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In sales, debriefing takes place after a sales call. The salesperson is questioned to determine progress with the prospect and how the salesperson performed in the sales call.  As a manager, debriefing is also a tool for:

Coaching and education.  Your questions and discussions should uncover any instances in which the salesperson went off course or neglected an integral part of the sales process.  For example, how effectively did the salesperson set up-front contracts with the prospect?  How thoroughly did the salesperson identify the prospect’s needs and budget?  Did the salesperson end the sales call with a clear understanding of what would happen next?  The answers to these questions will give you critical information about the salesperson’s behavior, attitudes, and technique.

Gathering budget and planning data.  In order to do either long- or short-term business planning and strategizing, you must be able to determine the reality of the sales activity in your department.  Each sales call has the potential to become a sale, and you must judge which of those calls can be put in the salesperson’s and the department’s pipeline.  To develop reliable projections, you need to know the:

  • product or service required to fulfill the sale
  • gross volume of the sale
  • cost of the sale
  • activity that must occur before the sale.

That’s where debriefing comes in.  The salesperson should have gotten this information during the call, and you should be able to extract it from their report.  Take care to cull fact from the salesperson’s wishful thinking.

How to Conduct a Sales Call Debriefing.

All too often, what passes for a debriefing is little more than a casual, uninformative conversation on the fly between salesperson and sales manager.  You know how they go – you run into the salesperson in the hallway and ask, “By the way, what happened in your meeting the other day with ABC?”  The information exchange is limited to what the salesperson can remember off the cuff and what he/she wants to reveal.  In order to be effective, debriefing sessions must occur regularly and be well planned.  The following tips can help your debriefings be more informative:

  • Have a set time for the meeting and a format, and your salespeople must agree to “full disclosure” about events that occurred during the sales call.
  • Be prepared with questions and a knowledge of where the salesperson is in the sales process – and what information he/she should have and which objectives are accomplished.
  • Your lead question could be, “What happens next?”  This way, you can find out immediately what the outcome of the meeting was.  Also, it prompts the salesperson to give an objective account of the conclusion of the sales call, rather than a blow-by-blow retelling that may not be systematic or relevant.

You will find that conducting regular, systematic sales call debriefings will give you the information you need to manage your salespeople, not just their numbers!


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