Five Questions will provide Five Resourceful Answers
Leadership requires outstanding communication; your ability to connect with your team has an obvious impact on business and your company’performance. Leadership is all about asking the right questions, and then carefully listening to the answers, to gain insight and understanding regarding key concerns.
Here are five smart questions that can give you a deeper evaluation on your process, the business, and the competitive marketplace.
1. What is the biggest obstacle in bringing new customers on board right now?
This question provides a snap shot of gaps in your selling process and what needs attention. See below examples of actual obstacles that sales people face every day.
C-Level Executive Access: Because every major purchase involves executive level approval at some point, a salesperson’s goal is to connect with a busy executive and conduct a meaningful face-to-face meeting. However, one of the toughest jobs in all of the sales is to penetrate the C-suite, and there is a direct correlation of winning to the number interactions the salesperson has with executives during the sales cycle.
“Every salesperson is trying to get into my office and explain how their wonderful products will save me tons of money. Very few do because most don’t understand what it takes to sit across the table from me.” —Chief Executive Officer
Business Solution Focus: A common interview theme is that both the winning and losing salespeople knew their products very well. However, winners were better able to prove their value as a business partner who had the expertise to solve the customer’s problem.
“What’s wrong with salespeople is they’re typically selling a product. I don’t need a product unless it solves one of my business problems.” —President
2. What is working and what isn’t?
Such open-ended questions will quickly identify chronic complainers as well as uncover significant problems. When asking this question, be prepared for fix-it requests that may or may not be valid, such as, “We need more samples,” “Delivery is too slow,” or “We are not competitive.” You may need to do some digging to find out whether the problems really need solving. Most importantly, answers to this question communicate morale. If the responses suggest that little or nothing is working, then you have a moral issue. That’s a sales killer, and a leader should uncover and fix causative issues.
3. What are you focusing on today that will impact your results tomorrow?
The answers to this question can indicate and signal that the team is not on board spending time on a product or service that is not in the company’s best interest, for instance. You may also uncover an opportunity that management has not previously identified.
4. If you had a magic wand and could fix one problem, what would it be?
This question forces a targeted answer to avoid a long discussion. A wise leader will ask why an employee picked a particular problem which may give you additional insight into business challenges along with an indication of the depth of business understanding of the salesperson.
5. Who is your toughest competitor–and what are they doing right?
As a leader, one of your most important duties is to stay current with competitors. Your sales force faces the competition each day; team members should have the best on-the-ground reconnaissance. Once you know the competitive landscape, you can proceed with “risk vs. opportunity” analyses. What you do not want is to find out after the fact that you could have avoided a sales failure by countering competitive activity.
By asking power questions of the sales team, leaders keep in touch with team morale while staying informed about the competition and showing that they care about the team’s success. When issues need correction, take action quickly, and give credit to an idea’s originator–both clear signals that a good leader is in charge.
“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”—Peter Drucker