Coaching is NOT the filling of an empty bucket, but the lighting of a fire.

Copy:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tiihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Amazing? Sure is! But here’s the thing…..

Are you impressed with your ability to read this paragraph of seemingly misshapen words and made sense of it? Are you impressed with your achievement?

And, given all that ……

Do you need me to help you understand the deeper psychological rationale as to why this happens, in order for you to be impressed?

I’ll bet it’s the former.

So let’s put this idea into another context and see how it can improve your sales coaching.

During coaching workshop role-plays I notice that the managers playing the coach do a lot of telling and offering of solutions. At the debrief, when I ask, “why?” the response is typically along the lines that “I’m trying/ I need to get them to understand …”

Coaching, for these sales managers, centres on their ability to make the rep understand the issues (from the manager’s perspective) and accept the solution the manager has.

What underlies this attitude is the sales manager’s experience as a sales rep. So the sales manager has a huge amount of “been there and done that” experience that makes it easy for them to identify problems and to offer many solutions. Coaching to them is akin to “passing on my extensive wisdom.”

Interestingly, if this sounds like you, it may well be the reason that reaching your coaching outcomes is slower than you expect.

That is the need to “get them to understand,” coming as it does from the coach’s perspective, often drives the coaching discussion into a dead end. Why?

It all points back to the very hard-wired human behaviour called “a self-serving bias.” This is where people take personal responsibility for their successes, and attribute shortcomings and problems to others, or external conditions. And it looks like this:

Typically, your coaching centres on some aspect of “improving” a rep’s ability to sell. You note some “deficiencies” in a sales call and afterwards, you sit down with them thinking that your job is to get them to understand how important a certain aspect of good selling is.

I’ll bet, though, that many of your representatives think that their selling is just fine. It’s other people in the team who need help here, “you’ve seen me on a bad day”, “the customer must’ve been upset by something, they’re usually much nicer than that” or it’s the product manager not producing good visual aids or quality giveaways anymore, or it’s government policies, or the other companies that compete unfairly or throw more resources at their customers.

In getting them to understand, you often find yourselves talking about the theory and process of selling and winding up having a debate about the nuances of certain aspects of the selling process. It’s very easy to fall into the trap that coaching is passing on good advice. If only they’d understand that.

Rather, good coaching should focus not so much on the rep understanding your perspective as it does stimulating response and action from your understanding of their perspective.

Ask more questions, than give advice or tell solutions. Tap into the representative’s values and beliefs to increase the desire to improve.

Don’t be understandable. Be provocative.

Your representatives need to understand a lot less than you think.

Just as in your achievement at making sense of the first paragraph above, good coaching is provoking and helping your sales team get the kind of improved results that’s aligned to their values and beliefs, their goals and aspirations, and the company’s goals.

Good coaching occurs when representatives are asking,

“How do I get that?”

“Will this work for me?”

“Is that really possible?”

“Who else has done it?”

“How do I start?”

“How do I know it is working?”

Then, with that kind of motivation and desire to succeed, your help will be welcomed and requested.

Understanding will take care of itself.