Today’s post is by Sandler Training Global Headquarters CEO and President David H. Mattson, a bestselling author, sales and management thought leader, keynote speaker, and leader for sales training seminars around the world. At Sandler, Mattson oversees the corporate direction and strategy for the company’s global operations, including sales, marketing, consulting, alliances, and support.
What really happened on that important sales call? You won’t know unless you conduct a good debrief with the salesperson in question.
All too often, what passes for a debriefing is little more than a casual, uninformative conversation between a salesperson and sales manager. You know how they go – you run into the salesperson in the hallway and ask, “By the way, what happened in your meeting the other day with ABC?” The conversation that follows is cursory, and the information exchange is limited to what the salesperson can remember off the cuff…and wants to reveal. Time has been wasted and little has been learned by either party.
To be effective for you and your salespeople, debriefing sessions must occur regularly and be consistent. To accomplish this, you should take the following steps.
Step #1: Formally schedule sessions. When you make the effort to schedule a formal debriefing session, you and the salesperson will treat the time and topic more seriously. Time set aside on the calendar is too valuable to both of you to be wasted.
For this reason, you won’t want to debrief each of your salespeople after every sales call. Even if you had the time for that, your salespeople are capable of doing their jobs without being micro-managed. If you hold regular sales meetings and use other tools to monitor the sales activities in your department, you should know when it is most appropriate to debrief someone.
It may be that the salesperson is approaching a critical point in the process, or has had difficulty with a particular phase of the sales cycle. Whatever the reason for debriefing a particular call, you and the salesperson should be clear about both the timing and purpose of the session.
Step #2: Plan and structure the sessions. Like all interpersonal exchanges in your department, these sessions should be subject to ground rules and up-front contracts that define how you will run the session. Among other things, you should have a set time for the meeting and a clear format both sides understand. Your salespeople must agree to “full disclosure” about the events that occurred during the sales call.
Since your purpose in uncovering mistakes and problems is to help the salesperson correct them, there is no reason for the salesperson to withhold any information from you, good or bad. Your salespeople should know to come to the debriefing session prepared to report fully on the sales call in question. You, too, should be prepared with questions and with an understanding of where in the sales process the salesperson is – as well as what information he should have uncovered and what objectives he should have accomplished.
Keep the discussion on course and relevant. Be ready to tactfully redirect when the salesperson attempts to steer you toward some topic he finds more comfortable than what you just asked about.
Step #3: Use a consistent set of questions. When he was my manager, David Sandler gave me a written list of 10 questions he told me he was going to ask me during each and every debrief. I knew I was going to have to answer these questions – in addition to whatever questions he would ask me based on the unique situation.
By giving me the questions ahead of time, he made sure I asked the buyer what I needed to know in order to be able to respond intelligently during the debrief! The questions he wrote down on that sheet helped me learn to progress the sale. When I first looked at the list, I said to myself, “Hmm...I ask question one sometimes; I ask question two all the time; and question three – wow, I’ve never asked that!”
Mastering those 10 questions helped me become consistent and self-sufficient – and close more sales! You should take the time to create such a list of questions for your team. As a sales leader, you want to make sure your people know what to do when you aren’t with them. A self-sufficient sales team is a productive team! This list of questions can serve as the basis of great training sessions as well as ensure people are getting the information they need.