IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WHAT YOU LEARNED ABOUT COACHING IS WRONG?

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1 » WHITE PAPER IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WHAT YOU LEARNED ABOUT COACHING IS WRONG? SOMETIMES DIFFERENT IS BETTER THE TRUTH ABOUT WHO TO COACH & HOW TO ASSESS THEIR PERFORMANCE Tom Stanfill, CEO ASLAN Training & Development

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction... 2 Mistake #1 - Developing The Wrong People... 3 Mistake #2 - Measuring Behaviors And Not Outcomes... 5 About The Author... 7 About ASLAN/Contact Information... 7 INTRODUCTION For much of the sales world, the notion that sales coaching is an essential ingredient in improving sales organizations is not up for debate. But while the debate about the necessity of sales coaching may be over, most sales leaders if they re honest will tell you that they barely have time to manage their sales teams and they just don t have time to coach. With that reality as the backdrop, I want to pose this question What if you could cut your coaching time in half and get better results? In our sixteen years of working with leading sales organization executives and front line managers, we ve identified what we consider to be the top two mistakes that hinder effective sales coaching mistakes that if avoided, will greatly simplify the sales coaching process and minimize the time it takes to effectively develop your reps.» Developing the Wrong People» Measuring Behaviors Instead of Outcomes 2

3 MISTAKE #1 DEVELOPING THE WRONG PEOPLE Who is responsible to improve sales effectiveness you or your rep? Obviously you are responsible for the overall results of your team but are you responsible for a rep s willingness to improve? Absolutely not. Here s a critical principle for effective sales coaching. If you grasp this, it will not only shift the primary burden of change to your reps but will ultimately save you countless hours of wasted time spent trying to develop the wrong people: Desire determines development. Change is difficult it takes work. When a rep doesn t have the desire to do the difficult work required to reach a new level of performance, sales coaching is futile. Desire, not talent or skill, is the only ticket required to enter a coaching session. The responsibility of the sales coach/ manager is to be prepared and available but if the rep is unwilling to put in the effort to improve, what s the point? And that means more than just going through the motions. If that s all that happens, change will never occur. They Seemed Like They Wanted to Change But you may be asking, How do I know if the rep is really willing to change? This is an important question and highlights a gap in most sales coaching sessions. It s not unlike a common gap we observe in sales conversations between reps and prospects. Think about this... why do most reps fail to surface a prospect s true objection or their barrier to moving forward? It s because they never create a clear fork in the road. They never attempt to gain a commitment that would cause the decision-maker to reveal his or her true intentions. The same is true for a coaching session. Results In a coaching session, the fork in the road is the assignment at the end of the coaching session the step that should be the conclusion of any coaching session a clear action plan that ensures the reps has a specific assignment to address a knowledge or skill gap. Unfortunately, most coaching sessions are little more than discussions about the previous call - with the manager offering a few tips and reminders on how to improve. While it is always helpful to review critical information, talking has very little impact on developing new skills and habits. For reps (or anyone for that matter) to change, they have to do. To learn to swing a golf club, I have to practice swinging a golf club. Talking about it simply won t help. It may help me choose the right club but it won t change the quality of my swing. Therefore, every coaching session should end with a clear plan to improve a developmental activity with an agreed upon completion date and a specific goal. By drawing a line in the sand what is required to improve, a rep s desire is determined. Attitude is irrelevant; their true willingness is exposed by their engagement in the assignment. This approach opens the door to a whole new way of thinking about where to invest your time. Assessing a rep s desire and embracing the idea that desire is a requirement for coaching, allows you to categorize your team members and develop an effective development strategy for each role. Let s look at the categories we recommend. High Low Independents Strategy: Protect culture & develop stretch goals Time: Low Detractors Strategy: Communicate specific short-term performance requirements (e.g. 3 months), focus on desire & protect culture Time: Low Low Four Categories Becoming a Strategic Coach To develop the most effective coaching strategy, we need to not only look at a rep s Desire to Change but also at another key component Results. Determining Results for our reps is fairly simple... based on the last six months (this number can change dramatically based on complexity of solution and sales cycle), where is your rep in relationship to their quota or sales goals? When these two measures Results and Desire to Change are combined, you will see that every rep on your team will fall into one of four Strategic Coaching Categories:» Independents - reps meeting or exceeding the required performance levels who show little or no desire to change.» Detractors - reps who have substandard performance and who lack the willingness to change.» Strivers - reps who have a strong desire to improve and grow, but are not meeting the required performance levels.» Achievers - reps who have a strong desire to improve and grow and are meeting or exceeding the required performance levels. Once the team is categorized into the four quadrants, you now can implement the appropriate strategy and determine where to spend your time. Achievers Strategy: Reward, retain & challenge (e.g. mentoring opportunities.) Time: Medium Strivers Strategy: Personal development plan, high touch, communicate performance requirements (e.g. 5 months) Time: High High Minimum level of results 3

