February 11

How Did We Get Here?


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There are several good questions to include in one-on-one coaching sessions with your sales team. One of my favorites is: How did we get here? It provides great outcomes for sales managers and salespeople.

For sales managers, this question provides self-control. Good sales managers are assertive, results-oriented and like to solve problems. These are great attributes. But they also can be a sales manager’s Achilles heel. Sales managers that sport the T-shirt reading “Chief Problem Solver” fail to teach their salespeople to think. As a result, they fail to teach them how to change, grow and improve.

The “how did we get here” question helps sales managers control their impulse to give advice. It also forces salespeople to slow down in order to speed up. In the emotional intelligence world, this is called self-awareness.

That which you are not aware of, you cannot change.

This awareness leads to other thought-provoking questions such as:

  • How did we win this account? How did we get here?
  • How did we lose this opportunity? How did we get here?
  • What are common trends we see in our wins and losses? 
  • What can we do to create more wins?
  • What skills must we improve to decrease losses?  

The “how did we get here” question helps you and your sales team work smarter.

It often helps salespeople recognize that the presenting problem for not winning the business is not the real problem. Often sales managers and salespeople believe they are losing business at a particular selling step or stage. But often the reality is:

You shouldn’t have even been there in the first place! 

The prospect didn’t match your ideal client profile.

The prospect shouldn’t have been targeted OR should have been disqualified earlier in the sales process to avoid missing sales forecasts. For example:

  • A salesperson thinks she’s losing because of price. Closer analysis shows she lost because she was trying to sell to a prospect that was a transactional buyer. This buyer didn’t need or care about expertise, quality or relationships.
  • How did we get here? This deal was lost because the salesperson shouldn’t have targeted this prospect in the first place. A transactional prospect was not the ideal profile. Stop believing the myth that you can sell ice to a person living in subzero temperatures.
  • The prospect didn’t want to introduce you to other decision makers. However, your win/loss data shows that you win busines with clients that are collaborative.
  • How did we get here? Perhaps the salesperson lacked the assertiveness to state what he needed - a prospect willing to help him with introductions to all the key stakeholders, enabling him to put together a comprehensive solution.    
  • The salesperson was more committed to success than the prospect. When discussing “how did we get here,” salespeople discover they really didn’t hear a compelling reason for the prospect to make a change.
  • The prospect gave nice answers during the sales meeting such as, “We think it’s a good idea to look. Always important to look at improving. Joe said you did great things for his organization.” Nice answers, but none of them show a compelling reason for the prospect to make a change, to invest in your services. This is a status quo prospect. Your ideal client is a progressive buyer who embraces continuous improvement.  
  • How did we get here? The salesperson’s optimism got in the way of reality testing. She started buying the buying signals given by the prospect, rather than continue to probe and look for evidence that the buyer was serious about change.

How did we get here?

It’s a great coaching question that helps sales managers teach salespeople how to think, grow and improve. It’s a great question to help salespeople better diagnose why they are winning and why they are losing. 


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