What Are the Best Sales Questions?
The best sales questions predictably lead to better customer relationships, higher win rates and more successful sales forces.

Sales is an Art
Being able to ask good sales questions is an art.

Asking effective questions is a necessary skill for journalists, a developmental skill for salespeople who sell solutions and a desirable skill for conversationalists. As far as sales is concerned, good sales questioning skills are essential, value selling training experts say, for success. It is the basis for learning (and teaching) just exactly what your customers want and need.

4 Steps to Asking Effective Sales Questions
Here are four steps on to use the best sales questions:

1. Start with Open-Ended Sales Questions
Open-ended sales questions questions cannot easily be answered with a single word.   Begin with the classic who-what-why-where-when-and-how questions that are open-ended and encourage deeper and wider conversations.  Open-ended sales questions help to create personal and professional connections while opening the door for you to learn what matters most to your prospects.

While most sales people know the best sales questions are open-ended, we are constantly surprised by how many sales reps (regardless of their experience level) ask too many closed-ended questions and limit their ability to create more meaningful relationships and solutions.

2. Be Concise with Your Sales Questions
Get right to the question mark. Don’t ramble. You will lose focus and your prospective client will likely be confused.  Concise sales questions contribute to the quality of the discussion and hopefully add valuable perspectives and insights along the way.

3. Embrace Silence
Do not chatter through silence. Accept and appreciate the pause. Counting to 10 before speaking again can help you become more comfortable.  Your listener will soon fill it…hopefully with the answer or information you were looking for.

4. Be Authentic
Don’t appear to understand if you don’t. Ask a follow-up or clarifying question instead…especially if it gives them a chance to be the expert and keep talking.  Many sales reps find it challenging to be authentic to themselves and their company’s brand in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations.  Ultimately, authenticity creates trust and respect.  Sales people who are authentic have high levels of self-awareness about their strengths and weaknesses, find meaningful and genuine connections with their clients, are OK making mistakes and remain focused and present when they interact with their clients.

Want to learn more about the best sales questions to improve your sales performance?  Download 30 Sales Questions More Important than Budget When Selling Solutions

Smart leaders learn how to create a coaching culture as part of their talent management strategy.

85% of highly disengaged employees don’t receive enough coaching from their boss.   And we know employees who prefer coaching from direct managers as a form of professional development are 5.6 percentage points more engaged than those who don’t want coaching

In order for coaching to be an accepted, relevant, and effective form of employee learning and development, it needs to be ingrained into your organizational culture. Think of coaching as an ongoing organization-wide program, a cultural element that drives your internal people operations and the success of your business.

Here are four proven ways to create a coaching culture.

#1 – PROVIDE TRAINING TO COACHES AND COACHEES
Both giving and receiving feedback are skills. What’s more, they’re skills that are rarely developed. Without any guidance, feedback is likely to be given poorly by the coach and misconstrued by the employee. Support effective coaching in your organization by providing training and resources organization-wide.

#2 – SET THE TONE FROM THE TOP
Like any element that you want to make part of your organizational culture, it starts at the top. Effective coaching must be modeled. Your leaders and managers must hone these skills and set the example. They must ask for feedback (up and down the hierarchy and sideways) and visibly show that they receive feedback well. And they must do it, and do it again and again.

#3 – COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS AROUND COACHING
If giving and receiving feedback well is a quality leadership seeks, it must be made clear. Communicate, and communicate often. Set organizational expectations around what manager and peer coaching looks like in your organization: Who gives it? Who receives it? How often does it occur? How do we do it? What is the goal of a coaching session? Make coaching part of your processes and traditions, from onboarding and appraisals to everyday conversations.

#4 – LEVERAGE TOOLS TO STREAMLINE COACHING IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
Leverage the tools and technology available to you to fully ingrain coaching into your culture. Whether you utilize software to support powerful leader conversations and employee career-growth ownership, one-on-one meeting software to easily facilitate coaching sessions from anywhere, or even word documents and filing systems to save and reference detailed notes, coaching tools and technology will make each session less complicated for employees and managing the entire initiative easier for you.

The Bottom Line
When employees are pushed to learn and develop and coached on their performance, they’ll be more equipped to do their job, more motivated to go the extra mile, and more likely to produce high-quality results. In fact, organizations with employees who are coached effectively and frequently improve their business results by 21%, compared to those who don’t coach employees

Want to learn something surprising about talent management?  Download Why Talent Is Only 1/3rd of the Recipe for Success

Wouldn’t it be great to have an HR handbook for implementing manager coaching?

While we are loathe to assign management or leadership responsibilities to HR, it’s HR’s duty to help create some consistency and process to ensure coaching conversations are used to effectively engage and develop employees.

Use this 6-step HR implementation handbook to make manager coaching a part of your employee development program.

