Thinking Through the Clutter: 5 Questions Sales Managers Should Ask

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By Molly D Protosow


As a sales manager, your role is broad. You have to ensure your sellers are focused with all their activities, and you’re responsible for everyone hitting their numbers. You don’t want to micromanage, but you need to be able to help and lead your team efficiently.


Keeping your team on track with real sales and away from wasting their time with dead-ends is one aspect of being a great manager.


You're likely tracking and measuring a significant number of key performance indicators (KPIs) already, but how do you start a productive conversation that will help your team assess specific opportunities?


The foundation of sales coaching is asking great open-ended questions. In this case, the focus should be on moving away from "how much is the deal worth and when will it close" to more thought-provoking questions that can help move the deal forward and reinforce key selling skills at the same time.


So what questions should you ask your team to ensure they are focused on opportunities that are worthwhile and qualified?


1. What is the business need?

Does your seller know what business need or challenge the prospect is trying to solve? Are they able to articulate what the prospect and their organization is trying to accomplish and why?


Your customers are looking for an expert who shares insight into how their need can be solved, so it's the seller's job to guide and advise them along the way. But the first step to doing that is to have a comprehensive understanding of that customer's business.


2. Why have they expressed interest now?

If the impact of the problem on the business is small and your sales rep is unaware, they could be pushing something that will never be sold because the value to the buyer doesn’t exist.


Does your seller know why the prospect has expressed interest now? Did something change?


Understanding “why now” from the prospect's point of view will help your seller determine how to prioritize the opportunity and provide a better idea of how fast or slow the deal will move through the sales process and your pipeline.


3. What unique value do you bring?

Once the need is identified and discussed, can the sales rep clearly articulate the unique value their solution provides? Can they explain why their solution is different and how it will benefit the organization in unique ways? If they can’t explain it quickly and simply, they probably have more work to do.


4. Is the prospect the decision maker?

Sales reps often get trapped selling too low in the organization with no clear picture of who will make the ultimate purchase decision and how it will be made. Suddenly a mystery decision maker shows up who has a preference for the competition and the deal is lost. The goal is to identify and gain access to the real decision maker(s) as early in the deal as possible.


Leveraging your network and internal coaches within the account can help the sales rep identify and potentially gain an introduction to the true decision maker.


5. What’s the timeline?

If a deadline for the buyer is quickly approaching, the seller should be acting with greater emphasis on moving the sale along.


If no clear timeline is in sight, this could be a potential warning sign about the supposed interest, budget, or decision-making authority. Stress the importance of having an idea about the time frame to your team.


If your sellers aren’t capable of answering these questions, make sure they follow up with their contacts so that next time you ask, they have clear answers.

Taking the time to ask these questions about any accounts you see stalling will allow you to easily discuss action steps for moving forward.


Eventually your team will begin to ask these questions of themselves to continue to streamline their sales process by recognizing when a discussion with a lead won’t go anywhere.


Molly Protosow is the COO and Training Strategist for DMTraining.