Sales managers expect reps to ask carefully prepared, appropriate, open-ended questions during an initial or needs qualification meeting with a potential customer. Examples include:
- Tell me about your current needs in the area of _______________?
- What process did you use to select your current provider of _______________?
And the list goes on.
For top producing reps, this list has been honed and carefully edited during the course of their career. Mundane or low value questions don't get included. The time allotted for the first in-person meeting might be limited. A rep has to extract the most amount of relevant and helpful information possible.
I advise the sales managers I coach to do two things:
- Meet with your reps and review their needs qualification lists. Take a look at the questions. Ask them how long they've been asking certain ones.
Like every one, reps get into ruts. They might even have gotten bored asking some of the questions -- over and over again. Ask yourself if you think the questions remain timely and relevant.
- During a in-person or Skype staff meeting, have the reps email copies of their needs assessment questions to you and the other reps on the team. As a group, review the list. Undoubtedly, every single rep will see at least one question they might not have thought of themselves.
For years, I used the same list of questions when meeting with potential clients. I stuck with it because the questions promoted great conversations... until 2009. After that, those same queries stopped working.
A trusted colleague told me to gut the list and make the questions more relevant to the current economic conditions. I did and have been reevaluating the list more frequently ever since.
Industries expand and collapse. Companies merge or sell off parts of their business. Primary competitors during one time period may not be the same companies you compete against a few years later.
Sales managers -- know what questions your reps ask during sales calls. Singly and as a group, share, revisit and restructure those questions to alleviate boredom and keep current with the needs of your customer base.