Sales managers have a great deal of influence on the behavior of their people just by the questions they ask. Any self respecting sales person doesn’t want to look like a fool to the manager. So if you consistently ask certain questions, they will quickly understand and come prepared to answer the questions.
So that’s the good news …… and the bad news.
It turns out, too often, managers are asking the wrong questions and, as a result, driving the wrong behaviors with their people. One of the biggest mistakes are the two questions, too many managers ask over and over: “When are you getting the order? How much will it be?”
We know the behavior that drives in sales people, they immediately go to their customers asking, “When am I going to get the order and how much?” They may soften it with the excuse, “My manager’s putting me under a lot of pressure!”
So if we know our questions, as managers, are going to drive the behaviors of our sales people, imagine what would happen if we started asking them different questions. What if we started asking:
What’s the compelling business issue that’s driving the customer to consider a change?
What are the big things happening in their business that is impacting their performance? How can we help?
How are they going to justify this to their managers?
What are the consequences of doing nothing?
What are we helping them achieve that they cannot get from anyone else?
Who’s involved in making the decision?
What is their buying process? How are they aligning the diverse interests in their organization to make a decision?
You see where I’m going, our questions, as managers, have tremendous power in shaping how our sales people show up in front of the customer. So we have to make sure we are asking them the right questions!
We can apply this to all aspects of selling–whether it’s our deal strategies, sales calls, territory and account plans, prospecting, pipeline management. Sales people want to be able to respond to the questions. They want to look good in front of managers (if not their customers). Or they may just want to get the managers off their backs.
So if you aren’t seeing the behaviors you want, consider thinking about the questions you are asking. After all, that’s a large part of what’s driving their behaviors.
Stumped on the questions you should be asking? Here’s a “cheat sheet” for you—look at your sales process. Your sales process identifies the critical buying/selling activities that must take place to maximize your ability to win, as well a reduce the sales cycle. Let those activities be the clue for the questions you should be asking. This does lots of fantastic things–it gets your people asking the questions of their customers–or looking for the information that enables them to respond to your questions. And it gets them using the sales process—which is what you are trying to do in the first place?
What questions are you asking your people?
Are you getting the answers you want?