Recognizing Real Opportunities: 5 Questions Sales Managers Should Ask Blog Feature
Molly D Protosow

By: Molly D Protosow on November 8th, 2019

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Recognizing Real Opportunities: 5 Questions Sales Managers Should Ask

sales manager | sales questions

As a sales manager, your role is broad. You have to ensure your sellers are focused with all their activities and you’re responsible for everyone hitting their numbers. You don’t want to micromanage, but you need to be able to help and lead your team efficiently.

Keeping your team on track with real sales and away from wasting their time with dead-ends is one aspect of being a great manager.

You're likely tracking and measuring a significant number of KPIs already, but when you’re helping your team assess specific opportunities, how do you start a productive conversation? 

The foundation of sales coaching is about asking great open-ended questions. In this case the focus should be on moving away from "how much is the deal worth and when will it close" to more thought-provoking questions that can help move the deal forward and reinforce key selling skills at the same time. 

So, what questions should you be asking your team to ensure they are focused on opportunities that are worthwhile and qualified?

1. What is the business need?

Does your seller know what business need or challenge the prospect is trying to solve? Are they able to articulate what the prospect and their organization is trying to accomplish and why?

In today's competitive business landscape, the salesperson who has a throughout understanding of the prospective customer's business is the one who will succeed.

Your customers are looking for an expert who shares insight into how their need can be solved, so it's the seller's job to guide and advise them along the way. But the first step to doing that is having a comprehensive understanding of that customer's business. 

Coaching Tip: Help the sales rep identify great questions to ask the customer to more clearly understand the business need.

2. Why have they expressed interest now?

It’s not enough to know what the business need or challenge is, you need to know what the impact of solving or not solving the problem is because it will provide insight into the prospect's urgency.

If the impact of the problem on the business is small, and your sales rep is unaware, they could be pushing something that will never be sold, as the value to the buyer doesn’t exist. 

Does your seller know why the prospect has expressed interest now? Did something change?

Understanding 'why now' from your prospect's point of view will help you determine how to prioritize the opportunity. You'll have a better idea of how fast or slow the deal will move through the sales process and your pipeline.

Coaching Tip: While asking great questions is essential to understanding the prospect's needs and challenges, help your seller practice listening for the right keywords and cues. They should be asking about changes in priorities and listening for answers that give insight into what motivations are behind those answers.

3. What is the unique value you bring?

Once the need is identified and discussed, can the sales rep clearly articulate the unique value their solution provides?  Can they explain why their solution is different and how it will benefit the organization in unique ways?  Again, if they can’t explain it quickly and simply, they probably have more work to do.

Coaching Tip:  Help the sales rep develop and practice a “Value Proposition” that explains the unique aspects of your offering and how it brings value to the customer.  

4. Are they the decision maker?

Sales reps often get trapped selling too low in the organization with no clear picture of who will make the ultimate purchase decision and how it will be made

Suddenly a “mystery decision maker” shows up who has a preference for the competition and the deal is lost.  The goal is to identify and gain access to the real decision maker(s) as early in the deal as possible. 

Leveraging our network and “internal coaches” within the account can help the sales rep identify and potentially gain an introduction to the true decision maker.

Coaching Point:  Help the rep create a plan to identify and access other stakeholders and coaches in the organization who may be able influence the deal and provide access to the decision maker (s).

calendar-dates-timeline5. What’s the timeline?

The timeline of a potential buyer’s process will help your salesperson forecast with greater accuracy and confidence.

If a deadline for the buyer is quickly approaching, the seller should be acting with greater emphasis on moving the sale along.

If no clear timeline is in sight, this could be a potential warning sign of the supposed interest, budget, or decision making authority. Having an idea about the time frame is something you should stress to your team.

Coaching Tip: It’s critical that the salesperson and the sales manager know what criteria the buyer is going to evaluate and make their decision. By understanding what criteria are being judged and comparing that to your solution, salespeople can understand how well they fit and also have the ability to influence the decision. This information will allow you, the sales manager, to accurately assess the probability of the deal closing.

If your sellers aren’t capable of answering these questions, make sure they follow up with their contacts so that next time you ask, they have clear answers.

Taking the time to ask these questions about any accounts you see stalling, will allow you to easily discuss action steps with your sellers for moving forward.

Eventually your team will begin to ask these questions of themselves to continue to streamline their sales process  by recognizing when a discussion with a lead won’t go anywhere.

Virtual Sales Workshop - 10 Must Ask Questions to Drive More Sales *Originally published in June 2015, updated in November 2019.


About Molly D Protosow

Molly Protosow is the COO and Training Strategist for DMTraining. She manages the day-to-day business and training operations while helping research and develop new training programs as well as refreshing signature programs to reflect the newest sales trends, technology, and best practices. Molly utilizes her wide-range of skills to create sales and marketing assets focused on delivering value to DMT’s clients. Molly has a passion for learning and leveraging new knowledge and experiences. Outside of DMTraining, Molly is a hard core Pittsburgh sports fan, enjoys staying active by running and golfing, and unwinds by reading and playing the piano.

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