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What Are the Three Magic Questions a Sales Manager Must Know?

What Are the Three Magic Questions a Sales Manager Must Know?

In the 20+ years we have been working with sales managers and salespeople, a constant need is sales opportunity strategy advice. One of the main roles of a Sales Manager is to help train your salespeople on how to stay on track during a sales cycle. Each company will have unique domain, market and competitor background but fundamentally, in each case it is knowing what questions to ask.

During any sales opportunity coaching sessions consider asking these three questions with any sales opportunity:

  1. Why do anything?
  2. Why now?
  3. Why with us?

Let’s explore these, acknowledging the answers can’t all be known at the beginning of a sales opportunity but focusing on answering them is critical to maintain focus and winning the sale.

Why do anything?

Any person and organization has a myriad of priorities. Going through a buying decision whether for marketing services, new equipment or office space, is a major commitment that may include multiple people and maybe competing with multiple priorities. So how will your prospect justify the effort and invest the time? Often, the buyer has latent pain – they know they need to do something but they may not know what they need to know or how to decide. They almost certainly don’t want to speak with a salesperson without a strong sense of what they need and whether it is affordable. This presents your first challenge – how to help the potential buyer to answer the questionWhy do anything?

Therefore, marketing and sales campaigns which provide the prospect with honest content where the buyer can educate themselves is vital. Your sales team’s prospecting activities (emails, phone calls) should leverage this content and assist in identifying the issues and required capabilities. Blogs, webinars, case studies as all examples of content that may be beneficial to the prospect as long as it is not overtly self-serving.

Once they engage with a prospect, top sales professionals know they can both help the prospect and increase their company’s potential sales success through a deeper discovery phase. Exploring unexpressed potential needs, linking the implications of the current issues with other functions within the enterprise and tying the project to corporate objectives will both help the prospect build momentum internally and differentiate your offering. This is critical to begin to build your “business case” for taking action.

Why now?

Consider again the myriad priorities within the prospect company and the limited availability for executive support and investment capital or expense. To win the business requires more than beating your competition – you need to help your prospect communicate the importance of this initiative and gain internal approval. Perhaps this project is critical to retain a key customer, or comply with upcoming regulations. It may require a formal cost justification and follow a capital approval procedure. If the prospect does not have experience or insight to elevating the importance of your sale within the company and how to navigate the approval cycle, you will either have to help them or accept the consequences. Tools to assist your prospect such as payback models, use cases and template presentations can be both valuable and appreciated.

Timing is important, as knowing when the solution to fix the “pain” must be implemented and begin operation can drive the prospect’s sense of urgency to purchase.

Why with us?

Successful salespeople develop a competitive strategy starting at prospect qualification, refining and adjusting through the Discovery stage. What are the issues and capabilities that your company has helped the prospect uncover and how do you prove the ability to deliver? Are they unique and important to the prospect? Can the competition respond?

Often the committee will meet many days or weeks after all the vendor presentations. Summarizing the issues, the capabilities you offered and how these were received by the team and communicating to all of the committee members could be your last opportunity to stand apart. Whenever possible, these documents should be personalized.

As a Sales Manager, is it important to have your team act professionally, staying aligned throughout with the prospect’s buying process and possibly added value as it has progressed? Remember, as the point of vendor selection nears, the buyer’s sense of risk rises. How you understand and respond to this state may be the deciding factor amongst the prospects choices.


During the life of any complex sales opportunity it is sometimes difficult to for a salesperson to keep their arms around the abundance of information, questions, insights and tactics. Consider these three questions as their guide. Regularly reviewing each opportunity with these questions and honestly facing the answers, will provide the salesperson and sales manager the insights to adjust the opportunity strategy. Training your sales team to crisply communicate opportunity status to executives within your company via these three questions will both be appreciated and demonstrate your team’s competence and professionalism.

If you would like an additional set of “Magic Questions for Sales Managers”,

Sales Disruption: What’s Different for 2016

Sales Disruption: What’s Different for 2016

With another exciting year of sales and sales innovation in the books, it’s time to start thinking about the future: which tech and processes we’ll be carrying forward, which we won’t, and which game-changing trends and apps we have to keep an eye on so that, next year at this time, we’re bragging about another banner year of crushed quotas.

But this year, in a way, is different from all the others. Yes, we have new tools – like predictive analytics platforms – that give us more insight than ever before into the directions and tactics we should use to grow our businesses, but this year, we’ve also experienced the beginnings of a massive shift in priorities for businesses that will change everything about how we sell next year.

I’m talking about real, true customer obsession.

With the rise of AI and our ability to hyper-personalize and target customers all the way through the funnel, more traditional business processes – lead gen, for example – are starting to fall by the wayside in favor of customer experience and account-based marketing initiatives. As more businesses buy into this model (and they already have, in droves), this is the disruptive reality we’ll be facing in 2016. I hope you’re ready for it!

Here are three of the top disruptions we’ll have to work within 2016:

The Funnel Will Be Flipped by Account-Based Marketing

2016 is the year we’ll start talking about the funnel in a way that we never have before. Instead of filling it with hoards of MQLs – most of whom are entirely uninterested in our product and just wanted a piece of premium content or a webinar – and employing BDR teams to weed them out and set meetings for the tiny group of SQL remaining, we’ll take a hard look at our current customers.

Why? Because we’re going to start targeting other customers that look exactly like them one at a time. The essence of account-based marketing is this: targeting a specific business – along with a specific set of decision-makers with buying power – and delivering ads, outreach, and content made exclusively to connect the dots between their business and your product / service. And it works.

Instead of chasing down unqualified leads and focusing on quantity, you focus on building important, quality business, creating quality closes, and implementing processes that ensure each piece of new business you acquire stays for life.

