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Twenty questions to improve your sales effectiveness

Inside Business

Posted: August 19, 2008 9:09 p.m.
Updated: October 21, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Times may be tough, but the people who are in sales for a living will tell anyone who is listening, “Times are GREAT!” but what they say on the inside and really want to say out loud is, “It sure is tough out there!”
If you are the one signing the paychecks for those on the payroll, specifically those in sales, you might be wondering what those people do all day. You might also be asking yourself: Where are the orders that were promised?

Take a few minutes and use this list of thought-provoking questions to measure how your sales team is doing, what they are not doing and what they should be doing.

1. Ask each sales person to answer the following:
n When was your last successful sale?
n When was the last time you received a referral from a current client?
n When was the last time you made a face-to-face sales presentation?
n When was the time before that?

The answers will tell you what you need to know about whether someone is actually in sales, or just pretending to be.

2. When was the last time the individual who has the title/position and responsibility as “sales manager”:
n Worked with each individual that reports to him or her?
n Conducted a formal performance appraisal on each individual that reports to him or her?
n Conducted a training or education session for the individuals that reported to him or her?
n Held a sales meeting with the entire team with an agenda for the meeting that included goals on it?
The answers might surprise you because the “sales manager” might not be actually managing anyone.

3. When was the last time that individuals in the company that could possibly come into contact with a customer (on the phone, via e-mail, face-to-face or via mail) participated in a product training session?

4. Do the sales people understand the sales process (prospect, present, handle objections, ask for the order, post order follow-up)? How do you know?

5. Make a list of everyone in sales. Ask each of them when they last:
n Read a book to improve their sales skills?
n Watched a video or DVD to improve their sales skills?
n Listened to a CD to improve their sales skills?
n Met with a successful individual in the field of sales to gain knowledge and perspective?

6. How many of the individuals on the sales team have a prospecting plan?

7. How many of the individuals on the sales team have ranked their customers according to the A-B-C method of revenue and profitability?

8. How much of a 50-hour work week is actually spent meeting with customers?

9. Are daily call reports required in your company?

10. Do your sales people complain of poor marketing materials? Are these the top performers or the less productive ones?

11. Have you asked each individual in sales “What is the follow up process once a prospect has been sent literature?”

12. Does the sales manager keep a list of all the excuses that sales people have for not making sales? Is this list reviewed with the top executive at least quarterly?

13. When someone in the sales team does not meet their sales objectives, whether it be for a month, quarter or year, what is the process management takes to resolve the situation?

14. Is your sales team hiding behind brochures, sell sheets, inserts and advertisements?

15. If your sales people were to give you a list of the reasons why they were not achieving their individual sales goals, would you agree with the list?

16. Has your team read “Selling for Dummies” by Tom Hopkins? How about “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” by Harvey MacKay?

17. How much time does each sales person spend in the office?

18. When was the last time each sales person visited a former client?

19. What is your client retention rate by sales person?

20. What is the turnaround time is to deliver a client proposal once it has been asked for?|

Kenneth W. Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums in Valencia, bringing business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. “Inside Business” runs Wednesdays. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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