In my most recent blog, I wrote about the perils of doing only (or primarily) performance reviews with reps, where you look at numbers after the fact. To see improved results, you have to get involved with their sales process much earlier on. That means being a better coach before they pick up the phone or travel to see a customer or prospect. To make sure they are prepared to be successful on the call, here are four of the most crucial questions for you to ask your rep before an important meeting:
Q1: Where is the customer in their buying process?
All too often, sales reps get so focused on what they have to do to sell, they forget to look at things from the customer’s perspective. If they don’t know where the customer is in their buying process, they will tend to sell too fast and miss opportunities to expose new needs, identify competitive challenges, or provide key information that will help the customer move forward.
To help prepare reps for an important call, challenge them to think about their customer’s buying behavior. Ask them to talk about the kinds of issues the customer is discussing—are they wondering whether their need is big enough to invest in this change? Have they revealed any compelling events that are driving the buyer’s timeline? What specific capabilities are important, and why? How does our solution compare to our #1 competitor?
And not to sound too cynical, but don’t take their word for it when they answer! Ask them how they know what step of buying the customer is in. Be curious!
Q2: What problems is the customer trying to solve?
Another trap that reps fall into is spending so much time discussing the features and benefits of your “solution” that they forget to think about the problem that the customer is trying to solve. Keeping reps focused on customer problems is critical for value-based selling.
Q3: Which decision makers will be on the call, and where are they in the buying process?
Here’s another challenge that sales reps have regarding their focus and awareness. Chances are their conversations thus far have been with one person in the client or prospect company—but maybe there will be others on the call. Who else will be on the call? What are the needs of all the decision makers who will be present?
Q4: What specific steps do you want the customer to take after the call?
One of the key lessons I drum into salespeople is that I’m not nearly as concerned about the steps they’ve taken in their sales process as I am about what steps the customer has taken – because it’s the customer’s actions that determine where an opportunity truly is in the pipeline. Salespeople need to be very clear about what actions they want the customer to take after the call so they can shape the discussion during the call. Is the goal to get them to make a decision? Involve other people? Set up a meeting? Review a proposal? Your reps need to have a customer-driven call objective before the meeting.
The sub-question to the rep here is: “What can you do during the call—what information can you provide or questions you can ask—that will make it more likely the customer will agree to this action?”
Good coaches of all kinds know that the best time to coach is before the game, not after – because that’s the only time they can influence the outcome of the game.