When you listen in on strategic account review sessions between Sales Managers and sales reps all too often the conversations is primarily about what has gone wrong – “Why did we lose that big sale?” or “How come the forecast figures are off?”
While it’s certainly important to diagnose what’s gone wrong – it’s equally important to analyze success. In many sales strategy sessions we’ve sat through it was clear the salesperson didn’t know or couldn’t articulate the specifics of why they won the business.
In the sales reps’ defense it is well to remember that in complex B2B sales a lot is going on and it is going on over an extended buying cycle with many players and lots of twists and turns. It would take either miraculous or magic powers to understand the totality of the story behind the final outcome.
This is where great Sales Managers come into their own. They help sales reps diagnose and analyze the story behind the story. Their ability to help sales reps think through the “why” of their sales successes has several payoffs:
- Separate fact from fiction. It helps the sales rep know to what degree their actions contributed to success versus they just happen to be at the right place at the right time with a great product.
- Best practices. Together the Sales Manager and sales rep can isolate best practices that can be reused by the sales rep and also blueprinted for others on the sales team.
- Fine-tuning. Even when you do the right thing at the right time, it is always possible to fine-tune your strategy so it is a little bit better the next time.
- Bad business and good business. By asking sales reps to analyze what was going on in the customer organization, sales reps can improve their ability to do a better job of initially qualifying future accounts and avoiding the extremely costly mistake of chasing bad business.
- Customer questioning skills. These types of discussions where the Sales Manager is skillfully using questions can help the sales rep appreciate and learn the power of using questioning in sales call.
Learning how to replicate and leverage sales success surely must be as important as learning how to correct failure – plus the former may reduce the need for the latter.
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