There are hundreds of sales books to read. Multiple sales podcasts are available to listen to. Research papers, e-books all share the best ideas on how to prospect, conduct successful sales meetings and close more business.
With all these resources, why are we still experiencing the same challenges in sales…many that we were talking about 25 years ago?
- Salespeople jumping to solutions before conducting a good discovery call.
- Salespeople discount when they know the company offers a better value.
- Salespeople writing practice proposals for prospects they know are unqualified.
It’s the proverbial “knowing and doing” gap. Salespeople know what to do, but many are not doing what they are supposed to do.
The best sales managers have figured out how to bridge this “knowing and doing” gap. They work on the right end of the sales performance issue.
For example, in my early years of sales management, I thought the solution to every sales performance issue was to provide more sales training to the underperforming rep. Training is sometimes the answer; however, the most effective sales leaders know that lack of execution is often caused by a salesperson’s self-limiting beliefs.
Read one of the many sales books out on the market, and you will find the author stressing the importance of asking questions. The book might provide a list of questions to ask ranging from probing questions, process questions, open-ended questions, challenger questions, provocative questions and you get the picture.
And yet, too many salespeople talk too much and listen too little.
Even when they know they are supposed to listen more than they speak.
Effective sales managers stop teaching and preaching the importance of asking questions. They stop telling and start asking curiosity questions to understand why this salesperson isn’t executing these specific selling skills. The root cause:
The salesperson doesn’t believe they can ask that many questions during a sales conversation.
They believe---without any proof---that a prospect might get impatient answering questions.
They worry that a prospect won’t think they are very smart if they don’t share their expertise.
They believe they might get stuck during the sales conversation if they ask questions. It’s easier and safer to present recommendations.
Knowing the right questions to ask isn’t the problem.
The salesperson’s self-limiting belief systems are the problem, and this requires a distinct set of coaching questions from the sales manager.
A great coaching question for this scenario could be, “Is that belief based on data or perception?” This question forces the salesperson to slow down and think. It helps the salesperson recognize that they are making up a story around the negative consequences of asking questions, which are not based on fact or evidence.
If you diagnose the right end of the selling challenge, you will bridge “the knowing and doing” gap.