Do you know what your people are doing in the field? Really? Are you sure? In my experience, unless managers are in the field observing and listening to what their people are doing, they have no clue. Sure, you can guess and hypothesize as to why, for example, some of the salespeople on your team aren’t making quota or selling more. But when managers finally take the time to observe their people in the trenches, the real truth is (sometimes painfully) apparent.
Granted, managers are often left in a state of shock when they see what their salespeople are and are not doing and saying when meeting with and presenting to their prospects and customers.
However, the upside is, managers now have a clear and valuable epiphany as to the real reason why their people aren’t closing more sales, what their salespeople have to do to change for the best and what the manager has to provide (additional coaching, training, resources, and so on) in order to help facilitate these necessary changes.
So what are some of the inherent challenges managers need to overcome when looking to make the shift and truly coach their sales team, especially when it comes to observing them in the field or on the job?
When dealing with employee challenges, while counterintuitive, managers must learn to respond with better questions to help people develop their own problem solving skills rather than viscerally firing off a solution.
When it comes to observation, especially today, we must get more tactical and prescriptive in our coaching as opposed to offering more generic and hollow advice. Managers need to observe exactly what their people are doing in the field, during a presentation, during a cold call and when managing an account.
Interestingly, observation is clearly one of the most critical responsibilities managers seem to be avoiding most and ironically the one that yields the greatest return regarding the payoff they’ll experience in relation to their time invested. So, why is there such resistance around engaging in this activity? While managers may complain that they ‘don’t have the time’ for this, the real cause of their reluctance has to do with the fact that they feel observation is really hard, even confrontational and uncomfortable at times, and it’s only difficult because most managers have never been shown how to do this correctly. The result; most simply don’t do it and if they do it’s more toxic than helpful.
Because in truth, managers are really not paying attention. When a manager is observing their people, most of the time they’re already viewing what they see in their mind’s eye, what they perceive is the right way and in turn, that’s what they’re listening for. In other words, they’re seeing how that person is not modeling the way they do it or the very directive and rigid way they want it done.
As a result, what the manager winds up doing is coaching to their own image rather than uncovering and co-creating new possibilities and identifying what is best for that person; all due to the rigidity in their thinking.
For example, when observing one of their salespeople make a cold call; after the person hangs up the phone, this is what I hear the manager say to that salesperson:
* Here’s what you did wrong.
* Why didn’t you do it this way?
Now, this certainly does not do anything to stimulate and atmosphere of open and healthy collaboration. First, the salesperson gets beaten up by the prospect they called on, then they get their second beating by their manager.
Managers are too focused on what their people are not doing or what is not working, instead of what is working and because of this, they don’t reinforce the positive behavior want their team to continue engaging in. We all know that most managers are real good at telling their team why they’re not good!
Instead of telling an employee what he or she did wrong, ask them the following questions the next time they deliver a presentation, make a call in to a client or make a cold call in an attempt to find new qualified prospects:
1. Okay tell me how you think you handled that call. What did you observe?
2. How did it feel delivering this presentation? What did you sense from your prospects/clients/audience you were delivering to?
3. What did you do well?
4. Where do you feel you got stuck?
5. What could you have done differently?
6. What do you need to improve or change in order to ensure your success the next time? Was there anything you feel was stepped over or needed to be addressed that was not?)
7. (When presenting with a team.) What else did you notice amongst your team? Any other observations that would help the team improve when presenting? (What they did well, what they need to improve and be mindful of the next time.)
8. What is your action plan/are the changes you plan to make for the next call so that you can achieve the results you want?
9. What’s the lesson here? What did you learn from this?
What you will find is that people will be more open to collaborating on a better solution and critiquing themselves because they are responding to solution-driven questions rather than being asked problem-focused questions that put them on the defensive. Further, you’ll be able to better uncover the gap either in their thinking or in their strategy and approach in order to provide them with the prescriptive guidance and a more specific solution they need to fill the chasm.