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Sales Coaching is HARD Work

Sales Coaching is HARD Work

From the podcastResearch says that sales coaching is the #1 sales management activity that drives improvement in sales performance. Except…there’s not a uniform definition for what sales coaching is. That’s a big problem. Is it mentoring? Skills development? Deal coaching? Plus, if sales coaching has the potential to drive performance improvement, why don’t companies invest more in training sales managers how to do it?

As a sales manager in the pharmaceutical industry since 2006, this podcast caught my attention very quickly as the participants hit five key points right up front:

  1. Sales Coaching is a HARD Skill
  2. Most organizations don’t train Sales Managers to be GOOD Sales Coaches
  3. As a results, most sales managers are POOR coaches
  4. Effective Sales Coaching can boost Rep performance by 19%
  5. Good Sales Coaching is required for Good Sales Training to be effective

In my experience through the years, which was reinforced in this podcast, a sales rep will create habits based on a combination of 4 “teachers”:

  1. Peers
  2. Customers
  3. Managers/Coaches
  4. Training Classes  

Of those, the Training Classes have the shortest life span unless reinforced by a good Sales Coach. 

The Top Sales Reps in a company or industry can AND DO take time to coach and develop themselves.  This is a very small percentage of the total number of reps, because like most sales coaches, the majority of reps live day to day with very little focus or effort on improving their craft!  I’m amazed every time I ask my team and others a simple question: “What do you do, outside of what our company provides you, to sharpen your skill set as a salesperson?”  I typically get blank stares or a quickly made up or incoherent answer.  

Sadly, the same answer would come from most Sales Managers as well.  What are WE doing to improve our craft?  Do we coach to deals and sales, or do we coach to improvement of selling skills?  

The Covid Pandemic of 2020 has really exposed this challenge in my industry.  For decades, we stroll into an office, following protocol, get face time with a physician, engage in a conversation, and move on about our day.  We’ve been on “home assignment” since March 13 of this year, and we have had to learn an entire new sales approach – this software called “ZOOM.”  Instead of walking in, we are scheduling appointments, trying to learn how to best use it, teaching our customers how to use it, and finally figuring out how to engage in a meaningful conversation with our customers across a computer screen.  THIS TAKES EFFORT from the SALES REP AND from the SALES MANAGER!


Zoom Tuesday was an idea I had that defines what it means to be a “Sales Coach” in my book.  Knowing that we needed to internalize and understand how to utilize this tool, I had each member of my team schedule a zoom meeting with me, as if I were a customer, then conduct a full “role play” meeting with our shared resources and all.  While this took most of that Tuesday to pull off, we developed as a group a “process” that we still follow to this day.  

As the podcast references, we should be selling with a “process” that people can follow and that we can hold them accountable to follow.

The other focus of the podcast discussion is where we as Sales Coaches spend our time.  We should be spending at least 60% of our time with our reps coaching skill development.  Unfortunately, most Sales Coaches in large organizations like mine spend more time on Admin, Report generation, and responding to e-mail than they do coaching to the skill development of their teams.  The truth, as highlighted in this podcast, is that most organizations don’t spend enough time focusing on the development of coaching skills.  For better or worse, time is spent on tracking, administration, discussions, and meetings.  With that being said, I always have and will continue to look for ways to learn from others and improve my Coach/Leader skill set.  That typically means books, podcasts, and during Covid home time – LinkedIn Learning. 

To wrap this up, as a Sales Coach (and Leader), I get the most energy during the day when I spend time with my reps hearing them sell and coaching them to get better.  If my team of reps are following the “process” and have confidence in their abilities and take the time to develop relationships while selling, we will continue to put numbers on the scoreboard.  If you read much about the “process” as outlined by Football Coaches Nick Saban or Bill Belicheck, they don’t watch the scoreboard, they perfect their process.  If their teams do the right things, the scoreboard will take care of itself.

I’ll finish with this – a challenging final quote from this podcast, which I highly recommend you to listen to:

“If Sales Reps aren’t selling, what are they doing?”

“If Sales Coaches aren’t coaching, what are they doing?”

Andy Paul

Sales Enablement Podcast

Training Is Not the Answer!

Training Is Not the Answer!

