When asked, most sales managers in the financial services industry say that the one activity they want to be able to do better…or do at all…is to COACH and do it effectively. As we have seen in the last two articles in this series, coaching cannot be accomplished efficiently or effectively without first establishing skill standards and measuring producers against those standards (BENCHMARKING) and then diagnosing improvements and regression through a combination of observation and assessment (EVALUATION & DIAGNOSIS). COACHING then becomes one of the tools used to enhance the skills of the sales professional.
Notice above that we say, “enhance the SKILLS.” Often, the one-on-one discussion between manager and producer, as well as in a group “sales meeting,” focuses on DEAL management, not on SKILL development. Don’t misunderstand – deal management is necessary and is truly a skill in itself. However, to develop leverageable skills, a manager’s input needs to be directly focused on the requisite skills of Prospecting, Planning, Discovery Questioning, Doubt-Raising Questioning, Positioning, Objection Conversion, and Gaining Commitment. By so doing, the TEACHING and COACHING will isolate the specific tactic so it then can be integrated back into the holistic activity of Selling.
TEACHING is more basic than Coaching. It implies that the recipient is less knowledgeable and, by definition, less capable of performing the requisite activity. It is somewhat similar to handing someone a rake and telling them to rake a yard. It may be clear to the listener, but the desired result may seem somewhat hazy to the listener. Novices require more of the philosophy behind the strategy and tactics, while more advanced professionals have a better sense of what is required because of observation and their own personal implementation. However, when repeated mistakes are made in applying one or more of these skills, the manager must resort to going back to the basics of ”blocking and tackling” (to draw the common parallel to football).
COACHING involves more hands-on mentoring than does teaching. It usually requires refinement of skill sets and modifying tactics at the margin. The similarity can be drawn in two ways. First, to be parallel with the raking analogy, coaching is more showing someone how to perform a tactic than to tell. Another parallel is the sideline discussion between a coach and the quarterback of a football team immediately before kickoff or at a critical point in the game. The teaching and planning have taken place and now the discussion is simply focusing on the details of execution. If the “wheels come off,” they may have to resort to some “back to basics” teaching in subsequent days.
DELAGATING is a further advancement of the LEADERSHIP or MENTORING process applied by the manager/leader. It is especially valuable in a sales meeting context. An advanced producer might be called on to teach, coach, or lead a discussion about an aspect of the selling process. In this role, he/she probably will learn more than the other participants because of the preparation required to lead. This action accomplishes a number of valuable things. First, the teacher/coach gets better and builds credibility…if they do a good job. They have a better understanding of the manager’s role and also build skills that may lead to a leadership position in the future. And finally, it builds esprit-de-corps, giving less experienced producers a goal to shoot for as well as the benefit of learning from a more experienced professional.
MOTIVATING is a constant requirement of an effective leader. This strategy not only is one applied in a group context, but also, and even more difficult but important, is applied individually…and differently. Knowing how to do this individually drives us back to the Benchmarking activity. A good leader knows what behaviors each person tends toward, how they define success, and how they lead each person to achieve these goals in a manner parallel to the goals of the organization.
The above process is simple in the abstract…but not easy in the implementation. Effective LEADERSHIP does, however, require these strategies and tactics to be mastered. We will delve more into the process of delegating and motivating in subsequent articles.
Take stock of your own skills in the above areas. List your strengths and weaknesses. Tell us where you excel and where you still need some mentoring. We’d love to discuss these issues with you either by e-mail, on the phone, or in person. Get in touch with us.