Conducting Question and Answer Sessions

conducting successful Q & A sessionsMany presentations and meetings are not complete without a question and answer session.  Questions and answers help involve people in the program and establish a feedback link between you and the group.  When done effectively these discussions are fruitful and productive. When mishandles they often unravel into meaningless and unfocused debates and unproductive side conversations. To make your next meeting a success here are  some proven and practical Do’s and Don’ts for conducting question and answer sessions.

DOs for conducting question and answer  sessions:

1.  Treat the question and answer sessions as part of the presentation; the presentation is not over until the last question is answered.

2.  It is embarrassing to ask for questions and have none asked because of the reluctance on the part of the group to ask the first question.  A good technique for “priming the pump” when this happens is to say, “A question I am frequently asked is…” and then answer that question.  Often that’s all that’s needed to get the questions flowing.

3.  Look directly at the person asking the question.  Show total interest in that person and what is being asked.  Keep your hands free.

4.  Listen for both content and feeling by observing facial expressions and body language.

5.  Repeat the question for the rest of the group if necessary.  If you’re not sure exactly what the questioner means, paraphrase the question with, “Let me be sure I understand what you’re asking.”

6.  Thank the questioner.  Look at the entire group while answering, glancing back occasionally to the person who asked the question.

7.  If the question is emotionally charged or belligerent, use “active responding,” in answering.  Never put down the questioner or get in a verbal battle.

8.  Treat two questions from the same person as two separate questions.

9.  Admit you don’t have an answer it if you don’t.  Offer to find out and get back to that person.

10. Be factual and accurate.  Avoid phrases like, “Everyone knows. . .” or “It’s a well-known fact. . .”

11. Rotate the way you select questions from the group.  Let the individuals seated in all areas of the room have a chance to ask questions.

12. Anticipate the kinds of questions you will be asked and have statistics, quotes and support at your finger tips.

13. Keep a positive attitude.  Avoid getting on the defensive.

14. Remain in control of the session.

15. Do not let the Q & A  session drag on or fizzle out.  Be sure to keep it within the time limits.  When you’re nearly out of time, tells your audience, “There’s time for only one more question.”

16. Keep your answers brief and to the point, but be sure to answer the question as completely as possible.  A good format to follow in many cases is to give a one sentence answer or a “yes” or “no,” give the reason, a brief example and a restatement of your answer.

17. Always have a “power statement,” phrase or story to close the session.  You may review the key points covered.

DON’Ts for conducting question and answer sessions:

1.  Don’t grade questions by telling one questioner, “That’s a good question,” but not telling others their questions are good, too.  Just answer the question.

2.  Don’t allow one person to ask all the questions.  Simply say, “Many others have questions.  I’ll get back to you if there is time.”

3.  Avoid answering with such phrases as “Well, obviously…” or “As I said in my talk…”  these are all put-down phrases.

4.  Don’t use negative body language.  Don’t put your hands on your hips while you are listening to the question or answering, or fold your arms over your chest.

5.  Don’t point one finger at your audience while you’re speaking.  That’s a scolding pose and it makes you seem “preachy.”

6.  Avoid “off-the-record” statements.

7.  Never hedge or avoid answering a question.  Give them a straight answer.

8.  Don’t argue with the questioner.  If he or she persists, offer to discuss the question with the person after the meeting.

9.  Don’t get down to the level of a nasty questioner.  Usually other salespeople will take care of a rude questioner if you remain the “good guy.”

By following these Dos and Don’t s you’ll be able to manage the group’s need for information without getting sidetracked into unproductive  topics or discussions. When conducting question and answer sessions your role is to encourage questions and to provide helpful and productive answers.


Sales Training Guidelines

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your sales training use these simple but powerful guidelines.

Managers who view training sessions as merely a series of skill and product training exercises will fall short of providing a sales training guidelineswell-rounded training experience.  Salespeople also need feedback on how they’re doing, measures of adequate and maximum performance, and persuading that they’ll benefit from it all in the long run.  In fact, every training session should be structured so as to answer the following six questions for Salespeople:

  • What am I supposed to do?
  • How is the job supposed to be done for maximum effectiveness?
  • What is acceptable performance?
  • How well am I doing?
  • How can I do better?
  • What’s in it for me if I do?

We, therefore, recommend that you follow the Seven-Step Sales Training Model outlined below.

                                    SEVEN-STEP SALES TRAINING MODEL

1.   Explain. Tell Salespeople what will be covered, how it is to be done and why.

2.   Ask. Have them describe their understanding of what will be covered.  Remember, if they   can’t tell you, they don’t know.

