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As President, CEO or VP of sales, you must hold regular meetings with your sales managers, regardless of their level of competence.
These conversations and the questions you ask will keep you informed of the current state of your sales force, while at the same time provide an opportunity to supervise and coach your sales managers.
However, to get the right answers, you must know what the right questions are, and at what moment to ask them. Here are the questions every business leader should ask their sales manager, on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.
7 Weekly Questions
A business leader must have, at a minimum, one conversation per week with each of his sales managers. This weekly meeting should provide a sense of control over his sales force and allow him to determine whether a more frequent follow-up is necessary. For example, in the case of a newly appointed sales manager, a daily discussion would provide more insight on their progress than would a weekly one.
- What has changed since last week’s conversation?
- What’s the status of our sales pipeline?
- What might be preventing us from achieving our goals?
- Which member of the team is the top performer, and why? How is he being coached, and how can we reproduce this with others?
- Which member of the team is underperforming, and why? What action plan might help him improve his performance?
- Who will you coach this week and on what aspect?
- Who will you be on the road with this week?
These questions provide sales managers with a better understanding of what actions must be taken each week to provide satisfactory answers in the following week’s meeting with the business leader or VP of sales.
The questions are deliberately worded to leave the door open to several types of answers. Also, sales managers who are well prepared for the meeting should be able to answer broad questions accurately. A vague answer often masks a problem.
For example, when asked about the status of the sales pipeline, a vague answer might reveal a voluntary omission of problematic items or a lack of competence. A well-prepared sales manager who knows how to interpret the pipeline will also know how to respond accurately. Then follows a concrete action plan rather than an apology.
6 Monthly Questions
A monthly discussion between the executive and his sales managers should focus on emerging trends.
- Are we still confident of achieving our sales targets?
- Have we had enough activities in the month to be able to achieve our goals?
- Were the objectives set realistic? If not, were they set too high or too low?
- Do we still have the right salespeople on the team to do the job efficiently?
- Can you name some of the best sales lessons your salespeople have given you in the past few weeks?
- Are there trends we didn’t see last month, trends we’re identifying this month?
Analyzing the responses to the previous week’s questions is sufficient to identify other trends that must be addressed.
For example, if last month’s weekly conversations have all concerned the same salesperson who was experiencing difficulties, you’ll need to ask your sales manager about it.
Ask questions such as: “Where are you with the recruitment of a new representative?” and, “How do you intend on acting if this salesperson does not come back in the next few weeks?”
4 Quarterly Questions
Each quarter, the business leader should have a medium-term planning conversation with his sales managers.
- What’s your action plan for the next three months?
- What will be the focus of your communications with the sales team?
- What aspects of the sales process will your coaching focus on, and why?
- How will you go about coaching your team on these particular aspects?
Questions will vary depending on the quarter.
For example, the first few months of the year are the least busy ones, and so representatives often neglect to set appointments with potential new customers. As a result, the conversation should, therefore, focus on the actions to be taken to secure meetings with new clients.
At the end of the 2nd quarter, discuss how important it is to build a bigger pipeline in anticipation of the slowdown caused by the approaching summer holidays. And so on.
The 1 Essential Question That Must Be Asked Every Week, Month, and Quarter
Finally, the business leader must always ask the following question when having all 3 types of discussions previously described:
How can I help you with your work?
It’s important for a business leader to demonstrate his willingness to support and to provide assistance to his sales managers with the difficulties that are voiced during the meetings.
A leader’s support and assistance will encourage sales managers to be forthcoming and honest during the discussions.