It’s important to have a meeting rhythm. It’s important to hold your salespeople accountable to their commitments and for their results. But in doing so, we can train salespeople to answer the same set of questions over and over again. By training them to answer a certain set of questions, we encourage certain behaviors that produce certain results. New and different results require new and different questions.
My Focus, My Blind Spot
Personally, I ask a lot of questions about opening, about front end, pipeline-building activity. This is my personal bias because I have personally seen more salespeople succeed by prospecting and creating opportunities. I ask about new opened opportunities, whether or not they are super-qualified dream clients, how we are going to create compelling value, and questions about why we deserve to win. It’s impossible to help train, develop, and coach the later activities if there is no opportunity to coach, so I like this activity.
My focus here is predictable, and as much as it helps to produce better results, it doesn’t mean that other questions that help to train, develop, and coach salespeople aren’t also required. The gains salespeople make through coaching are often made by asking them challenging questions that they don’t already know how to answer, not training them to answer the same set of questions repeatedly.
Some sales organizations get trapped into a set of questions later in the sales cycle, or they stick to a set of questions about commitments and numbers. Some sales managers get trapped in a routine of simply reviewing every deal instead of training, developing, and coaching the whole range of activities their sales force needs to engage in to succeed.
Just like the plateau you reach when you do the same exercises over and over again, you need to change things up to make gains in your performance.
A New Set of Questions
To change things up, think about the new outcomes that the salesperson needs, or think about the areas in which they need to improve. Instead of asking them the questions you have trained them to answer, write a new set of questions that will require the salesperson to take new actions, to adopt new beliefs, or that will require them to think differently about what they are doing.
Be prepared to challenge your salespeople with questions that they cannot answer, and forgive them for not knowing the answer. It’s not fair to hold them accountable for something that they don’t yet know they are accountable. Continue asking the questions until it is clear that they understand the question and can answer it routinely. Over time, your salespeople will do what is necessary to be able to answer your questions, they will know it is expected of them, and they will know that you are holding them accountable to the activities.
Then, find some new improvement and change the questions again.
You don’t need to abandon the old set of questions. Spring those questions on the salespeople from time to time to ensure they are still taking the actions that allow them to answer those questions.
If you are a salesperson, you can go through this exercise even without a sales manager. What are the questions that you routinely ask yourself about your activities and your opportunities?
How would different questions help you produce different results?
Are the questions you ask the same set of predictable questions?
Do you routinely focus your questions in only one area?
How would changing your questions force your salespeople to grow?