4 Independents Since Independents are unwilling to follow a development plan, very little coaching time is required. They are meeting their performance requirements and don t want to change the way they go about selling, so your approach should be to shift your focus from developing (Coaching) to leading instilling a desire to achieve a higher level of performance. The agenda for your meetings should be to expose their need to change by discovering their desire to achieve more and connecting that desire with the skills needed to reach THEIR goal. Your approach is to clearly communicate your desire to work with them but until they exhibit a willingness to make the investment, why waste the time? (Additionally, by focusing on the reps who are motivated to grow (Strivers & Achievers), you may be able to raise the average level of performance for the entire team, upping the minimum acceptable level of performance for everyone. And by raising the bar, more will be required of the Independent to stay afloat (i.e., High tide raises all boats. ). Detractors This is a puzzling category of rep and probably the greatest drain on the manager s time and emotions - they aren t hitting their numbers and they don t want to change. Therefore, the time invested in the Detractor should be minimal (~5%). Like the Independent, your strategy is not to roll up your sleeves and work on skills but to focus on the barriers to change (Leading). It is important to note that when a manager shifts the responsibility of development to the rep and the rep feels the full weight of ownership, that alone may spark the desire to change. Secondly, it is important to be clear about the required level of performance (Managing). We simply communicate what needs to be achieved, the specific time frame, and the clear consequences if results don t rise to an acceptable level. Again, no coaching is offered until initiated by the rep. It is important to note that when a manager shifts the responsibility of development to the rep and the rep feels the full weight of ownership, that alone may spark the desire to change. When the tug-of-war ends and the manager Drops-the-Rope, the rep is left with a clear decision to grow or admit they are unwilling to change and remain stagnate. Faced with that realization, many will make the right decisions. But whether or not the desire to change ignites, you just freed up a tremendous amount of time to focus on reps who are enthusiastically open to help. Strivers This category of reps is where you will see the greatest return on your coaching investment and the greatest opportunity to enhance the overall performance of your team. They embrace the idea that they need to improve and are open to input and ideas for improvement. Therefore, this is where you spend the majority of your coaching efforts. Of course you still need to be clear about performance requirements, but a bit more grace should be granted if they are committed to the prescribed development plan. Achievers Second only to the Striver, managers should invest a considerable amount of time with the Achievers. These are the stars of the team who also have a desire to continually improve. Here the strategy should be to grow, challenge, and retain. They may not need the same amount of one-on-one development but unless you offer a path to growth, whether through you or another mentor, you will likely lose the Achiever. Aren t You Playing Favorites? Coaches that take this approach are often accused of inequitable treatment by reps and their superiors. Your response is simple. The decision not to work together was made by the rep and not you, the manager. You simply communicate, You are ready, willing, and able to meet at the driving range. Just let me know what time and I will be there. Do not be sucked back into to believing you own the development process. Remember only the rep holds the key to a coaching session. Secondly, you should still be willing to meet with the rep on a regular basis. Again, you just have a different focus. Instead of playing the role as a coach, your role is to manage and lead - to communicate the outcomes that need to be achieved and to double down on your efforts to ignite the desire to change. 4

