How to coach your salespeople to win more deals
By asking the right questions
While there are many ways to coach your salespeople, it basically comes down to two steps:
Laying the foundation
Asking the right questions
1. Laying the foundation
Implement a sales framework—A sales framework is crucial because it defines how your team approaches selling.
Just like a
soccer football team manager implements a style of play (such as counter-attacking, high-pressing or direct) to provide context for coaching, a sales manager needs to implement a style of selling to provide context for sales coaching.
While there are many sales frameworks available (MEDDIC, SANDLER, BANT etc), I am a strong advocate of the SPICED framework created by Winning By Design, as it works throughout the customer journey, not just for new logos.
I like to implement the sales framework into Salesforce so that salespeople are reminded of what information they need to evaluate a deal and can share updates async. For example, with the SPICED framework you’d have fields for Situation, Pain, Impact, Critical Event and Decision and you’d attach all contacts as Contact Roles to the opportunity to measure your multi-threading.
Write down your sales process—Most sales teams know what their process stages are as they have them up in Salesforce. However, many teams fall short in defining the key activities, best practices and exit criteria for each stage.
Documenting these extra details is a vital step in identifying coaching opportunities for your salespeople. For a refresher on documenting your sales process, check out my earlier post on how to build your first sales process.
Build a library of sales questions—Asking customers the right questions is 50% of success in sales, so it pays dividends to prepare the most effective questions to ask at each stage of your sales process.
Sales questions generally fall into 3 types:
Situational: close-ended questions that are easy to answer with a fact or simple a yes/no, such as “How many salespeople do you have on your team today?”.
Probing: open-ended questions that help the buyer open up, such as “How does your sales process work today?” or “You mentioned deals are stalling in proposal. Curious, what reasons have you seen driving this?”
Impact: open-ended questions that help the buyer articulate what changes if they solve their pain (i.e. utopia) and what happens if they don’t (i.e. dystopia). For example, “What would change if you could improve your win rate from proposal onwards?”
Decision: “Based on what you’ve heard on today’s call, is there anything stopping you from moving forward?”
Record your sales calls—Call recordings are to sales what game tape is to sports; a must-have. There are lots of tools for this and many of them can be configured to join a call automatically and attach the call to the relevant opportunity, which avoids the awkward moment you get on Zoom when you press record.
2. Asking the right questions
Successful sales coaching relies on getting your salespeople to see for themselves what is working well and what they need to improve. While you can make progress as a coach by being prescriptive, the most powerful results come when you ask questions that help your student self-reflect, arrive at answer on their own and internalize it in a way that works for them.
Some great questions to ask are:
What’s on your mind? It helps focus the conversation around the challenges the salesperson is facing, instead of the coach trying to push their own agenda.
Is the customer a match for our ideal customer profile? If not, what is about them that are we spending our time trying to win their business?
What impact is the customer seeking? If we don’t know what outcome the customer is looking to achieve, we can’t expect to build a winning proposal. We need to understand both the emotional impact (saving time, improving productivity) sought by the champion and the rational impact (saving money, reducing corporate risk, making money) sought by the exec sponsor who will be paying.
What is the customer’s critical event? If we don’t know by when the customer is expecting to realize the impact, we can’t create momentum for the customer to move the deal forward inside their organization.
Who are the decision makers and their criteria? While its normal to not be able to meet the senior-most exec sponsor on a deal, it’s essential to understand who all the decision makers are and what they care about. Without this, the likelihood of your proposal getting shot down is much higher.
What did you miss on the call? It’s very, very hard for a salesperson to pick up and probe on everything relevant that a customer says during a call, so listening back to the call recording and write down 3 things they did well that align to the foundation and 3 things they could have done better.
The most common things to look for are 1) when the customer mentions other people involved in the decision process and the salesperson doesn’t ask about their criteria and role in the buying process and 2) when the customer mentions something that’s important to them and the salesperson doesn’t ask follow up questions to probe for impact.
What options are you offering in your proposal? Do we have an executive summary mapping the customer’s desired needs to our solution? Have we provided packaging options to enable trading? Both of these reduce the odds of your proposal getting shot down and improve the odds of your customer giving you feedback to inform future trades.
What else is going on? A great question to ask to get context for other issues that might be creating problems moving the deal forward.
What other questions are you asking in your coaching sessions?
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