3.   Demonstrate. Provide a “model” showing proper technique.

4.   Observe. Allow them to try out the same behavior (either in a simulated or real situation.

5.   Feedback. Give them meaningful feedback to reinforce the positive and identify areas they need further improvement.

6.   Plan. Engage them in a planning process that outlines the specifics of how and when they will practice and apply the new behaviors.

7.   Follow-up. Always review the results of their development activities.  Use the Results to adjust future training activities.

These guidelines are simple, practical and proven. Make sure that you incorporate them into your sales training efforts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how your salespeople respond and more importantly how they perform.

Sales Training:Six Tips for Success

sales trainingWill your next sales training event get rave reviews or be panned by a group of disappointed salespeople? Delivering successful sales training requires careful planning and preparation.The six tips described below will help make sure that you cover all the bases needed to succeed.

1. Assess Needs

The key to successful sales training is not just doing things right, but doing the right things. Training events should address an area where there is room to improve and where improvement will result in a payoff for the participant. Conducting a needs assessment prior to training ensures that your training is relevant and needed.

You can assess needs informally or formally. The key is to avoid designing training in a vacuum.

2. Establish Learning Objectives

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” This saying is particularly true for sales training events. Objectives help focus the participant and the trainer on achieving specific results. When determining learning objectives, remember that they should closely reflect the expected behavior participants do on the job.

3. Select the Appropriate Activities

Based on the experience and learning styles of the participants and on your own comfort with the material choose activities that best match your learning objectives. Select several types of activities to make sure you have variety and that you address all learning styles.

4. Develop An Agenda

Whether you are planning a one-hour training event or one that lasts three days, your event will benefit from a well-thought-out agenda. When developing your agenda, make sure you allow adequate time for each activity or topic, especially those with the highest priority. Also, sequence the activities logically and with consideration for how each activity relates to each other.

5. Make Arrangements for the Training Event

Successful sales training events, like successful sales calls, require adequate planning, preparation, and follow-up. Make sure you include the following in your preparation:

• Prepare Materials. Prepare all classroom materials (handouts, review sheets, etc.) in advance.

• Check the Equipment. If you need equipment such as flip charts, projector, lap top etc., make sure they are properly set up and working before the meeting begins.

• Check the Room. Check the room to make sure that particulars such as seating arrangements, lighting, room temperature, etc., all meet your requirements.

• Include Breaks. If your meeting agenda is more than a few hours, be sure to schedule adequate breaks. Remember: “The mind can absorb what the rear-end can endure.”

• Don’t Forget To Use Energizers. For longer programs, don’t forget to include energizers that involve physical movement. Consider using them after long sessions or before changing from one major topic to another.

• Plan The Evaluation. Determine how you’re going to evaluate the session. This can range from class evaluations to on-the job assignments. Decide before you conduct the training and tell the group why it’s important and how they will use the information.

• Prepare Yourself. Every training event is really three entities:the one you prepare, the one you deliver, and the one you evaluate when it’s over. The more you prepare, the better the other two entities are.

6. The Ultimate Test

The last and most important test for any training is, “Does it help salespeople make more sales?”

Depending upon your sales cycle, it may take several months before the results of this evaluation are in. However, bottom-line results are a powerful tool for motivating salespeople to change behavior, because they show a direct link between the training and enhanced results. An even stronger and immediate reinforcement for applying new skills is rewarding salespeople. Use intangible rewards (e.g., feedback, praise, recognition, etc.) or tangible (e.g., contests, prizes, rewards, etc.). The key is providing rewards that are meaningful to your people. Remember, well-planned, concerted effort to reinforce and reward participants for their efforts is your best opportunity to cultivate the behaviors you want participants to show in the long-term.

To make sure your next training event is well received and produces the expected results use the six steps outlined above.

For more information on successful sales training go to:


Why Sales Training Fails

Many sales executive wonder why sales training fails to get results. Unfortunately, many sales managers and trainers spend time  and effort doing sales training that never deliver bottom line results. We’ll explore  the twelve most common reasons why sales training fails and what to do to avoid  them. The twelve reasonswhy sales training fails are:

1. No support. Training is not linked to top management’s mission, goals and  priorities.

2. No need. Salespeople do not see a reason to change or don’t feel a need  for the training.

3. No Relevance. Salespeople feel the concepts or materials don’t apply to  their situation or territory.

4. Distractions. Salespeople are so preoccupied with events outside of the  training (i.e. making budget, handling a customer complaint, etc.) that they  can’t focus on the training itself.

5. Poor planning. The training isn’t organized and time and resources are  poorly used..

6. No Involvement. Training relies on lecture and other passive learning  methodologies.

7. No confidence. Salespeople don’t develop enough confidence during the  training to try the new approach on the job.

8. No role model. Managers fail to provide a positive role model for the  skills and concepts presented. The message is, “do as I say, not as I do.

