It’s tempting as a manager, particularly if you’re a new manager, to manage by edict. But the reality is, managing a sales team is very different than managing a military brigade. Generating tasks and giving out directions is certainly a big part of the job, but today I’d like to talk about the other side of it, and that is: questions.
Socrates is most famous for the Socratic Method — the brilliant idea of making people think and come up with problem solutions on their own, not by offering step-by-step guidance, but by asking them the right questions. The power of questions is great, because it grants the asker deeper insight and leads to a better understanding between both sides.
Starting out: Open questions
When you’ve got your team sat down, it’s a good idea to throw out a few open-end questions to help you identify the bigger issues at hand right from the start.
- How does your typical workday go?
- What do you think works, and what doesn’t?
- What was your biggest success so far?
You don’t want to do this every week in your staff meeting, or you’d never get anything done. However, it’s really important to set aside some time with the team — whether once a month or once a quarter — to do this publicly. These seemingly vague questions will tell you a lot about the relations in the group, about the individuals’ attitude towards their jobs, and about the overall morale of the workplace.
Complaints or fix-requests are valid in a moderate amount. Noting these and tracking them down should be your next step. However, if there’s a lot of dissatisfaction, you may be dealing with a serious issue on the team level. Low morale is a big sales obstacle, and as a leader, this all falls on your head eventually.
The next step is looking into the way your team identifies and prioritizes leads and business opportunities. For me it has always been effective to use what-questions, such as:
- What do you consider a good deal?
- What does the typical sales process look like?
- What are your goals on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
- What do you do to achieve them?
The team’s goals and achievements should be aligned with those of the company in order to get the best possible results. Your team’s input could also help you and the management in general to identify and pinpoint certain issues or processes that you may not have considered before, simply because it’s being looked at from the reps “hands-on” perspective, rather than managerial theorizing.
Getting To Know Customer Patterns
It is impossible to sell quality products and provide quality services to people and businesses without getting to know them first. Ask your salespeople about recurring processes, frequently asked questions, specific issues or most effective actions leading towards closing a deal.
- Are we giving our prospects the information we want them to get, or are we providing them with info they want to get?
- What is the recipe for the smoothest sale possible?
- Have you noticed any recurring problems you or the customers have been dealing with?
This is the most practical part where you should learn the most practical approaches that either are working great or need some improvement. It may concern the sales process itself, the marketing communication tools, or even your business partners and competitors.