Great Sales Managers Look for What’s Different

Posted by Chris Mott on Tue, Jul 08, 2014 @ 13:07 PM


I got frustrated this morning because a colleague quickly figured out how to share information with me using an online task manager, but when I tried to do it, I couldn’t easily replicate his success.

Why did he find the answer so quickly?  His observation was, “Maybe I look for things that are not easily seen and you look for the obvious."

This fits perfectly with the premise that sales managers must be master diagnosticians. When you are very close to something, it’s often very difficult to see how things fit together, as well as the context.  My experience is that because of this, salespeople and sales managers frequently miss critical details.

In my task manager problem this morning, the icon next to the task list changes to an image of two heads when you hover your mouse over it.  I missed that because I was seeing what is normally there.  He saw what was different.

In the context of a sales calls and coaching, when you are looking for what you expect to see instead of what’s different or missing, you are more likely to ask the wrong questions.  For example, if you expect prospects to be inconsistent, you won’t hear the contradiction between, “We are happy with are current supplier or approach.” and, “I wanted to hear what you can offer us."  If you were being more objective, you would recognize that someone would not want to invest their already limited time talking with your salespeople about an unnecessary solution.  As a result, you’re much less likely to ask why the salesperson accepted and why the prospect made two apparently contradictory comments.  Your worst case scenario is that your salesperson doesn’t hear the contradiction between the two statements.

A great sales manager listens to a salesperson recap the call and asks, “When you asked why they wanted to meet despite being so happy with their current supplier or solution, what did they say?”  This points out the contradiction, demonstrates the correct questioning and teaches the salesperson how the put-offs could have been better leveraged.

Other Examples of this include:

· Momentum Shifts – What’s changed?
· Changes in Demeanor - You seem less interested than you were.
· Emphasis on Cost – I am confused about why the investment has become so important.
· Delays – It sounds like fixing the problem is not as important as it was.
· Timeline – What happened to the need to fix this by…?

Building a great sales organization requires that you have the right people selling a product or service, with a clearly defined and compelling value proposition, operating inside a well-designed scalable process, and managed by people with exceptional coaching skills.  Learning to quickly recognize what’s changed is critical to making this work.

Join us in September for our Sales Leadership Intensive and learn how to master the differences.

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Topics: debrief, improve sales performance, accurate sales forecasts, increase sales

Sales Leaders Grow Salespeople by Debriefing

Posted by Chris Mott on Wed, Jun 08, 2011 @ 13:06 PM

Business Coaching: Business People in a Coaching Conference.I had a coaching call today with a new sales manager. Like many he is new to the role and was recently a very successful salesperson. For today let’s put aside any discussion about why super star salespeople often don’t make great sales managers and focus on debriefing.  


We role-played a conversation where I was the sales manager and he was the salesperson. When you assume their role it allows you to demonstrate where the conversation can go.


Sales managers have some common concerns about debriefing, including, will I be able to demonstrate value? What if I don’t find any problems we can discuss? What if I run out of questions? Will I sound natural? While this kind of non-supportive thinking affects new managers, in  my experience is it affects us all whether we are the CEO, President, VP of Sales or National Sales Manager.


Remember this, the person you role-play with will always provide the necessary topics; you simply need to hear them articulated and ask a question about what they said. For example you hear the following. The meeting went well, we have a scheduled next call and they are committed to solving the problem. The key phrases are, went well, scheduled and committed. Using the magic words you learn in kindergarten you can ask:


  1. Who do you think may not agree the meeting went well?
  2. What does, went well mean?
  3. Why are they committed to solving their problem?
  4. Where is the problem having the most impact?
  5. When you scheduled the next meeting what expectations did you set?
  6. How do you know they are committed?


Every one of us is capable of this and ironically quite experienced whether we are new to sales management or not. Salespeople are trained to ask these kinds of questions. CEO’s or Presidents are constantly inspecting what they hear from others. Parents do this to find out what’s going on with their children. And yet, put us in the role of sales manager and we suddenly feel compelled to tell people what to do instead of helping them to discover it for themselves.


Effective on-going debriefing is critically important not just as a learning exercise but also as a mechanism to reset your opportunity strategy. By recapping the lessons and asking your salespeople or sales managers how and where they will apply the lesson you help make it stick.

Topics: sales managers, debrief, sales management strategies

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