A client called to discuss with me that he’d not been getting the results he’d wanted from a salesperson. The salesperson’s reports had shown lots of active prospects and that sales from many of them were “just around the corner”.
However, when the client decided to examine what that meant a little closer, he found out that in most cases, the “corner” was months away. The impact on cash flow projections was significant to the point where the viability of the salesperson had to be questioned.
The salesperson was enjoying a base salary plus allowances to cover vehicle, phone, etc and had the added incentive of commission on sales. The base salary was enough to live on but was unsustainable for the employer without the revenue from sales.
The result was that the salesperson was, in effect, eating from profits before they were made. He was comfortable but at his employer’s expense and wellbeing.
He was faced with no option but offer the salesperson a “Commission only” package. Guess what happened when he did? That’s right, the salesperson fled.
My client then spent time backtracking over the salesperson’s work. What he found wasn’t pretty: leads that hadn’t been followed up, proposals that hadn’t been done and call reports that were not entirely accurate. He’d been given what the salesperson wanted him to see rather than the real story. The tragedy was that had the salesperson been honest with him (and he wasn’t honest with me, either), we could have done something about it.
This brings me to the subject line. I talk regularly with a number of business and life coaches – several of whom are also clients, and one common thread I hear is “If only I’d known…”
We’re only as good as the questions we ask allow us to be. When we learn to ask better questions, and listen to the answers, we’re better able to help ourselves and those we deal with.
My client hadn’t asked his salesperson the right questions about lead-time. In turn, he didn’t have accurate information about cash flow and as a result, we were unable to change things before it was too late.
Could this have been averted? Probably. What should have happened? The client should have explained the financial “facts of life” of his business more clearly to the salesperson and should have done it before he started. The client should have made the salesperson more accountable in his reporting and their prospect generation process undoubtedly should have been “cranked up” harder and faster – and sooner.
I guess the real truth is that nobody was prepared to ask the hard questions.
If you were to be brutally honest with yourself, what questions are you avoiding about what you do? If I were to call you up on the spur of the moment, what would you not want me to ask you?
Today is the day you need to ask them and, if you don’t know what they are, find someone who does. You only don’t know what you don’t know until you know it…
(c) James Yuille