Yes, you can actually want too much for your salespeople and your clients, more than they, in fact, may be ready for or even want for themselves. Jake learned this lesson quickly as a new coach.
To this day, Jake’s unwavering commitment to every one of the salespeople on his team is to help them make the long-term changes they want and need in their careers.
When Jake first started coaching his salespeople, he made a personal commitment that he would not just be a sales coach but an exceptional coach that every salesperson in his company would call on first. And in the spirit of becoming this person, he put action behind this commitment. He carefully prepared, researched, and practiced prior to every coaching session he had with a salesperson.
“Coaches deliver value while challenging their clients to achieve more through the utilization and development of their natural skills and talents so they can live up to their fullest potential,” was Jake’s firm belief. He was insistent, practically obsessed, with the notion that his salespeople must walk away with measurable value from every interaction and coaching session they had with him.
This manifested itself in a variety of ways. For example, if salespeople were coming to Jake ready to review their targeted objectives, he challenged them to reconsider their goals and make them even loftier, encouraging them to reach for even bigger, more rewarding results. Or Jake might suggest that they identify a timeline in which they wanted to attain their goal or, better yet, shorten the timeline they initially developed for achieving this milestone.
If a salesperson was struggling to bring in an acceptable number of appointments each week through referrals and was considering putting together a cold-calling campaign, Jake would be right there, ready with the call template, opening statement, and process she needed to be effective at cold calling, including the number of dials she should start making today in order to achieve her sales goals.
Whatever objectives and goals his salespeople would have, Jake was ready to act as their primary source of support, encouragement, knowledge, structure, and insight needed to achieve what mattered most to them.
You name it and Jake was ready for every conceivable question, goal, or challenge his salespeople threw at him. And boy did he push and push, and then when he was finished pushing, he pushed some more. Just think about what happens when you keep pushing without gauging the resistance level. You get pushback.
But why should a coach sense pushback from a salesperson, when the salesperson was the one who set the goals in the first place? What Jake wasn’t aware of was the flaw in his strategy. Look at the word client. Now look at the word in the middle of the word. That’s right, you’ll notice the word lie. To be clear, Jake’s salespeople weren’t intentionally lying to him. It’s just that people often lie to themselves and believe the lies to be true.
These lies come in a variety of shapes and forms. For example, a lie could be an unwillingness to look at the truth, or a lack of awareness around the real issue. People can deceive themselves about the way they process information or may be unrealistic as to how fast they could move in order to reach a goal. In some cases, people don’t like the solution because it wasn’t what they expected or wanted, or they weren’t comfortable with it. This can cause pushback.
Sometimes salespeople won’t admit that they lack the skills they know are necessary to achieve their goals. They aren’t sure they can put in the time and effort to master the skills. This new awareness may cause resistance. Rather than pushing through and forging ahead without knowing all the facts, coaches need to take the salesperson’s pulse to avoid causing further damage.
To prevent forcing your agenda and expectations on those you coach, it’s critical that you find out what your salespeople’s expectations are from your coaching, the value they expect, and how they want to be coached.
Even though Jake’s salespeople were telling him they enjoyed and benefited from his coaching, he felt something was off. At the end of every coaching call, Jake felt like he’d just run a marathon. He was exhausted and deflated. His energy was all used up. Jake poured his heart and soul into every coaching call, believing this was what a coach was supposed to do. Not exactly.
As a new coach, Jake didn’t have enough experience to recognize that how he felt at the end of a coaching call was a telltale sign that something was indeed off. So he did what every new, intelligent, insightful coach would do. He called his mentor coach.
Here’s what Jake came to understand. Sometimes we want so much for our clients and staff to be happy, satisfied, and successful that we have a tendency to instill our own agenda into the coaching process. If it sounds similar to having an attachment, you’re correct. However, the attachment in this situation is about wanting more for your clients or employees than they want for themselves or are ready for.
Sure you’re committed to being a resource and delivering value to each of your salespeople, especially when coaching them. This is certainly the right mindset to have when coaching. However, the pendulum of extremities can swing even further. In this situation, you become so committed to delivering value when coaching your salespeople that you’re now making it about you and how much value you must deliver. In turn, the coaching call is now being driven by your agenda instead of an agenda created by the person you are coaching. It’s a subtle yet vital distinction.
