Asking the Right Questions

As is the case with any kind of interaction, salespeople have a distinct advantage when they can tap good and reliable intelligence. Here’s a potential problem: Not gathering enough accurate intelligence about prospects. As a result, pipelines are filled with suspects rather than prospects. And your sales managers don’t have the guts to call their people on it.

Here’s the key question: When your salespeople submit their forecasts, does your sales manager adjust them down for initial-to-projected forecast? Or do they simply “guestimate” (which means nothing) because they don’t know how process to analyze the opportunity?

It’s typically easier for salespeople and their managers to discuss why they didn’t win business, instead of asking themselves the right questions before spending time with the prospect.

See the problem? Here are some of the right questions:

• Why are you going after this prospect?

• Can we win, and should we pursue, this opportunity?

• If yes, how do you know?

• What is your strategy?

• Is there money, and do you know who has authority to spend it?

• How will selling this product/service help this organization specifically? Does the ROI justify the investment of time, money and effort on their side?

• Have we sold this prospect anything in the past? Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?

Does your sales manager know how much it costs to win a new account? Calculate the actual costs associated with generating a lead, a contact, an appointment, a proposal and a sale. Now, add in the opportunity cost of missed business they could have won if they weren’t wasting time on business that won’t close quickly.

If you’re like most sales organizations, the cost per pursuit is several hundred or even thousands of dollars altogether. Multiply that by the number of opportunities pursued and didn’t close in the last 12 months. Staggering, isn’t it?

Before your salespeople peruses the next opportunity, ask them: “If this were your money, would you spend it and why?”

Based on this information, does your sales manager know these things? If your sales manager can’t answer these questions with what they believe are solid opportunities, fire them and find someone who can. ♦

Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business, a sales consulting and training firm. She is the best-selling author of “To Sell is NOT to Sell” and works with Fortune 1000 companies and entrepreneurs. For more information or free sales tips, go to and sign up for “GretaNomics,” a weekly video tip series, or email sales questions to

Greta Schulz
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