When you incorporate solution focused coaching techniques into your management style, you’ll be surprised by how much more autonomous your sales team will become. In this video I share some powerful questions you could ask that will help your sales team overcome day-to-day challenges and find their own solutions.
It wasn’t the first time. I was delivering a programme for the Government Sales Unit of a national telecommunications company about selling in price-conscious markets. When quoting Socrates who said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think”, there were some skeptical looks among the Account Managers. “We need to learn how to qualify leads!”, I imagined them thinking. Maybe you’re thinking the same thing.
I elaborated, “It might be more helpful if you thought through this situation rather than me giving you a solution, because what works for me (and other sales professionals) may not work for you. Let me help you think this through.” Then, I had the unit working together in a group exercise and they experienced the benefits of solutions focused sales coaching. Your sales team can experience these benefits too.
Here’s some powerful questions you could ask that will help your sales team overcome day-to-day challenges and find their own solutions:
You start with building the platform, which is where your sales team is now (not qualifying leads). For example, you could ask: “What do you want to achieve? What would be the payoff for solving this problem?” How will you know that we’ve made some progress?
The ‘Future Perfect’
You can use these questions to help your sales team see how the future will be different when the problem is no longer there. For example, you could ask: “What if this problem went away overnight? How would you know? What will you be doing? What would be the first small signs?
These help your sales team start seeing the strengths they already possess, that will help them move towards the solution. For example, you could ask: “When does this solution happen already? What are examples of the solution happening already, complete or in part? Which parts of your ‘future perfect’ happen at the moment? What are you already doing that’s helping? What’s working for you?”
Even the most challenging situations with your sales team have positive examples of coping that can be drawn out and affirmed. For example, you could say: “I’m impressed with how you reached the decision-maker.” You could then ask: “How did you do that? When you’ve faced situations with gatekeepers before, how have you handled them?”
Scaling questions can help measure how close your sales team is to their desired goals. The ends of a scale range from the “worst the problem has ever been” (zero) to “the best things could ever possibly be” (ten). For example, you could ask: “On a scale of 0 to 10, if 10 is the ‘future perfect’ and 0 is the complete opposite, where would you put yourself now? What tells you that you are a at ‘n’ on the scale rather than a 0? What is the highest you’ve ever been on that scale? When was that? How did you do that?”
The goal is for your sales team to repeat what has worked in the past and to help them gain confidence in making improvements in the future. For example, you could ask: “Suppose you were one point higher on the scale. How would you know you were one point higher? What would you be doing more of, less of, or differently? What’s the next small step for you to take?”
Asking your sales team to summarise their action plan will result in greater accountability and ownership. For example, you could ask: “What actions will you take as a result of our conversation? How can you stay on track?” Reassure them that by sticking to the plan, you are positive they are going to succeed!
In my work with sales leaders and sales professionals, I’ve noticed that solutions focused sales coaching helps teams focus on what’s working, and results in more autonomous, proactive and high performing sales teams.
- Tom Abbott is the author of 'The SOHO Solution' and 'Social Selling' and the creator of the online sales training platform SOCO Academy. Sales leaders engage Tom for his proven solutions to building high performance sales teams that exceed targets and for motivational keynotes that energise their audiences.