Commentary & Analysis
Selling Is Everyone's Business--Including Yours
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 11, 2007
--- Special Feature Selling Is Everyone's Business--Including Yours Six Tips for Becoming a Super Sales Coach and a Valuable Employee by Dottie DeHart April 11, 2007 -- Want to make yourself valuable at work? Learn to sell, sell, sell. Want to make yourself indispensable? Teach and coach others to sell, sell, sell--and sell some more. That's right. Nothing is more important to a company than bringing in revenue, and no one brings in the revenue like a good sales coach. Become the best one you can possibly be and you'll always have a place in 21st century Corporate America. Steve Johnson and Adam Shaivitz, colleagues at consulting firm The Next Level, know that true career security (not just job security) awaits those who have the ability to develop the skills of the men and women who bring in the bucks. Their book, Selling Is Everyone's Business: What It Takes to Create a Great Salesperson, is for visionary executives and sales leaders who want to do precisely that. The challenge is that for most, coaching is a vague, intangible, and nebulous concept. The book is a practical, readable, and fun guide to finding and nurturing your inner sales coach. Based on the authors' experience working with thousands of sales teams and sales coaches, Selling Is Everyone's Business is deeply credible. Its format--packed with dialogue scripts, charts, templates, and colorful real-life examples--will reassure you that great sales coaching is a very learnable skill. "Organizations know that the quickest way to improve their salespeople is to improve their sales coaches because the coaches have the most leverage--when a sales coach improves, her salespeople improve," write Johnson and Shaivitz. "The challenge is that for most, coaching is a vague, intangible, and nebulous concept. So like other challenging topics, there are a lot of theories out there, but few proven-effective best practices. This guide makes coaching specific and tangible, and puts it into a simple format that can be most easily executed." Here are just a few tips from the book: Understand the difference between a boss and a coach. In which category does your management style put you? * A boss drives his people; a coach leads them. * A boss depends on authority; a coach depends on goodwill. * A boss inspires fear; a coach inspires enthusiasm. * A boss uses people; a coach develops them. * A boss lets his people know where he stands; a coach lets his people know where they stand. * A boss takes the credit; a coach gives it. Make sure you're creating good habits in your salespeople--not just measuring the numbers. Yes, good sales numbers can be an indicator that a salesperson is following proven procedures and doing the action steps you've given them. But they could simply indicate a streak of good luck. That's why Johnson and Shaivitz dedicate so much ink to helping you create systems for ensuring your salespeople are developing and perfecting the right sales habits. For example, regular goal-setting meetings (GSMs)--in which coach and salesperson meet one-on-one to review performance from the previous period and commit to a game plan and short-term action steps for the upcoming period--help you keep an eye on what your salespeople are doing consistently. Good habits will carry your sales people through the hard times as well as the easy times. Good habits will carry your sales people through the hard times as well as the easy times. Demonstrate to establish "street cred." Step two in the five-step training process (Explain, Demonstrate, Practice, Observe, Feedback) is critical. A strong demonstration is a great opportunity for the coach to build credibility with her people. Establishing this "street cred" is essential in opening the lines of communication and successfully tees up future training opportunities. In other words, if salespeople see their coach in action and think, "She's really good at this stuff. I'd like to be as good as her one day," they become open to feedback and training from the coach moving forward. Regularly follow up with these three magic words: "How's it going?" The best coaches spontaneously and regularly follow up with their salespeople by asking "How's it going?" to check the status of goals, action steps, and skill areas. "Deciding to use this question as a conversation starter did not come to us after reading a study by Harvard and MIT," write the authors. "Rather, after watching thousands of coaches follow up with their people, we've found the 'How's it going?' approach to be the most effective. The way it works best is when coaches ask, 'How's it going so far on your goal to ___________?' Then the next two questions are also quite helpful: 'What's working for you so far?' 'What's not working for you?' This basic three-question, open-ended approach will yield the coach plenty of helpful data." After watching thousands of coaches follow up with their people, we've found the 'How's it going?' approach to be the most effective. Coach top performers, too. There is a myth in many sales organizations that sales coaches should just leave top performers alone and let them do their thing. Coaches should be careful, because often "their thing" could become staying put and performing only until another sales coach from a competitor or headhunter contacts them and shows them greener pastures. Obviously a coach's approach and time spent with a top performer will differ from the way he works with a green bean or mediocre performer, but everyone needs love and attention. Often top performing salespeople can be the most open to sincere constructive feedback because they know how hard it is to perform, and since they probably already have a solid sales process, they can easily incorporate new ideas to their existing approach. Keep a public scoreboard. A scoreboard that keeps track of your sales team's performance, updated weekly during your sales meeting, can be very motivating. The top 20 percent likes being in the top spot and wants to stay there. The middle 60 percent aspires to copy top performers' aggressive goals and best practices. The bottom 20 percent quickly decides whether they are going to move up--or out. Johnson and Shaivitz, whose consulting firm works with the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team's sales organization, see the same dynamics played out as those that occur during their client's games. "The fans at the game are analogous to all the other salespeople at the meeting," they write. "When one person puts his numbers on the board, the team members will either cheer with praise or respond less positively if the numbers are not great, in the same way that the fans boo. The coach on the court plays the same role as the sales coach in the meeting. As she looks at the results on the scoreboard, she strategizes and plans tactics for the entire team as well as for individual participants." It is a myth that sales coaches should leave top performers alone to 'do their thing.' Top performing salespeople are often the most open to sincere constructive feedback. Admittedly, becoming an effective sales coach is no walk in the park. This is true even if you're already the best salesperson in the world: moving from "selling" to "coaching" requires developing a whole new set of skills and is always a challenge. But it's one that's well worth the effort. Polish up your own sales coaching skills--and implement a sales coaching program in your company--and you'll see your company's economic picture become brighter and brighter. You'll develop an unshakeable sense of confidence. And you'll almost certainly notice your work life becoming a lot more rewarding. "It is possible to go to work every day and not feel anxious about your future employment," says Johnson. "Frankly, the ability to help others become great salespeople is a skill that can be developed. It allows you to shape your own destiny. So mastering the art and science of sales coaching is not only a pathway to prosperity but to peace of mind. And there is no substitute for that."