Five Questions Your Salesperson Should Be Able To Answer

Many factors yield a successful new business strategy. A few of those include:

  • A positioning where you are not easily interchangeable.
  • A sufficiently large addressable market.
  • A clear, defensible point of view, articulated through publicly available insight to switch from vendor to expert.
  • A somewhat formalized, off the shelf way of starting a relationship before it extends into a larger bespoke engagement instead of having to craft long, unpaid proposals where you give away your best thinking.

So after marketing delivers those opportunities, it's the role of sales to:

  • Determine the fit between the prospect and the firm, and then...
  • Surface and then address any challenges (objections), to finally...
  • Hand it off elegantly so that the account manager can effect a close.

But let's say that I sit down with whoever is responsible for sales at your firm (it should normally be a principal, though that's not a requirement). If that happens, I'm going to ask them five questions and I expect them to give me an articulate answer to each, without any hesitation. Here are those five questions:

  1. How do you define a qualified client? I can't answer part of that without knowing more about your firm, but I do know that it should usually be someone who has worked with a professional firm like yours before, they are spending someone else's money, the budget has been set aside (even if they won't reveal the amount), there's some impending need to get this done, they'll give you access to the decision maker, the first project is big enough to bother with, and the larger relationship potential will represent at least 4% of your revenue base over a year.
  2. How many qualified clients are you expected to close in a typical year? The right answer is always at least three and never more than six. Now obviously, this isn't going to work without sufficient MQLs, but the main point about defining this so specifically is to help you relax and be patient and not chase anything that moves. Unlike your college experience, don't date anyone who is not marriageable.
  3. What support can you count on? Sales people need great leads. Sometimes both come from the same person, but sometimes they don't. With this question, you have to be careful that the sales person (if different than the marketing person) isn't just looking for excuses—but it is entirely reasonable to demand marketing support. Heck, to even demand it.
  4. How do you get paid? When you read that question, you might assume that I think an aggressive commission structure yields great sales results. I don't. The only commission that principals should be on is the kind that we normally call net profit and distributions, but some of the best sales people appreciate some sort of extra opportunity, though that shouldn't represent more than 10-20% of their total comp. By the way, this is the least important question of the five.
  5. How and to whom do you hand this possible relationship off to? This is important, for several reasons. First, if the sales person stays involved too long, the prospect will bond with the wrong person and rightly think of the process as an unfair bait and switch. Second, you don't want to tie up the sales person instead of freeing her up to go kill something else and drag it back to the cave. Third, an account manager understandably resents inheriting all sorts of promises that someone else has made on their behalf. More on all that here.

There you go. Know exactly what you are looking for in a sales environment and you'll be far more likely to hit it.

Can we help you with a New Business Audit? We'll fix your positioning, your service offering design, and your lead gen plan. Just hit "reply" if you want to connect about that.

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