to at least create your own internal point of view to build that confidence you need in this situation.

Using the fear of failure or losing face

Failure is an interesting concept preceded by the question and conclusion, ‘but what if I fail? I don’t want to fail.’ So question to that is. ‘What if you never try at all? What if you are missing out on a great experience or a new way of being because you were afraid of failure?’  Failure can mean that you didn’t have the skills or resources you needed at them time to make things work. Losing face is rooted in an expectation and functions from a place of perfection. It is about seeking to meet the unrealistic expectations you want others to have of you. A great example is the perfect social media profile; nobody sees the faux pas, the mistakes and the bad days we all have every now and again.

How much more human we would be without these judgements? So the question now is, ‘do you have the confidence to try something and learn that there must be a better way to do it?’ Just like Thomas Edison’s answer to the 10,000 light bulbs experiments. Instead of seeing it as a failure, he learned 9,999 ways ‘not to make a light bulb’. This is a great example of a reframed point of view. If you can reframe failure, your confidence will certainly grow. Do it often and you will be building that confidence-muscle.

Using an outdated perception of yourself

I often ask clients where they got their idea of themselves as not able to do something and who they bought it from. Within reason or course. If you don’t have the right vocal chords to be an opera singer, no amount of confidence is going to change that! We spend our formative years and early working years being given lots of points of view of ourselves. We start to believe them as fixed and immutable.

Everybody can change and does change over the years. So next time you decide that you can’t do something, think about how old that idea of yourself is. Did you get it from a school teacher, a parent, a school friend? People carry fixed ideas of about you and what were like in the past. Are you buying them as being locked into a one-time event or a time in your life when you didn’t have the experiences you have now?  Having the confidence to update who you are and let people see that you have indeed grown and changed is one way to keep recreating a new version of you every day. We all need an upgrade. Ask any software company! This is another way to give yourself more confidence. You have infinite possibilities to change and become more than you are today and next week. You have to keep asking better questions.

Confidence is built over time, but you can tap into it by asking yourself quality questions.

So here are four to consider next time you have that nagging doubt that you don’t have the confidence to take a risk.

  1. What time in my life am I stuck in that stopping me from trying this?
  2. Whose version of success or failure am I functioning from?
  3. What if I took steps to build a pathway for others and show them a way?
  4. What story am I telling myself about not being able to do this?

 

Want to learn more on about subject? Read this article What does a coach do?

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