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Nov 16 17

The Power Of “Yes, And…” In Coaching

by David Brock

Too few managers actively coach.  CSO Insights Data indicates the majority of manager spend less than 2 hours a week coaching—total!  Too often, what managers consider as coaching is actually very destructive.  It’s manifested in several ways:

The manager is constantly in tell mode.  The manager thinks he knows the situation better than the salesperson, rather than listening, understanding, and exploring; the manager starts telling.  They dictate actions the sales person should take.  “Go do this, then do that, then try this, and get back to me so I can tell you what to do next.  Each of us knows how badly we feel when our views aren’t heard and we are told what to do.  We are demoralized and unmotivated.  We go through the motions, after all, if they fail, it’s not our fault–we’re just doing what our managers told us to do, it’s their fault!  Alternatively we rebel, doing exactly the opposite, thinking, “I’ll show him how stupid he is.”  Whether it works or not, we create a terrible situation with our managers.  Inevitably, even if what we did works, the manager says, “Why didn’t you do what I told you to do?”

Alternatively, managers believe they are coaching by finding all the things we are doing wrong, highlighting how badly we’ve screwed up, but offering no suggestions other than, “You need to fix it or you are gone.”  Like the other type of manager, this type of manager is demoralizing.  They create work environments where people tend to keep their heads down so they stay out of trouble.

Then finally, there are those managers that think coaching is just about getting status updates.  Usually, they add no value, other than updating their knowledge of a situation so they can use it in their reports and analysis.  They seldom offer suggestions, or engage in conversation other than to elicit data they can plug into their spreadsheets.

None of these environments are healthy.  They don’t promote learning, growth, or improvement.  Inevitably, performance and morale suffer in these types of organizations.  They are probably further characterized by high turnover and consistent misses of goal attainment.

Effective coaching requires a completely different mind-set.  It requires a growth mind-set, focused on openness, learning and mutual growth.  It takes an attitude of understanding where a person is–both in strengths and weaknesses, and an orientation to build on that.

Rather than telling, criticizing, or only seeking data; effective coaches are actively engaged in understanding, learning, exploring and growing with their people.

These managers tend to take a “Yes, and……” approach in their discussions with their people.  They seek to build on and expand the perspectives and approaches their people are taking.  They ask probing questions, they ask open ended questions.  They provide relevant stories and examples that cause people to think differently, to consider new approaches.

When they must criticize, they do so knowing they have to help the person discover a more successful approach.

Their questions often start with, “What if……”  “Have you considered this….”  “What would happen if you looked at it this way….”  These questions provoke thinking, introspection, conversation.  Rather than leaving the person feeling defeated, they try to provide helpful alternatives.

Great coaching is tough, you can’t fake it.

But the pay back of great coaching is phenomenal.  It’s the highest leverage activity of anything we can do to drive the performance of our people.


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Nov 16 17

Effectiveness And Efficiency Are Not Natural, But They Are Learnable

by David Brock

Every organization continues to focus on how to drive the highest levels of performance.  Broadly, there are two primary areas that drive performance:  Effectiveness And Efficiency.

Effectiveness focuses on “Are we doing the right things with the right people at the right time?” A lot of sales training focuses on improving our effectiveness.  For example, are we engaging our customers in a way that’s relevant and impactful?  Are we chasing the right opportunities, qualifying them, executing our sales process well, are we maximizing our impact in each interaction with the customer, are we maximizing our share of account, are we creating value in every interaction with our customers?

Efficiency focuses on getting the most done in the least amount of time.  As we get more experience, we refine our approaches, understanding the things that are essential, eliminating a lot that’s not.  We leverage systems, tools, and technology to drive our efficiency.  We focus on velocity, sales cycle times, activity levels.  As we get more efficient, we ramp quantity to drive growth.

It’s important to recognize effectiveness must precede efficiency.  Efficiency doesn’t discriminate between great and bad execution, it just focuses on helping us do what we do in far less time.  As a result, if we have the potential of creating crap at the speed of light.

As we look at being more effective and efficient, we have to recognize these are not natural things.  They are actually the result of analysis, purposeful practice, and continued learning.

I think, at times, we make mistakes when we look at high performers, thinking their success comes naturally.  Every high performer I’ve met or studied has achieved their success as a result of constant learning, experimentation, and continued improvement.  All have experienced failures of varying degrees, learning from those failures and improving.

Effectiveness, efficiency, high performance are not natural.  Being effective and efficient, achieving the highest levels of performance are the result of constant learning, execution, and improvement.

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Nov 15 17

Sales Performance, It’s Not “Them”

by David Brock

Not long ago, I received a call from a frustrated executive.  I listened as he went through a litany of complaints about the sales team.  You can probably guess them:

  • They weren’t hitting their numbers, in fact they were missing by a long way.
  • They weren’t making quota.
  • Their win rates were abysmal.
  • Sales cycles were way too long.
  • Forecasts were terrible.
  • There was too much discounting.
  • There was a fair amount of turnover in the organization.
  • …..and the list went on….

I let him get everything off his chest, after he ran out of steam, I suggested, “Maybe it isn’t them…”

Over the phone I could almost see the flash of anger on his face.  He said, “Do you mean it’s me?  How can you possibly say that……”

I let him vent again, after he calmed down we started walking through the situation.  It wasn’t him, but he was part of the problem.

Too often, when we look at performance issues, we tend to assign blame to the individuals.  They are the wrong people, they aren’t doing what they should be doing, they don’t get it and any of the litany of complaints we have about them.

It may be the individuals, at least some of them, but when you see consistent performance challenges across the organization it is seldom just them.  More likely, the problems are the result of systemic issues in the organization or even with management.

Stated differently, when you start to see the same issues arising with more people in the organization, it’s usually not their own failings, but something else that may be impacting their abilities to produce the desired results.  It can be any number of reasons—sales process, training, systems/tools, market fit/knowledge, organizational impediments, and so forth.

When we start seeing systemic performance issues, we can’t fix them with the individuals, but instead we have to understand the root causes, identifying and fixing them.

Broadly speaking, there are generally two types of performance issues impacting the results we get–individual and organizational.  It’s actually pretty easy to distinguish these.

When we start seeing the same issues impacting larger numbers of our sales people, it’s not likely to be something specific to them, their skills or capabilities.

For example, we may see an individual with bad qualifying skills.  Generally, our approach is to start coaching that individual, improving their qualifying skills.   But if we start seeing the similar qualifying issues arising time after time, across many different sales people, there is usually something other than their qualifying skills that impact them.  Maybe we haven’t defined the Ideal Customer Profile well, or our people don’t understand how to use it in qualifying.  Maybe it’s changed and we need to refine it.

As you assess performance in the organization, start assessing patterns or commonalities in performance issues.  While you see the issues at an individual level, consistent performance challenges on key issues is seldom just a problem with the individual.  Make sure you are addressing the right issues to drive performance of the organization and each individual.



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