AI Will Take Networking to the Next Level

Though not traditionally thought of as a sales driver, networking offers huge opportunities for sales, customer persona and segmentation exercises, lead gen (if you’re not quite ready to make the switch to ABM), and CRM data quality. And while that’s probably reason enough to start encouraging networking among your sales staff, I’ll do you one better: reps with better networks sell better because they’re better connected with people.

This will be the year that AI-driven apps rise to meet them. So many processes in networking – keeping contacts updated, remembering to follow up, knowing who you should reach out to, which contacts are the most valuable based on any number of data points – are pieces of info that are easily glossed over when you have a headful of client and an end-of-quarter date rapidly approaching.

AI changes all that. With apps and algorithms that read things like call frequency, signals sent through social and email, and common topics from previous conversations, this will be the year that address books update themselves, CRMs learn who you should reach out to and what you should say to them, and business card scanners can self-categorize, sort, and send new connections to the CRM. Armed with them, your reps will focus on creating amazing experiences for potential clients, not getting lost in the drudgery of busywork.

Predictive Analytics Will Bring Us All Into New Markets

It’s really easy to think that we know who we should be selling to CRMs go to sales, Marketing Automation to marketers, social listening tools to our social teams, etc. But as we’ve begun to dig into our customer data over the last year or so, those lines have become blurrier than we’d imagined.

It turns out that – even if a tool was built with an audience in mind – there’s always a secondary audience, even a few tertiary ones, and new and emerging markets where our products/services have great fits. Unfortunately, the internet is a big place, and it’s next to impossible to find the data we need.

Or, rather, it was until the rise of predictive analytics. Fueled by Big Data and driven by machine learning, predictive analytics platforms leverage enormous amounts of information to estimate future actions of current audiences and customers as well as opportunities that will rise in new markets. These tools exist to understand the landscape you operate in and work to help your sales reps bring your product (or versions of your product) to every available market with relative ease.

Inevitably, we’ll see many more disruptive forces explode in the early months of 2016, but I bet my bottom dollar (and you should too) that they’ll all be about creating better customer experiences, more personalized sales and marketing processes, and refined, personalized targeting strategies. This year in sales, we’ll have the opportunity to know our customers, our contacts, and the landscape we sell in better than ever before, and it’s on us to rise to the challenge and sell.

How To Align Sales & Marketing For Quota Attainment

How To Align Sales & Marketing For Quota Attainment

In the traditional days of commerce, sales and marketing were two separate departments with separate objectives. The marketing department was responsible for gathering intelligence, creating products, and generating brand awareness through advertising & public relations. On the other hand, the sales department was solely responsible for lead generation, converting prospects to customers, and managing existing accounts.

What’s different today?

In the age of the modern buyer, sales and marketing need to work together to create leads and convert them into opportunities. Marketing initiatives today must be ROI-driven with the goal of creating qualified leads. According to Aberdeen, the companies that are knocking down the silos between sales & marketing and encouraging cross-collaboration are far more likely to be hitting quota.

99% of their sales teams reach quota vs 46% for laggard companies. 75% of reps reach quota vs. 27% for laggard companies. 13.1% average increase in year-over-year growth vs. a 0.5% decline for laggard companies” – (Aberdeen, 2015)

The statistics don’t lie, without alignment between sales and marketing companies actually have a lower probability of hitting their sales targets.  We also know that 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until they had performed independent research, and 74% of buyers said at least half of that research was happening online. (Forrester, 2015) The buyer has stepped into the digital age, leaving the traditional sellers behind. (Be sure to check out the 26.5 Stats About The State of Sales And Marketing In 2016 eBook for more stats like this.)

The real question is: How do sales & marketing align to be able to effectively sell to the modern buyer?

Marketing: Your marketing department needs to be creating content that drives sales conversations. It has to be insightful, data-driven, and detailed enough to assist a buyer in making purchase decisions. Frequency is also key to grow your brand’s social following, marketing should be creating content multiple times a week to really attract qualified buyers and generate Marketing Qualified Leads. It is also crucially important for your Marketing Team to create a Content Library so your salespeople can easily access what you create.

Sales: The Sales Development team should be converting the Marketing Qualified Leads into Sales Qualified Leads. Marketing has identified some potential buyers, and now sales need to reach out to them to determine if there’s a mutual fit. In order for sales to effectively communicate with modern buyers, they need to be sharing quality content to provoke more high-quality conversations in the market.

How do you get your sales team to share content?

The short answer: Make it easy for them to find & share it!

The best way to accomplish this is with a content library organized by buyer persona/buying stage, and a social media management tool that allows them to auto schedule content ahead of time. There are new tools called Employee Advocacy Platforms, which will enable your salespeople to find & share content all from one dashboard.

What other considerations are important for sales & marketing alignment?

Seamless Lead Handoff – You want to ensure that your process for passing the leads on from marketing to sales is perfect to maximize funnel growth. If your Automated Marketing Platform doesn’t perfectly integrate with your CRM, how will your salespeople be able to follow up with the leads to convert them into opportunities?

Encourage Communication & Cross Collaboration – Teams that operate as silos, don’t facilitate interdepartmental communication. It’s crucially important that both your sales & marketing teams are on the same page, and working towards mutually beneficial & aligned goals. They have to work in tandem, so nobody is left in the dark!

What’s the bottom line?

Sales & Marketing teams that work together to ensure each other are equipped for sales success, have a far better probability of hitting quota. Marketing creates content & campaigns that create quality leads, and sales pick up the torch to drives conversations in the market with the goal of converting those leads into new sales opportunities.
For more on Sales & Marketing Alignment, check out this eBook co-authored by Jill Rowley.

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