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David Sidwell

How to intimidate a sales director

Most Sales Directors are very confident, and strong communicators, focussed on building a very positive feeling with customers. But sometimes you need to get beneath the surface, and understand what’s working and what’s not working. They don’t like admitting weakness in their own organisations at all: their professional training kicks in and your questions are treated as objections to be countered and sold round.

So if you have to interview a Sales Director or Manager, use the fact that no-one can do, know and control everything to your advantage. Ask for facts. Politely deflect their sales lines, opinions and ego riffs, and just keep drilling down into the detail. Even the best of them will reach a point where they have to admit they don’t know everything, and then you can have a much more direct, open, constructive conversation…

1: Start with the Top 10 deals (…good ones sail through this).
For each deal, ask: What’s the decision making process? Where are you in it? When was your last personal contact with the account? When's your next? What ‘s the closing plan? Do you have a Plan B?

2: Ask to see their Ideal Salesperson definition in terms of skills and qualities
They should have one of these too, and be able to talk you through how each of their team compares. (see my other Blog on Ideal Salesperson Definition).

By now, you’ve sorted out the bluffers from the serious boys. Now for the detail…..ask them to divide their team into three:

3a Top performers (on target, good pipeline)

  • How do you reward and recognise excellence?
  • What’s their territory plan?
  • What’s the enhancement plan?
  • Will they get a trainee?
  • Who’s offering them a job right now?
  • Why will they stay?

3b Just good enough performers (patchy, off form)

  • What’s the development/coaching plan?
  • Timescale for improvement?
  • Do they know it?
  • Is their territory right for them?
  • Is the product right for them?
  • Should they become specific hunters or farmers instead?

3c Those below your belief threshold (long term under performers)

  • Why are they still here?
  • Are they investments in managerial ego?

4 And now the killers... for each salesperson...

  • What are their stats (calls made, conversion rates, RoI)
  • When was last phone call you listened in to from them? How did they perform?
  • When was last meeting you made with them? When, which client, how did they perform?

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