“How’s It Going?”

29 Apr

Okay, so the big-big boss is in town and asks how it’s going.  I know it’s tempting to tell her how well your son is doing on the little league team…but fight off that temptation.  I’m only saying that your boss may be a nice woman, but let’s put business first and then brag about the home run later.

A good top sales boss wants to know five things;

  1. Results – past quarter, last month?
  2. Status – how do the future results look?
  3. Focus – what are you concentrating on?
  4. Needs – how can I help you succeed?
  5. Other than 1-4, how’s it going?

So when you’re asked the question, have the answer ready.  Wait a minute.  When will I be asked the question?  How will I know when to have the answer prepared?

Well, let me go through the answer to the original question then you can decide.  Is this a question I should wait for the big boss to ask, or is this a question I should ask myself everyday?


Think of yourself as a manufacturing plant.  Raw material goes in the front door, workers convert the raw materials into components, assemble the components and poof, finished products roll out the back door.  Every plant has a general manager whose job it is to continuously make sure that raw materials arrive on time, that the plant is operating at capacity, and that the quality and quantity of the products rolling out the back door meet expectation.  In our profession the raw materials are prospects, the components are presentations & proposals, and the end products are contracts or sales.  Guess who the general manager is?

So whether you’re answering the question for yourself or the big boss doesn’t really matter, the answer should be the same.

Results – How many sales did you close last quarter?  Were they the right size?  Are you happy with those results?  Was last month better?

Status – This is really a question of sales pipeline.  Is your “real” pipeline bursting at the seams or is it chock full of “pipe dreams”?  How many prospects do you really have and where in the sales cycle do they reside?  How many are closeable in the next 30 days?  I hope your pipeline is healthy because this is going to become your commission check over the next several months.  If you have to admit to yourself that your pipeline is really shaky, then what are you going to do about it?

Focus – This is the “what are you going to do about it”.  You are the general manager of your sales territory.  If there’s a pending problem then your job it to fix it before it gets worse.  If your pipeline of prospects looks good on paper but you know that most of those prospects are on life support then it’s up to you to flush out the real prospects, and put the others on hold.  If your real pipeline is anemic you’re going to have to rightsize your hot prospect list and develop an action plan to bring it back into a healthy state.  If you’re not sure what that action plan should be then you’ll have to muster up the courage to ask for help. 

Needs – Okay your results have been acceptable but not to your expectation, you’ve gone through your pipeline and admitted that of those 50 prospects only 15 are healthy.  You’ve decided that you’re going to commit yourself to adding another 10prospects this month, while moving the 15 forward at least one step in the sales cycle.  Fantastic!  But now is not the time to be a hero.  Ask for help.  What is the one tool that would help ensure the success of your action plan?  Is it an improved presentation?  Is it better sales collatera material?  Lead generation?  The bigger question is, when I ask for help will I be considered a complainer?  I will tell you in no uncertain terms (as an experienced big-big), that if you have given me short concise answers to results, status and focus…I’m am going to listen very closely to what you need.  And when I get back to my office I’m going to make sure you get it.

So as a former big-big here is what I always was hoping for.  I arrive in town, sit down with the regional sales director, go over results.  Tonight we’re having a team dinner.  Since I haven’t met you before I sit down next to you at the table.  After letting everyone settle in the RSD gives me the big intro, then I give everyone my business overview and reaffirm the top 3 iniatives.  I answer a few questions then it’s time to place our orders.  While we’re waiting for our salads I introduce myself to you and ask how’s it going?  What are you going to say?  Here’s the worlds most perfect answer (please edit according to your territory).

“Thanks for asking Greg.  Last quarter was okay, last month was even better (you may want to add in a FEW numbers).  But I scrubbed my pipeline and I need to add no less than 10 more good prospects if I’m going to reach my goals…I’m willing to do all the hard work to get these prospects into my pipeline but I need a little help from you…”  WOW!  Someone this organized and such a good manager of their territory is going to remain on my radar screen for a long time.  And if someone like this tells me our lead generation program isn’t working, I’m going back to HQ and make sure it get’s fixed.

Now that we know each other…tell me about your family.

6 Responses to ““How’s It Going?””

  1. Hank Trisler April 29, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    What a terrific article. I’ve not seen this approached before. That has to be a sure winner for anyone trying to improve their business. Thanks, Greg.

  2. Sathya April 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    There are a lot of important, realistic, concise information in this capsule! Its good to print it out & read it every now and then to spruce yourself up just that little bit.

  3. Richard Weivel April 29, 2009 at 8:12 pm #

    I should be able to do the same but I am in the process of filling out another spreadsheet, out on call visits, doing maintenance, fixing an error another department has done, filling out another spreadsheet because its different to the above one, completing notes on our client management data base, explaining why in another spreadsheet targets are low, doing my weekly stats in another spreadsheet….

    Get the idea, we dont see customers anymore because management have no idea what the workers are doing, they sit in the chrome lined office and ignore the grunts, yet demand results and implement restructures..

    And here is the problem, a good boss!

  4. Sagnik April 30, 2009 at 3:53 am #

    Brilliant article. I like the clarity of thought and how important it is to be precise and focussed. Then small talk can start.. Many thanks for sharing it for our benefit.

  5. Joe Corno May 1, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    Whoa!!! Richard has embraced high tech, but not high touch. Brillant response to “How’s it Goin?” My current employer told me that I would be too busy to walk in to accounts. The recruiter told me that it is all virtual, with emails, texting, and electronic submitting. Phone calls and office visits is not viable.

    Guess what, my senior executive, the president of the company, place a freeze on my signing up new accounts after my first month. You see, I call, I visit, I respond to the high touch required to be a top producer and exceed expectations.

    Great article. Once I am unfrozen, I can visualize my compouding my pull through and client base faster and better. Remember Richard:
    If you can not change your management, it is time to change management.

  6. Jeff Strongman May 12, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    OK, you got me … this is the fourth excellent article I have read on this blog. As a VP of Sales in far flung Australia, the tips & observations ring just as true as they do in the US market. Great stuff!

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