In truth, the real measurement of value derived from the coaching relationship is determined by the person you are coaching and how that person defines value, not how you define it. While this may sound counterintuitive, you need to surrender your attachment to delivering value and let it be cocreated organically during each coaching session.
There is a big difference between being committed to your people and wanting to support them, and giving them more than they are ready for. An example could look like this. You may have a salesperson who is very content and satisfied making a yearly income of $150,000. However, you also have salespeople on your team making twice that much, which tells you that the opportunity exists for this salesperson to make an income of $300,000; it can be done because others are doing it. You may look at this salesperson as an underperformer, someone you feel you need to coach so he can be more successful and make more money. Or maybe you have your own sales goals to hit and this salesperson, although a consistent performer, could make your life easier if he just sold more.
This is a blind spot for many managers and executives. Maybe this salesperson is making more money each year than he ever thought possible or more than he thought he would ever make in a lifetime. Maybe he isn’t driven or motivated by money the way other salespeople are and feels content with his income without having to sacrifice his personal life. His career currently supports his lifestyle, gives him a personal sense of fulfillment, and enables him to contentedly achieve his goals.
In a different situation, you may discover that a goal one of your salespeople initially shared with you is no longer applicable. Sure it may have been a goal she thought she wanted at the time but when she explored what it would take to achieve that goal, she realized it wasn’t what she really wanted after all. Whether it had to do with the additional resources needed, time investment, skill development, realistic results, or what she would have to give up in pursuit of this dream, this salesperson now realized that abandoning the goal would be in her best interest. Having this realization during a coaching session is the real value that you have delivered. For her, it was a breakthrough regardless of whether you feel it was valuable enough.
Even though coaching is about stretching and challenging people to attain more than they would be able to on their own, sometimes what they can achieve, what they want to achieve, and what is in their best interest are in conflict with each other. Therefore, when coaching people, it is not always about what is possible, realistic, or attainable. Instead, it becomes more about what your employees want, what they need, and what is most aligned with their personal and professional vision. Subsequently, this determines the focus of your coaching and helps define the right priorities for them.
In other instances, some coaches are so driven to provide value that they often give the person they are coaching the answers prematurely or feel they have to jump in and fix something in order to demonstrate their value as a coach. Here’s an example. It is very common for me to have a coaching session with a client where I do nothing more than listen. Maybe I’ll ask the client two or three questions to drive the conversation forward, but that would be all the talking I would do during a 40-minute coaching session. The rest of the time is spent listening. Inevitably, at the end of the call I would hear, “Thanks for a great call! I got so much value from our time today. I really appreciate all the help you gave me.”
What did I actually do here? All I did was ask three questions and spend the majority of the session listening. As a new coach, it may be hard to believe that simply being a sounding board is a powerful part of the coaching process. Think about this concept for a moment. How many people do you have in your life that you can talk with openly and honestly and share your innermost thoughts, fears, and dreams without worrying whether you are going to be judged or evaluated? Some people are very fortunate to have friends and family members who can act as sounding boards. Yet, they too may have their own agenda. Keep in mind that sometimes all a person wants is to be listened to and understood.
Everyone needs a safe place to share what’s going on in their heads. In turn, they come to their own solutions or conclusions. Creating a safe place during a coaching conversation where your salespeople can talk openly and freely without feeling vulnerable is one of the most powerful coaching strategies. It promotes self-exploration and facilitates additional insight.
Just as your clients and staff will come to you with different goals, needs, problems, expectations, and objectives, every person you coach will move at a certain pace. Individuals will have their own ways that make them comfortable in which they process and internalize information as they travel down their path of personal discovery and achievement.
As a sales coach, you want to deliver value when working with your sales team. To do so, you must first establish what value means to them and what they are expecting from the coaching experience.
Align your coaching around the person’s goals and personality rather than trying to fit their goals and individuality into your style of coaching. If you don’t, you risk setting your salespeople up for failure. You may also find yourself passing judgment on the people you coach.
Keith Rosen is an executive sales coach, speaker, and best-selling author of many books, including Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions. He was named one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country by Inc. magazine and Fast Company. He can be contacted at 516-771-1444, firstname.lastname@example.org, or his Web site.