Good Intentions will never take you anywhere you want to go!  Most people would rather “think about it” than “do it”

– John Maxwell

I heard this quote from John Maxwell during his “30 Day Journey” I recently completed via Right Now Media.  It seems to have been something intended for me, as I’ve been faced with this concept in many different conversations recently.  Maybe because this whole Covid-19 and working from home has given me the opportunity to take part in more training that I typically would.  This podcast from “Manager Tools” covers this subject head on.  The overarching quote I took away was this:

Training is not the answer…it’s only a means to an end, it is not the end in and of itself…as a manager, what you actually want is behavior change. – The Manager Tools Guys

The basic foundation of this podcast is that way too many people and organizations attend training to be trained…and they feel that attending and completing the course is the goal.  BEHAVIOR CHANGE is the goal.  As John Maxwell said, there are way too many people who would rather “think” than “do”.  I put myself in that camp as well!  I listen to podcasts, read books, watch YouTube, but do I really incorporate what I’m learning?  If not, why am I wasting my time on these “training opportunities?”

Here are some of the key concepts I took away from this podcast that I feel will benefit you as well:

  1. The purpose of training is to impart skills that you need to do your job at a high level…to be good at your job
  2. Most training programs don’t bridge the gap between “knowing” and “doing” and when it doesn’t achieve this goal, the training program is a waste of $$ and time because it doesn’t serve to improve skill
  3. A new skill that isn’t put into action isn’t a skill at all, it’s just knowledge – A “skill” is what you do, not what you know
  4. 80% of your skill building comes from “on the job” activity and learning…only 10% come from separate and stand alone “Training”…that’s why appropriate delegation is such as an important skill to leverage as a manager
  5. Knowledge by itself isn’t valuable…when it changes behavior that affects our ability to meet our goals it becomes valuable to an organization: You aren’t contributing to the performance of your organization by obtaining knowledge…it only becomes valuable if it makes you “better” at your role
  6. “Applied” knowledge is more valuable than knowledge: some people feel they are more valuable because of knowledge they’ve gained over time…your value comes from your ability to “apply” the knowledge on useful pursuits to the organization 
  7. If you want to change something, you need to MEASURE and REPORT OUT on it…that will cause behavior change!
  8. Training isn’t about the “going”, it is about the “changing” when you get back
  9. “Having”, “Knowing”, “Feeling”, and “Believing” are NOT Behaviors 
  10. We don’t get paid to do what we like, we get paid to be effective & productive: If you aren’t constantly pushing yourself to become more effective, you are dragging down the company’s overall performance and earnings! 

As my current director says often…”Activity is good, results are better!

Manager-Tools is one of my all time favorite podcasts, but I truly engaged with this one as I listened to it this week.  This one is worth the 40 minutes of your time…if for no other reason at about the 21:30 mark when he begins talking about how strong the job market is…it was at that time, little did we know that COVID-19 would destroy it only about 3 weeks later!!  Please listen to this one, but after you listen, APPLY what you’ve learned!!  

Book Review – Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Book Review – Five Dysfunctions of a Team

This is a book I read a few years ago, recommended by some co-workers. The author, Patrick Lencioni, is a writer of books on business management and is famous for this book, The Five Dysfunctions of a team. He is also the founder and president of the Table Group, a management consulting firm focused on organizational health.

This book is an easy read, and since it is a fable (fiction) story, you can really place yourself in the scenario and learn from the personalities described. You learn things that you can apply to the groups you have joined during your professional and personal career. Each of these layers has its own issues to work through, but the payoff is a team that is all rowing in the same direction.

Awesome video with an overview of the book – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The author, Pat Lencioni, doing a 30 minute talk with more real world examples affiliated with his book, the Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The above pyramid, the model described in the book, explains how one dysfunction leads to another and in the end, results in a negative morale of the team.
#1 Absence of Trust
Bottom of the pyramid is the absence of trust, when team members are unable to show their weakness, resulting in being reluctant to be vulnerable and being open with one another. The result is that Team members will be afraid of admitting their mistakes and won’t ask for help.
#2 Fear of Conflict
Resulting from a lack of trust is a fear of conflict, which in turn results in team members incapable of engaging in debates or openly voicing their opinions. A team that avoids conflicts produce inferior results.
#3 Lack of Commitment
Fear of conflict results in lack of commitment. When team members aren’t bought into the decisions, they aren’t committed, which results in an environment where ambiguity wins the day.
#4 Avoidance of Accountability
Lack of commitment results in team members not holding each other accountable.
#5 Inattention to Results
If the team members aren’t accountable, they put their own needs [ego, recognition, career development etc.] ahead of the team goals. This total loss of focus causes the company / division / team to suffer.