5 MISTAKE #2 MEASURING BEHAVIORS & NOT OUTCOMES It s Not How You Hit the Ball But Where it Lands Successful managers have a very common sense approach to assessing a rep s ability to sell. They don t get overwhelmed or distracted by 50+ sales behaviors but zero in on the 5 to 8 simple outcomes that ultimately determine how well a rep can execute in the field. In other words, great sales managers have a different definition of competency than most. They measure competencies by CUSTOMER outcomes and NOT by looking at what the rep attempted to do (e.g., questions asked, communicated prescribed benefits, etc.). Let s consider a golf analogy. A golfer s success is based on a score (similar to a reps quota) but how do you measure the competencies they must possess that ultimately will determine that score? Some would say look at their short game that s a key competency. True, that s like saying prospecting is a core sales competency also true. But again, how do you measure that competency? The key is to break sales down into competencies that can be measured by a defined outcome. Let s go back to the golf analogy. What if we broke down the short game into three competencies: chipping, sand shots, and putting? Now it is a bit easier to define and measure the competency. I can easily measure putting by number of putts per round or sand shots by how close the ball consistently lands near the hole. It really DOESN T matter how they hold the putter or their stance - this is key. If they consistently have a low number of putts, as a coach, I don t have to get bogged down with all the elements that go into putting. As long as the desired outcome is achieved (i.e. the ball consistently goes in the cup with an acceptable number of putts), move on. Even if their total score is off, it is not due to a putting problem. On the other hand, if the putting number is high, then it makes sense to take a look at the elements of putting that may be causing the problem. Great managers define these as behaviors (i.e., stance, grip, alignment). This is the level at which development occurs. They zero in on the behaviors that affect the competency (or outcome). A sales example might be helpful. Let s say a manager wants to measure a rep s ability to build value in a solution. Should that manager first focus on the rep s ability to communicate benefits, identify barriers or handle objections? No. The manager will certainly look at those behaviors if needed but the key is to first look at Building Value the competency as a customer outcome. For example, the rep successfully built value IF the customer embraced recommendation and/or positively changed their opinion of the product/service/company and was willing to advance. If the rep achieved this outcome, they were successful. If they achieve this outcome consistently, they are competent at building value. The why or how really doesn t matter. But if they failed to achieve the desired outcome, then we focus on the 5 or 6 key behaviors that contribute to success in Building Value (e.g., communicating benefits vs. features, handling objections, delivery) and diagnose which behavior is causing the rep to miss the mark. Two major benefits with this approach... first, the manager is able to quickly narrow the focus to the root cause of the problem (vs. wasting time measuring 50+ sales behaviors on every call). And second, managers will eliminate arguments with reps who are achieving results but don t do it the company way. If they can consistently hit the ball 300 yards down the middle of the fairway with their putter, leave them alone. Identifying Behaviors Where Development Begins Once you see the correlation between Competencies and Behaviors, getting a basic understanding of what influences Behaviors will help you determine the optimum rep development strategy. So let s first take a look at the DNA of a behavior: 1. Talent - Required abilities that cannot be taught or are unable to be developed who you are 2. Skill - Teachable abilities that require time and practice to master what you are able to do. 3. Knowledge - Needed information to achieve goals what you need to know COMPETENCY TALENT SKILLS KNOWLEDGE Behaviors to Achieve Competency Desired Customer Outcome You can easily see how understanding whether the problem lies in a Talent, Skill or Knowledge gap (or combination) would drive your development approach. If you recognize a Talent gap, you ignore it and try to compensate with a higher level of skills or expertise (i.e., Knowledge). If the rep is 5 7 and will never posses the ability to dunk a basketball, you better work on their outside shooting skills. 5

6 If you recognize the gap in Competency is due to a lack of skill, then you go to work developing that ability (e.g., listening or questioning skills). But if a knowledge gap is the root cause of the performance problem (i.e., Competency), then the rep doesn t need to practice, they need to study. And studying doesn t require much of a manager s involvement. It typically only requires accountability. Once you have a firm grasp of how to accurately diagnose the Behavior gap, prescribing the most effective corresponding developmental activity becomes much more intuitive, building your credibility as a coach and more importantly, yielding tangible results from investing your time in developing your team. And, as a manager, time is a pretty scarce resource. SUMMATION Sales Coaching is a critical activity that contributes significantly to an organization s sales effectiveness. Recent studies continue to support the notion that going forward, organizations that develop effective sales coaching cultures will enjoy a competitive advantage in the marketplace over those that fail to address this area. TALENT SKILLS KNOWLEDGE DESCRIPTION Required abilities that cannot be taught or are unable to be developed who you are Teachable abilities that require time and practice to master what you do Needed information to achieve goals what you need to know STRATEGY Hire & Compensate - focus on skills, knowledge & productivity Observe & Develop Recent studies continue to support the notion that going forward, organizations that develop effective sales coaching cultures will enjoy a competitive advantage in the marketplace over those that fail to address this area. Test As sales organizations attempt to establish these coaching cultures, their primary barrier to success lies in the already over taxed schedules of front line sales managers who resist substantial investments in sales coaching based on a real or perceived lack of time. This time challenge is made worse by two common mistakes that are made in sales coaching organizations:» Investing equal amounts of time and effort in coaching all members of the sales team without regard to their level of receptivity to coaching or their overall performance.» Basing sales coaching assessments and developmental efforts on exhaustive lists of sales behaviors rather than a simpler list of sales competencies. Sales organizations that design their coaching process to avoid these common mistakes will enjoy an increase in coaching effectiveness with a decrease in coaching time invested. 6

7 ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tom Stanfill Founding Partner and CEO ABOUT TOM STANFILL ABOUT ASLAN Since 1996, in over 25 countries, ASLAN has focused on accelerating change within many of the world s largest sales organizations. Beyond the typical workshop, our solutions and expertise are focused on the four critical areas needed to ensure sustainable change:» Tactics Establishing the methods (i.e., processes), message and metrics that are consistent with high performing sales organizations» Rep Development Customized skill development programs for each of the 11 unique sales roles. Founding partner and Chief Executive Officer, Tom Stanfill has focused his 17 years of experience consulting and developing training programs for inside and field sales organizations. He is widely recognized as a thought leader in the field of account management, acquisition and growth. Tom has published numerous articles on the subject of selling and is a frequent speaker at the most prestigious industry shows.» Leadership Development Providing the tools and programs to ensure sales leaders transition from just measuring performance to truly driving change.» Road Map to Transformation Includes leadership certification, rep and manager development resources, & sales dashboard to track and measure the three areas that drive results Parkwood Circle Suite 810 Atlanta, GA

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