Sales Coaching: Teach Your Reps to Ask Why

Learn why asking questions is the key to your sales reps’ success

September 26, 2016

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It’s your job as a sales leader to keep your reps on track. But too often, that job is done by quarterly number-watching—and sometimes by micromanaging.

Meanwhile, with your reps trying to exceed their own sales goals, they may develop a sense of tunnel vision: find the next prospect, advance them through the pipeline, close the deal. However, if you and your reps don’t stop and use some common sense and curiosity along the way, that deal is less likely to close.

In other words, ask your sales rep “Why?” and encourage her to ask her prospects the same—especially early in the pipeline.

For instance, in early conversations with a client in the market for new software, don’t just ask what software they’re looking for—instead, dig deeper. Ask things like, “Why does your company use that software?” “Why are you looking for new software now?” “Why is your timeline for this project two months?”

Asking questions early pays down the line:

·  You get the prospect feeling you’re on their side, since you’re actively listening and showing that you genuinely care about his or her ideas.

·  You start to understand the prospect’s philosophy, which will help you tailor your solution.

·  You realize the prospect’s needs may be broader than they initially requested, opening up the opportunity for a bigger sale.

·  You understand what sort of personality he or she has so you can target your sales approach.

You can add one more big reason to the list: “The why is most likely to get you the sale,” writes sales leader Gino Donati on Pulse.  “Asking why will get them to speak about their business in depth, reveal things they didn't plan on discussing and give you insights to what keeps them up at night and who they are as a person.”

So how do you translate that to managing your team?

Coach by Asking

Although many sales managers are under intense pressure to forecast quarterly numbers and meet quotas, the way to achieve those goals doesn’t have to be micromanaging or obsessing over Excel tables.

Great coaching, like great selling, also means often asking “Why?” 

It’s often wisely said that great teaching is about empowering the student (or trainee) and getting that person to come up with answers on her own. Scott Edinger, a veteran business consultant who writes about sales strategy, knows this. “The best coaches work with their people to understand the current issues and jointly diagnose what is working and what is not as they develop an action plan to achieve sales objectives,” Edinger wrote in Forbes. “They ask questions to help the seller frame the issues properly and provide constructive feedback regarding how to improve.”

His key word there is “jointly.” If you, as a sales leader, curiously probe your reps for details on how they think, what sales processes they are putting it places, why they think they are (or aren’t) achieving their goals, then you’ve established a roadmap of sorts for them to do the same with their potential customers.

Once a rep starts to develop a rapport with a prospect and asks the important questions about why their organization operates the way it does, they’re on the track to success. Now the rep can really understand how to best help the prospect—and how to keep them as satisfied as possible.

And it all started by asking a simple question, time and time again: Why? 

For more insights from experts on how to help your sales reps excel, download our free eBook: The Sales Manager’s Guide.