Newsletter follow-up: How did the sales manager screw up?

Earlier this week you read my newsletter in which I told the story of the software company sales manager who let one of his sales reps make a product presentation at a hospital, only to have it turn out badly. I asked you what the sales manager did poorly, and from the mail I got it didn’t take you long to figure it out.  Let’s go over it today, as I wrote this piece to highlight four areas for improvement.

First, one of the best questions you should ask your salesperson before a call is, “Who is going to be in this meeting?”  I’ll admit I’ve been whipsawed a few times in my career because I failed to insist on this information.  I never want to talk to an audience I don’t know, whether in person, or worse, on a conference call.

(Here’s a tip for conference calls.  Next time your prospect says, “We’re going to put you on speaker…” just say in reply, “Thank you.  Now just so I can be sure I address the correct person if you have questions, may I ask who is on the call and your respective roles?”)

Second, had our sales manager prompted the rep with this question, he would have been prepared for the CFO’s interruptions and price questions, because the sales manager would be alerted to coach him through this.  Example:  “if the CFO is in the room, you can be sure there will be cost questions. Let’s talk about how you can position your presentation early on to avoid these specifics.  Simply say that the biggest value-add to our product is the implementation and usage consulting, and we won’t know what that is until our assessment.”  Rather than prepare the sales rep, the manager did nothing, then scolded him after the call when he learned that price was an issue.

Third, the sales manager should want desperately for the rep to succeed because this is a big deal and helps the rep make his incentive bonus.  If you were the sales manager, you might say, “I’ll do whatever it takes to help you land this one. This means if you want me there I’ll come as your wingman, and we’ll put on a compelling presentation.  Just say the word.”  Other sales managers would have insisted on coming.  Either works for me.

Fourth, and finally, there’s a commonly known series of useful coaching questions before a call that strong sales managers always use.  One of them is, “Walk me through the entire presentation as you see it taking place, after you send me the deck.”  Another important question is “What are your objectives for this meeting?” and “What do you hope your prospect will learn from you after this call?”  Our sales manager is guilty of lazy thinking.

Empowerment is a wonderful concept, but it’s still important to show care and concern when you give it.

In this case we had an example of a complex sale, in which software would be used by the hospital, but various hospital personnel would have some say in its purchase.  If you would like to learn more about strategy for this type of situation, you might pick up a copy of Jim Holden’s “Power Base Selling.”  Holden will help you to…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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