"It's all about coaching the sales team."
So it's come down from atop Mt. Olympus that the organization is going to invest in "coaching" the sales teams to success.
Books are purchased, classes are formed, box lunches are delivered.
And during the training, the following example is used:
Exercise Five - So you watch a rep have a good phone call with a prospect that secures an in-person meeting. Here's an example of how to coach your rep to further success:
"Hey Bill that was a really good call. I do have a recommendation if you're open to it? Ok - I think we need to get the customer talking more than we are - remember the 80/20 rule? Great. So my recommendation is to ask more questions to get the client talking more - what do you think? Awesome. I'll shoot you an email with some tips on how to craft impactful questions that will move the conversation forward. Try using them in the future. Great job."
Let's forget for the moment that Bill actually got the meeting (fixing non-broken things and all that) and that "recommending to ask more questions" is about novel as Skippy on Wonder Bread.
What I want to know is when did "telling" someone to do something become "coaching?"
Let's look at what a real coach does. When I was in school, back in the early 80s, I played football. Not high school – junior high...because by the mid-late 80s in high school, for some reason, I came to the conclusion that joining the Debate and Drama Clubs were the best ways to become popular with the ladies. Great decision making there...
So since I couldn't run very fast or throw very well and had almost no natural athletic ability I was made an offensive guard.
I had one job - protect the person with the ball.
My coach's job, aside from teaching both PE and Science (?) during the day, was to spend 4 evenings a week teaching a bunch of gangly teenage boys when to block straight ahead and when to "pull" for a "trap", "sweep" or "screen."
Now during practice, after 11 comically awkward helmets with feet bumbled through a play, with me missing a key block (of course), the coach didn't just say "Hey Derek, great job. I have a recommendation if you're willing to hear it? Awesome - On the next play, try blocking straight ahead."
What really happened was after verbally releasing a string of what those in the cartoon world call $%#@!%@!, my coach got in a three-point-stance himself showed me what to do - with me playing the part of the opposing player I was supposed to block.
He showed me where my shoulders should be, the correct position of my head, how to use my arms and how to place my feet. He showed me where I should be looking and where I shouldn't.
Then he asked me to come at him half-speed and then he blocked me.
Then, once he felt he had gotten it through "that dark matter [I] call a brain" (actual quote), he had me run through the motions of the play as an offensive guard at half-speed, then faster, then at full speed. Over and over again. And at the end of the practice (after I did extra wind sprints) he gave me a sheet of paper with Xs and Os on it to commit to memory.
Notice a difference?
Here's some metrics for you sales managers out there: It's a fact that 115 of the 125 Football Bowl Subdivision-era (FBS-era) head coaches in 2013 played college football. That’s 92 percent.
It's also a fact that the last time a college team captured a national championship with a head coach that did not play college football was in 1927.
As a player all those years ago, I listened to my coach because I believed that he believed in what he was showing me - because he had done it himself.
Yes he told me what I did wrong (albeit too colorfully for the modern workspace) but he also SHOWED ME HOW TO DO IT RIGHT.
Would you join a gym where the lead trainer had a waistline that had its own gravity?
Would you buy a car from a guy that drove a rusty 1978 Pinto?
Then why would your sales people accept "coaching" from a sales manager that can't SHOW them how to sell?
Want to coach your teams? You have to get in a three point stance. Here's how I would coach that rep in the example.
"Hey Bill great job getting the meeting. Who's the guy on your call list who won't meet with you? Ok, let's roll play a bit - you be him and I'll be you. Throw every objection he's ever throw at you at me. I have some experience in getting the same type of customer buy-in you just got but with harder to sell customers. We'll write down the stuff that works then we're reverse roles. Once we feel good about how you're handling me in the role play, we'll call this guy up and get a meeting"
Every sales rep that has received this type of coaching from me has appreciated it and they've become better sales people because of it.
Many sales “coaching” methodologies train sales managers to ask questions to have the rep come up with the answer themselves. If my football coach did that in 1984, I’d still be on that practice field.
If you're uncomfortable with this “show me” approach, I'm not going to say there's possibility you became a sales manager to hide behind a spreadsheet and CRM metrics. I'm not going to say that because your staff probably already has.
Let's be real here.
I've been in a lot of sales training meetings where the person at the front of the room does their best Coach Taylor impression "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."
But coaching in the real world isn't the Hollywood version - the rousing speech in the locker room is dramatic license. I know because I took drama in high-school - ZING!
Coaching is the methodical practice of teaching and training an individual or team to accomplish goals through the use of observation, critique, suggestion, example, repetition and reinforcement.
If all you're doing is critiquing and suggesting, you're not coaching - no matter what the corporate trainer says.
If you want to manage to metrics - then do that. If you want to coach, do that. But don't call one the other. While you may be checking a box for training you’re not fooling (or coaching) anyone - especially your team.
So what do you think? Am an off base or on the right stack of mail? Let me know.