Addressing Dysfunctions
As the first step for addressing these dysfunctions, every team needs to understand that these dysfunctions exist. The leadership in the company needs to lead by example and set the tone for the whole team to overcome these dysfunctions. This means the leadership being the first one to be vulnerable, encouraging debate and conflict, making responsibilities and deadlines clear, setting the team’s standards, and being clear on the team’s outcome. It is important to understand that reaching consensus is not the goal, but making sure that everyone is being heard.

Ask these simple questions to understand the level of dysfunction you are facing:

  1. Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  2. Are team meetings compelling and productive?
  3. Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  4. Do team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  5. Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?

No team is perfect, but constantly work to ensure that the answers to the above questions are “yes”.

In that type of environment you can create a culture that will produce the results you desire!.

Managing E-Mail…Get to ZERO!!

Managing E-Mail…Get to ZERO!!

During this Covid “work from home” and Zoom immersion, we are all exposed to more than we typically see on a day to day basis!  The picture at the top of this post was from a Zoom I was recently on, and I saw this “inbox” # of e-mails.  It shocked me, but after I posted it, I got several more texts, pics of others inboxes with many more “unread” e-mails!  Maybe it’s because I try to follow the Manager-Tools guidance around handling e-mails, but I have a goal of having ZERO in my inbox or at least have it to a point where I see only 1 screen of e-mails.

Take the time to listen to these 4 podcasts that I’ve embedded below…it’s really worth the time investment!  An empty inbox really lessens that stress level!  And do you REALLY need all those advertisement e-mails?? 

Here are my Top 5 Key Take Aways from listening to these podcasts and how I now handle my e-mail “inbox”:

  1. Check your e-mail 3 times per day (AM, Mid-Day, PM) and clear it out!
  2. Process your inbox, don’t use it as a to do list
  3. We don’t “do e-mail”, we Communicate, and e-mail is a tool we use to communicate
  4. Expectations should be to read every e-mail within 24 hours, respond within 48 hours
  5. E-mail isn’t a replacement for actual conversations, and it’s not the best tool for URGENT communications

Visit the manager tools website for thousands of podasts!  They are one of my favorites to listen to while I drive around the Carolinas!

Book Review – Extreme Ownership

Book Review – Extreme Ownership

This is a good 12 minute review of 10 Key Take Aways from the Book

Jocko’s intense TED Talk about the concepts of Extreme Ownersip

A cool illustrative video of the Top Lessons in Extreme Ownership

It seems as if Extreme Ownership has been intended for me since the Fall of 2019!  We were given the book, which my son Nicholas already had and started reading over the summer, to read over Christmas Holidays.  We then discussed some of it at a 2020 Kick-Off meeting in early January.  At our national Managers Meeting in March, I was delighted to learn that Leif Babin, one of the co-authors, was actually going to speak live to us!  I just happened to be in the area at the right time and got a cool pic with him!  One of my co-workers and I also got one after he spoke to us live!

Now that we are in the midst of COVID-19 and staying home, Zoom meetings are all the rage…so our company set it up where we had 3 folk from Echelon Front speak to us on Zoom.  Jocko was on and spoke to us…and boy is that an intense man! 

Anyway, about the book…I would watch the three YouTube linked videos at the top, as it give you some insight about the book.  I would also HIGHLY RECOMMEND listening to the Audiobook on Audible, as having Jocko and Leif read it in THEIR VOICE is so much more powerful than me hearing it in my head voice!  

I won’t reiterate the key points, because you can find those in millions of places, as well as in the videos above.  What I will say is that I really found value in how the chapters were set up.  Each chapter had a Lesson which was illustrated by a story from their time in combat.  That was followed by a Principle that we should take away, and finally each chapter was concluded by an Application to Business.  They drove it home to how that Lesson could and should apply to ME in MY Business world.  That was important for me.

Obviously, I’m a fan of this book and took away some key concepts.  The key ones I found myself aligning to were:

  • Cover and Move
  • Check your Ego at the Door
  • Keep it Simple
  • Plan

Get the book and read it (or listen to it preferably)…you won’t regret it!