Problems, You Must Trigger Problems
following are some of the problem prompters I use for my company. You will
notice the questions are frequently framed in hypothetical language
and there is an effort to bring balance to the questions. Questions
hypothetically posed tend to be less direct and intimidating. Also,
the questions generally have a strong emotional appeal as opposed to
an ineffective rational appeal.
questions are formulated in a positive light to underscore the gap between
what the prospect says is good and what a good situation truly looks
like. You’ll also notice that in some cases, there are multiple follow-up
questions on the main problem points to go deeper in order to expose denial
or to uncover problems that the prospect never thought they had. The
idea is to be prepared to keep your prospect engaged and have enough
ammo in your arsenal to follow up with deeper questions to dent your
problem prompter questions and statements are designed for scenarios where
your prospect tells you they have no problems or no interest and you
want to confirm or challenge that notion with thought-provoking questions
to find or create problem. Here are some examples:
- Are you running
into challenges where your salespeople are all running around in many
different directions without any unified sales strategy making it difficult
to control, monitor and lead your sales team
and making it difficult to predict and forecast revenue consistently?
*Do you help them manage their
pipelines on deals they’re closing?
*Do they have the same criteria
*Do you have a systematic sales
strategy and process that they can properly execute beyond order entry?
*Do you have monthly strategy sessions
beyond administrative and moaning sessions, where you review
new industries, markets, and how to penetrate higher levels in organizations?
- The sales group
is a mystery. All the other departments are easier to hold accountable
and manage but sales continues to lag behind the rest of the company.
- They don’t
know if they have the right people to get them to the next level. They
aren’t all hitting their numbers consistently, and they don’t know
who to change and who to upgrade.
*Do you use a commission based
compensation program as your main management tool and then try
to traffic manage your people?
*It sounds like you have an active
recruiting plan, where you are not held hostage to your salespeople.
*You have a "no excuse"
environment. You take total responsibility and you don’t blame your
salespeople for shortcomings.
- At some point
in your career you were the best salesperson and you moved into sales
management where you’ve become a competent sales administrator. You
manage information well, and do a good job of putting out fires, but
don’t do as good of a job challenging developing, motivating, counseling,
coaching, and leading your people.
*It sounds like your people are
very motivated and goal directed and focused.
*I assume you have a defined sales
plan which the salespeople help developed based on how much money they
want to make, what their personal goals are, what revenue goals they
are going to commit to and the activity needed to accomplish those goals?
*I assume you actively hold them
*Do you have a specific plan for
new business generation and a separate plan for account development
with existing accounts?
*Do you know the percentage necessary
for calls, quotes and closing rate?
*Do you spend an average of 1 to
2 days in the field coaching your people each week?
*In other words, you’ve got goals,
they’ve got goals, and they are in sync?
- It’s been
a tough last couple of years for most companies with the economy and
most are starting to see things heating up again. But from a motivation
perspective they are in a rut where they’ve been doing the same old
things, the same old ways and expecting different results. Their sales
team is lacking energy and innovation. Are you experiencing this?
- Do your people
ever feel used and frustrated and out of control in the selling process
where the prospect holds all the cards, calls all the shots, and it
starts to affect their motivation, ultimately taking an emotional toll
out of them and consequently de-motivating them?
*They don’t suffer call reluctance
or inconsistency in performance…
lots of peaks and valleys?
*Do they ever return from calls
triumphantly, all enthusiastic and convinced
they’ve made a sale, only to find out they were being used?
*Are they very good at qualifying
accounts, knowing when to fold or hold?
*Are they very good at sizing up
opportunities, where they know if they have live deals or not?
Do they do their due diligence by finding out what problems the
prospect has, the costs and consequences of those problems
and their willingness to change? Do they know their
prospect’s budget, understand the decision
making process and know the timing of the deal?
- I sometimes
hear complaints from owners like yourself who tell me their salespeople
sell well only as long as the economy is strong, but suffer when there
is any downturn. Is that a concern here at all?
- They’re technically
adept and very knowledgeable about your products, but
do they too often get reduced to free consultants who aren’t paid
and rewarded for their ideas and efforts?
- Do your salespeople
get beaten up on price where they’re constantly cutting prices at
the cost of lower margins and they’re frequently battling differentiating
themselves from their competition and trying to prevent commoditization?
- Their salespeople
are doing well by default because the company is well positioned in
the marketplace, the economy is improving, the company has an excellent
reputation and product line that is the envy of the industry, good pricing,
lots of leads that you pay for, and
the salespeople have been in their territories for a long time. In other
words, they are succeeding primarily because they are riding on the
coattails of a successful company and they are not proportionately carrying
- They are successful,
but they are over relying on selling transactionally (onezies, twozies)
at low margins. They aren’t getting enough long term, strategic, profitable,
major account business. They struggle selling high in their accounts
and they don’t sell deep, getting add on business.
*You must have very strategic sellers
that have healthy selling cycles and reasonably low costs of sales.
You must have a healthy mix of business that covers your whole product
or service offering, leaving very few holes in your sales strategy?
- They are selling
the wrong mixture of accounts. They are in a comfort zone and spend
too much time on small accounts where they are liked, and aren’t selling
high in the organization where they can build longer-term relationships
that are more profitable.
- They succeed
at the expense of the company because they’ve been in the territory
a long time. They have a few plum accounts that they rest their laurels
on, but they aren’t growing their account base and bringing in new
business. They are gliding and retiring on the job and living off the
fat of past successes at your expense.
- They are disproportionately
successful because they rely on management to qualify their deals and
help them close their big deals, consequently eating up a lot of management
time and company resources, while at the same time, getting full credit
- They are excuse
makers; always blaming the economy, competition, pricing, your products
and not taking personal responsibility for their results and hence,
are difficult to manage and lead.
difficult to implement this selling process; you will probably experience
a lot of problems and challenges yourself in learning it. However, this will result in
even more empathy with your prospects.
Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training
firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.