How Do I Hit the Curveball – Part 3 of 3


Read Part 1 and Part 2

O.K., I told you it’s not complex.  You may be asking yourself how this will make you a better leader.  Maybe a couple of other questions will help resolve this dilemma.  Do you want your ________________ (fill in the blank, salespeople, producers, managers, etc.) to be able to think logically?  Do you want a repeatable process that you can use to assess their progress with both client relationships and prospect development?  Knowing the answer to these questions to be yes, let’s make direct application of this questioning process to your area of responsibility.

A typical interaction with a salesperson is probably limited to the following questions:

  • “Did you find out what they need?”
  • “How much money do they have?”
  • “When are you going to meet with them again?”
  • “What are you going to pitch them?”
  • “When do you think you can close the business?”
  • “Is there any way I can help you?”

They probably will answer these questions in such a way that you feel great about their progress.  But should you?

Sales managers think that salespeople have only the responsibility to close business and meet goals.  Salespeople, on the other hand, think that they have another equally important goal.  This goal is to manage both the pipeline and your expectations.  Therefore, unless you mix a healthy skepticism with effective questions, they will be more effective at managing you than they are at closing business.

Consider instead this line of questioning, which will also serve to assess skills and progress and, more importantly, teach your producers a more effective thinking and selling process:

  • What needs did you uncover? (a.k.a. What is the situation?)
  • How did you do this? (a.k.a. How do you know?)
  • What question gave you the greatest insight into their thinking/priorities/problems? (a.k.a. How do you know?)
  • How do you know that they perceive this need? (a.k.a. What is the situation and how do you know?)
  • What did they say to confirm this?  (a.k.a. How do you know?)
  • Do they feel a sense of urgency to make a commitment? (a.k.a. What is the situation?)
  • What led you to this conclusion? (a.k.a. How do you know?)
  • What is your next step? (a.k.a. What are you going to do about it?)

This interactive assessment accomplishes a number of things.  First, it forces them to see when they don’t have control of the sale and the need to go back to the drawing board.  Secondly, they know that you didn’t fall off the turnip truck and were insightful enough in your questioning to “find them out.”  Lastly, under your leadership, consisting of persistent questioning and continued coaching coupled with their changing questioning process, they can immeasurably improve both their selling skills and results.

To quote a TV ad from the not too distant past, “try it, you’ll like it!”

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