1. Set Clear Expectations
Be upfront about the goal and expectations of manager coaching. Communicate that coaching from managers will be a standard part of your talent development strategy in order to grow and nurture employees for high performance.

2. Educate Managers On Their Role
Managers play a crucial role in the success of this initiative — no surprise there. Educate them on the role they should play in coaching sessions and long-term employee development. Arm them with resources to help them succeed in their role.

3. Create Structure And Templates
As HR, it’s your responsibility to create guidelines and structure around manager coaching sessions. Are there different types of coaching conversations managers should have with employees (e.g., developmental, behavioral)? Provide a set of guidelines and templates they can follow to maximize each type of session.

4. Set A Frequency For Coaching Sessions
How often should your managers be expected to coach employees? Research shows that employees were more likely to be engaged when they received coaching from their manager once a month. As coaching sessions became less frequent, the likeliness of employee disengagement went up.

5. Encourage 2-Way Conversation
Too often, managers construe coaching as, “I talk; you listen.” In reality, it must consist of two-way conversation where each participant engages in active listening. In order to coach effectively, managers need to understand where employees are coming from, what obstacles stand in the way of their development, and what motivates and drives their performance.

6. Track, Monitor, And Measure Progress
Our research shows when manager coaching is an integral part of an organization’s talent development strategy, engagement and performance improve. Monitor manager coaching sessions to make sure they stay on track and in line with your goals as a business. Measure the success of coaching by benchmarking and tracking improvement on employee performance, team engagement, and your organization’s business results.

The Bottom Line
85% of hostile employees don’t receive enough coaching from their boss.  When management coaching works, it develops a culture of empathy and trust ready to handle both the good and bad times.  Invest in developing your top talent. Spend the time coaching your top talent. This will directly improve employee engagement, retention and performance.

If you like this 6 Step HR Handbook for Implementing Manager Coaching, download The Top Coaching Mistakes – Is What You Learned All Wrong?

The best leaders and managers know how to create performance goals that work.

Why Performance Goals Matter
Performance goals define what is expected of an employee in their role.  When they are done correctly, performance goals:

  • Set clear performance expectations for the employee, their boss and key stakeholders
  • Define clear boundaries regarding the specific scope of work roles and responsibilities
  • Make a direct connection between individual success and overall company and team success

Great leaders know that there is only a narrow window in human psychology where a performance goal will have the desired effect of motivating their people to perform at their peak.

Too Difficult
If the performance goal is perceived to be too difficult, it will most likely result in disengagement.

Too Easy
If the performance goal is perceived to be too easy, it can result in a lack of effort to pursue a potentially greater objective and also create employee disengagement.

So there is a window of “just possible” that makes goal setting more potent in driving improved performance.

Using Action Learning to Improve Goal Setting Skills
While many leaders and team members learn about performance goal setting through painful trial and error, we have found that a customized action learning program for leaders and managers can significantly improve goal setting capabilities and results.  The action learning approach works because it allows leaders to receive relevant, meaningful and timely feedback.

Why Meaning Matters
A performance goal without meaning can rarely be effective in stimulating a significant behavior change or a high performance outcome. If employees understand how their individual goals and objectives align and relate to those of the overall organization, they are more likely to derive greater levels of purpose and meaning from those objectives. Greater meaning is critical to success especially in leadership development programs where leaders must learn to respond positively to and thrive with increased ambiguity, speed and performance pressure.

The Bottom Line on Performance Goals
If you want to know how to create performance goals that work, remember performance goals must be:

  1. Just achievable
  2. Meaningful
  3. Relevant

To learn more about how to create performance goals that work, download 7 Immediate Management Actions to Create Alignment with Goals

Based upon feedback from thousands of project post mortem participants, the number one project management skill most requested by project teams is knowing when to STOP!  Especially when any project parameters shift – STOP!

Managing a project can feel like walking a tightrope without being able to slow down.

You need to keep on track while trying to juggle time, budget, and resources…not to mention various and often competing stakeholders’ needs. When you conduct your project post mortem, be sure you don’t have to list “we never strategically adjusted” as your big mistake. This could spell a big “zero” for your project and threaten your very job.

Here is how to adjust when project budget, scope, resources or timing parameters shift: STOP!

That’s right. Stop! The best project teams recognize key inflection points and invest the time and resources necessary to identify the implications with all key stakeholders before marching forward. The best project teams adjust project definitions, plans and execution strategies before doing more work or throwing more resources at the problem. The best project teams reflect and continuously improve as they go.

This may mean figuring out an acceptable trade-offs or making major concessions with powerful stakeholders. That is OK. The key is getting and keeping everyone on the same page with the new plan instead of just working harder or faster without properly regrouping with the team or project sponsors.  Hope and avoidance are not strong project leadership strategies.

If you liked learning about the number one project management skill, to learn more about being a successful project leader, download 5 Steps to Align Project Teams to Pull in the Same Direction

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