Sometimes, as sales managers and coaches, we have to dig deeper for honest answers in order to reach a level where we can provide constructive feedback.
Salespeople are taught to be positive, optimistic and confident. The first answer you get is always going to be “Great!” But if you’ve been watching sales results, you may know that there’s a different story to tell. Something is happening that they may or may not want to tell you about.
To engage in meaningful dialogue you need a sales report. Without a report, it’s difficult for you to deal with that vague, cheerful response when you suspect that it’s not the whole truth. This is especially true with complex, larger sales that have a longer sales cycle, where it’s possible to go several weeks, even months without a sale. During that time, neither one of you may know for sure how the salesperson is doing unless you are getting an honest report that tracks their activities – the things they do every day that are expected to lead to a sale.
With a sales report you can provide useful feedback that is concrete and meaningful. Without it, you are playing a game of don’t ask – don’t tell. “If I don’t ask you the tough questions, we can both pretend that everything is ok until it becomes intolerable and then I can fire you.”
Without tracking or an activity report, feedback to a salesperson will be merely smiling platitudes or angry accusations; nothing useful. On the other hand, if you both recognize that sales is a numbers game, and you’re tracking the numbers, then you have something concrete to discuss intelligently.
- “I see by your report that the number of appointments with ‘A’ prospects has gone down. Let’s talk about that.”
- “Your success rate at getting appointments with new prospects improved significantly this month. What are you doing differently?”
- “You didn’t talk with any of your top ten customers this month. Was that intentional or did it just happen?”
- “I see you’re getting more first and second appointments in the western part of your territory. What’s happening in that area?”
Without asking insightful questions, you have no idea if you’re getting the truth or making the necessary changes to get better results. Insightful questions followed by helpful feedback, encouragement and support can have a positive impact on the salesperson’s behavior and results.