Coaching your salespeople from excuses to results with Q&A

As one of Canada’s largest staffing companies, we enjoy the benefits of having driven professionals sell and manage our services. But we also experience the flip side: our sales people are often selling to us and we find ourselves coaching them out of excuses and into results on a fairly consistent basis.

We believe excuses are part of a salesperson’s arsenal from time to time. Of course, results and excuses are mutually exclusive. As a company, we would obviously prefer results.

In order to have an effective intersection with our team, we need salespeople to become aware of the whole context of the situation we are discussing, their responsibility in the situation, and what actions they might take to move to the results we want. We get them there by posing questions along those lines. By having them come up with their own answers, you stop the debate they might try to have with you.

Here are a couple of common excuses you may hear from one of your salespeople, and the types of questions you might use to realign with them.

Excuse 1. My clients don’t want to have any meetings. If the client is an MSP, this may be true, but if the client is not an MSP, here are some key questions that can turn the situation around:

Awareness. What challenges are you facing in booking meetings? Walk me through your process of booking a meeting. What is your script? What is the conversation you are having? How much time do you spend planning and booking meetings? How consistently are you asking for referrals? How do you know you are targeting the right decision makers?

Responsibility. What do you understand your responsibility is in getting client meetings? What is your responsibility in understanding whom to call at the client’s business? What is your responsibility in getting referrals to new decision makers at your client?

Action. What activities can you start doing that would lead you to meetings with your clients? What are potential obstacles? How will I know you are meeting the right decision makers? How will you prepare for your next meeting? What will you take with you to the next meeting?

With this line of questioning, we bring focus to the situation via questions rather than telling the salesperson what we want them to learn and do. It helps the salesperson become aware of the facts around the current situation, their responsibility in the situation, and the things they might do, all in their own words.

Excuse 2. I’m not comfortable addressing performance issues with my recruiters.

Awareness. What specifically are the performance issues you are referring to? Where did the recruiter miss the mark? Prioritization, understanding, candidates? What can you show me in our system that will substantiate that? How do you communicate expectations to your recruiter currently? What expectations are you setting with your recruiter up front? How often do you check in with your recruiter to be sure you are aligned?

Responsibility. What’s your responsibility in ensuring you and your recruiter are aligned on delivery? What is your responsibility to set your expectations up front? What is your responsibility to follow up on regarding your expectations?

Action. How might you set upfront expectations with your recruiter? How will you know they are reasonable? How will you prepare for this conversation? How often will you follow up with your recruiter? How will I know you and your recruiter are aligned?

You can do this line of questioning on any issue. The hardest part will be coming up with and subsequently asking responsibility questions. It is very easy to switch channels and ask “How can we make sure you are making your meetings?” when the responsibility question is “How can you make sure you are making your meetings?”

A good manager uses good questions to manage their team. Deliver your questions with no judgement or emotion, just as if you were asking what time “Avengers” is showing at the theatre tonight. Prepare your questions in advance, and allow the other person to think and respond. You will find this is an effective way to manage not only your sales team, but most of your office.