9. No reward. Salespeople don’t receive any positive reinforcement or payoff  for trying new approaches.

10.No coaching. Salespeople don’t receive coaching on how to handle specific  on-the-job situations.

11.No feedback. Salespeople don’t receive feedback about how their efforts  impact the result.

12.Task Interference. Salespeople encounter barriers, including lack of time,  physical environment, resources, policies and lack of authority as they attempt  to use new skills.

Keep these twelve reasons in mind as you prepare for a training event. You  can avoid most, if not all with proper planning, preparation, and follow  through. For more information on onboarding new salespeople go to:trainingwinnersnow

Creative Risk Taking Strategies for Sales Success

creative risk taking strategies Because today’s marketplace offers an abundance of the unknown, it’s important to develop creative risk taking strategies. This means you must become a creative risk taker and learn to “play to win” not “play not to lose”.

Although Creative Risk Takers play to win, they know that success is never permanent and failure never fatal.  They seldom see failure as something from which we cannot recover.  They are self-directed enough to tolerate rejection and take responsibility for their actions.  Creative Risk Takers also tend to control the odds with their creative risk taking strategies.  They set limits on their losses, not risking more than they can afford to lose.  Creative Risk Takers are also realistic in appraising people and circumstances, including themselves.

The first step in becoming a more creative risk taker is to expand your comfort zone.  Draw on your
existing skills, interests and experience to put yourself in new situations where your chance of success are good and changes of failure are modest.

The following eight strategies are designed to assist you in moving towards a greater level of creative risk taking regardless of your normal risk taking style.

  1. Diagnose the unwritten rules of the organization. Understand how things really get done.
  2. Determine the tolerable limits of your own personal risk taking. What’s your normal comfort level?
  3. Build a power base before acting.  Become a critical technical resource or become more connected to the power
    network in the organization. 
  4. Know when to admit defeat and cut losses. Beware of a preference for avoiding risk.
  5. Take short-term losses for long-term gains. Tell the customer the truth or lose face if necessary to preserve the relationship.
  6. Observe the obvious.  Confronting assumptions often prevents disasters even though it may cause some immediate pain.
  7. Break rules to get the job done.  Breaking the spirit of an organization’s policy should be approached very carefully.
  8. Never risk more than you or your company can afford to lose.

What else do you need to know to develop creative risk taking strategies? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below.

Sales Training for Improving Sales Performance

improving sales performanceImproving sales performance is an ongoing challenge for sales executives and business owners. One tool available for accomplishing this goal is sales training. Sales training is an option if you need to change salespeople’s behavior or improve their skills. Ultimately, sales training must produce good performance to be worth the time and resources it takes to  accomplish.  Salespeople are successful if they do most of the right things most of the time.  Think of the 50%-70%-90% rule.

  • 50%ers People who perform only 50% of the right things 50% of the time are average to below
    average salespeople.  Their performance suffers because they consistently fail to take many of the steps necessary to be successful.  50%ers are either people who haven’t learned what to do, or experienced people who lack the motivation to do what they know how to do.
  • 70%ers People who perform only 70% of the right things 70% of the time are average to above average salespeople.  These salespeople use most of the skills most of the time, but they periodically skip a step or take short cuts.  During short periods of time, they may perform like top performers. But, in the long run, they skip enough steps to prevent them from rising to the top.
  • 90%ers People who perform 90% of the right things 90% of the time are top performing salespeople.  They attain uniformly high
    performance because they consistently apply the skills without skipping steps.

Your role as trainer/manager, is to identify and then to train and reinforce salespeople to do the right things more frequently.
This will lead them to do the right things more effectively.  Perhaps, improving sales performance in the long-term is the hardest part of the training process.  You must become aware of the importance that recognizing and rewarding good performance plays in building self-confidence and motivating salespeople to reach higher levels of effectiveness.  Practice the following simple guidelines for enhancing post-training performance through positive reinforcement:

  1. Give positive reinforcement in a timely manner, as close to the performance as possible.
  2. Give recognition that is meaningful to the salesperson.  Giving recognition that is not meaningful or that may even be viewed as a punishment by the salesperson will decrease performance.
  3. Be specific by pinpointing the exact behavior that you want to reinforce and explaining how the behavior benefits the salesperson.
  4. Don’t wait for outstanding performance before you recognize a salesperson.  Recognizing even small improvements will
    encourage salespeople to continue their efforts.  This is particularly important with new salespeople and your poor performers.
  5. Be honest and accurate.  Don’t use superlatives all the time or salespeople may view your efforts as insincere.

Training rarely produces long term performance impact unless it leads to changes in the salesperson’s behavior. This requires practice, reinforcement and commitment. If your goal is improving sales performance you must make a commitment to training.