As a CEO or business leader, you need to have regular conversations with your sales managers. This is true regardless of your managers’ skill level.
These conversations allow you to get an accurate understanding of the current state of your sales force while mentoring and coaching your sales managers. To get the answers you need, you have to ask the right questions at the right time. Here is our time-saving list of questions that every leader should ask of their sales managers at the specified intervals; by week, month, and quarter.
Seven Weekly Questions
As a business leader, you must have, at a minimum, one conversation per week with each of your sales managers.
This weekly meeting should allow you to feel in control of your sales force and let you know whether more frequent monitoring is required. For example, if there is a newly-appointed sales manager, it is best to increase the frequency initially, so that you are touching base with them daily.
Here are the questions you need to ask of your managers at least once a week:
- What has changed since our conversation last week?
- What is the status of our sales pipeline?
- What might prevent us from achieving our goals?
- In the team, which salesperson works best, and why? What might we reproduce with others?
- In the team, which salesperson works less well, and why? What is the action plan designed to help improve their performance?
- What are you coaching on this week and in what aspect?
- Who will you accompany on calls this week?
With these questions, sales managers will understand what actions they need to take each week to be able to provide satisfactory answers to you during your meeting the following week.
The wording of these questions intentionally leaves the door open to many types of answers. Sales managers who are well-prepared for the meeting should be able to respond accurately to broader issues. Indeed, a vague answer is often an indication of a problem.
For example, to the question about the status of the sales pipeline, a vague answer can mean the deliberate omission of problematic elements, or it may reveal a lack of competence. A sales manager who can interpret the pipeline will meet it with precision, following with a plan of concrete actions, not with excuses.
Six Monthly Questions
Once a month, the conversation between the CEO and the sales managers must focus on emerging trends.
These questions should include:
- Are we still confident of achieving our sales goals?
- Has there been enough activity during the month for us to reach our goals?
- Are the goals realistic? If not, they were set too high or too low?
- Are there still enough good salespeople on the team to do the work?
- Can you tell me some of the best selling lessons that your salespeople have given you over the past few weeks?
- Are there things that we have not seen in past months, that we see this month?
To identify other trends to be addressed, it is sufficient to analyze the responses to questions posed in the previous weeks. For example, if the weekly conversations during the past months have all focused on the same salesperson who is having difficulty, you should ask your sales manager about it. Ask her questions like:
- Where are you with the recruitment of a new representative?
- How do you expect to perform if the salesperson is not replaced in the coming weeks?
Four Quarterly Questions
Each quarter, the CEO must have a conversation centered on the medium-term planning with sales managers.
These questions include:
- What is your action plan for the next three months?
- What topics will you be communicating about with the sales team?
- What aspects of the sales process will you be coaching on, and why?
- How will you coach your team on these particular elements?
The questions will vary depending on the quarter. For example, the first months of the year are less busy, and representatives often fail to get appointments with potential new customers. Early in this quarter, the conversation will, therefore, focus on actions to get meetings with new clients. At the end of Q2, we will discuss the importance of building a larger pipeline, in anticipation of the slowdown caused by the approach of the summer holidays. And so on.
The One Essential Question for Every Meeting
Finally, in each of the three types of conversations described, every business leader should always ask the following question of their sales managers: How is it that I can help you in accomplishing your work?
As CEO, it is important that you demonstrate your support to your sales managers for the difficulties they raise during the meeting, as well as your willingness to help them.
Try these out and let us know how it goes!