TALKING SALES 59: How to conduct your internal conversation (Sales Manager – Salesperson)

.                          Image © Ljupco Smokovski via Deamstime

“How to coach salespeople to have the correct customer conversation” –   interview by John Smibert. 

In our past discussions Dean Kelly has talked about how salespeople should conduct their conversations with the customer – how to help the customer determine the value.

In this discussion Dean provides sales managers with advice on how to coach the salesperson to have that ‘right conversation’ with their customer.  

He stresses that no matter how tempted he/she is, the sales manager should not ask; “When will the deal close and how big is it”.  He emphasises that this question will encourage in the wrong customer conversations occurring. Dean provides us with some great questions for the sales manager to ask the salesperson.

See the full interview below to learn more.


Dean Kelly is the Sales Deal Mechanic.


John: Hello, and welcome back! I’ve got Dean Kelly with me, the deal mechanic. Welcome back, Dean!

Dean: Thanks, John!

John: Dean, we’ve had lots of discussions about value, about getting the customer to put their perception of value on the table before we ever try and express it. We’ve talked about how we have that sort of conversation; there’s been some really great value, thank you very much!

Dean: My pleasure!

John: I would like now to take us back internally into our own organisation, and to the discussion that is always happening between the sales manager and the salesperson. How does that discussion need to occur to support the salesperson in having that dialogue with the customer?

Dean: What are the two questions that every sales manager always ask their salespeople, right?

John: “When are you going to close, and how big is it?”

Dean: Exactly!

John: “I’ve got to put in a forecast!”

Dean: And that cascades all the way down from the very top of the organisation, right? Now, if you think about those two questions, what do they drive? What kind of behaviour and conversation do they drive with the client?

John: Dreadful behaviour in a lot of cases, where all we’re doing is going out and trying to get answers to those two questions.

Dean: It’s actually compounded as well, if you’ve got a channel partner between you and the client, because you call the channel partner “Where’s my deal? What happened to my deal?” and the channel partner feels like you’re actually not supportive of them trying to close the deal. So, to me it was thinking of “What’s the internal conversation that we need to have, both sales manager and salesperson. But also, in some cases, salesperson to channel partner.

John: Same questions.

Dean: The same questions that drive the appropriate conversation with the end customer.

John: So, I’m the sales manager. What sort of questions should I be asking?

Dean: Well, mate, I should be charging you for this! [laughter] The question is, if you want it to be focused on the client – the client’s business, the client’s value – it’s got to start with: what is the business problem the client’s trying to solve? What is the business problem they’re wanting us to solve? Now, if you think of that, there’s going to be that value conversation that needs to be had. The other thing to look out for is if your sales team come back with a technical issue or a process issue – then it’s about you, the manager, digging deeper, and saying “Hold on, that sounds like a technical problem. How is that inhibiting their business?” Because that’s where the real value is going to sit.

John: Yes. Ultimately it’s their business context that’s going to drive the value.

Dean: Exactly. So, that first question kicks it off. Now, is that the only question? No, there’s going to be a lot of other coaching questions, to get inside how you’re going to ask it and all, but it kicks off with that. Now, if I have the conversation with the client, which is what is the business problem, and I can find out who’s that important to, how they’ll measure success and the like, will you get the answer now to the how big, and when?

John: Almost certainly.

Dean: Correct. And therefore the internal conversation doesn’t change to not get the answers you want, because absolutely you’ve got to put your answers in and, you know, put it in the CRM tool and have your commit, but you’re helping me have a more appropriate conversation with the end customer.

John: Helping you be on the side of the customer, really talking and asking the questions the customer needs to have asked, rather than “Hey, when are we going to get the deal?”

Dean: Yes. And I need that interaction with the client, to diplomatically challenge their thinking about how we could create additional areas of value for them in the context of solving their problem.

John: And ultimately you become the trusted advisor.

Dean: Absolutely. If you can earn that from the client – fantastic.

John: Absolutely.

Dean: I’d rather have you earn it than your manager effectively undermine your ability to get that kind of feedback.

John: Now, I’m not going to ask you to put it on the table right now, but I know you have five key questions a sales manager should ask a salesperson. Let’s talk about those at another time, and I’d love to be able to share that document with our audience, if you don’t mind.

 NOTE: Download Dean’s 5 questions here

Dean: Absolutely – no problem doing that at all!

John: Look forward to that.

Dean: You and I can get started straight away!

John: So, there’s some really good coaching advice for sales managers on making sure the salespeople are supported in following the right dialogue with the customer.

Dean: Yes.

John: Thank you very much, Dean – look forward to the next time!

Dean: Excellent, thanks!


More of Dean Kelly:


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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.

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