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Sunday, August 3, 2014

(SALES) Are You Building Them Up Or Beating Them Up?


Randy was my son?s baseball coach this season. The team is made up of 13- and 14-year-old boys. They are in a critical phase of their baseball education. They have the fundamentals, they know the game. At this point it?s about refining skills and reducing mistakes. At the end of the day it?s still a game and they should be enjoying their time on the field.

Randy is a self-proclaimed ?expert? regarding baseball. ?I know this game inside out and it?s so (expletive) frustrating that these kids just don?t get it.? Hardly a game went by this season where Randy?s wife didn?t run over to the bench, tell Randy to, ?Settle down, shut up, and let the boys play.? And very few games went by this season where at least one boy wouldn?t break down in tears after being verbally attacked by Randy for missing a ground ball, not catching a fly ball, or the one that always struck me as a no-win: ?Don?t stand there and watch the third strike cross the plate, if you?re going to go down, go down swinging. If a player did strike out, Randy would yell, ?What did you swing at that for?? Randy was not building up a team, he was beating them up for mistakes by yelling and swearing, all the while sucking the fun out of the game for these young boys.

Salespeople at all levels in their careers are going to make mistakes. I know I make my fair share of mistakes selling. As adults, oftentimes we know what we did wrong. We are embarrassed, humiliated, and feel really stupid. The last thing we need is the coach yelling from the sidelines, ?Why did you do that??

My mentor and friend Bill Mann would often tell me, ?Jeffrey, stop fighting your head. Shake it off, move on, and learn from it, and do it better the next time, I know you can.? It was that belief in me that built me up, even when I was down after making a stupid mistake or losing a sale. ?Shake it off? gave me permission to stop beating myself up, analyze what I had done wrong, and do it better the next time.

Training and coaching are both necessary, but what?s the difference? In his book The Accidental Sales Manager, Chris Lytle shares an easy-to-read chart that compares training to coaching. We?ve created a PDF of that Training vs Coaching chart and I would be happy to share it with you. Just shoot me an email request.

Every encounter with a seller is an opportunity for the manager to ?train? or ?coach.? Less-experienced sellers need more training, more advanced sellers need more coaching. Experts speculate up to 60 percent of salespeople never get any real coaching.

These lessons of coaching echo something Socrates said a long time ago, ?I can?t teach anybody anything. I can only get them to think.? It was this philosophy that has lead to our modern day standards of coaching. What most managers think is coaching, is actually ?teaching and telling.?

I?d like to share with you Chris?s rule of coaching. We call it the 7-question rule:

?When a sales person comes to your office with a problem, ask a minimum of 7 questions before providing an answer.?

Many managers balk at this and think they don?t have time to ask seven questions, it?s easier to just give the answer right away. While that may be quicker in the short term, you are actually conditioning your sellers to come to you to have you solve their problems rather than solving them on their own. This means you have a steady line at your door of sellers who are asking you, ?Got a minute??

Using the rule of seven, you challenge the seller to think on their own. More often than not, by asking seven questions you guide the seller to think and discover the answer for themselves. Guided discovery is the essence of coaching. Get your sellers to think. The more you require sellers to think their way through a problem on their own, the smaller the line at your door becomes.

As a new manager I used to pride myself in being the ?answer man? for my team. Sadly, this was ego based, and I simply wanted to be needed. If they could figure it out on their own, what did they need me for? By guiding your sellers to solve their own problems, you become a partner. You focus on larger, more strategic issues. You coach sellers to achieve higher levels of performance by guiding their discovery. You also have more time to provide the ?training? newer sellers need.

If Chris or I were coaching you on using the rule of seven, rather than just ?telling you to do it,? here is how we would model the behavior:

1. How do you feel about Socrates? assertion that you really can?t teach people anything?
2. Are there people on your staff you need to start coaching?
3. What might happen if you asked someone seven questions in a row?
4. Are you willing to try it?
5. What would keep you from trying it?
6. What can you do to ensure that it happens?
7. When will you start?

Baseball season is over for my son and so is Randy?s coaching. He may have ?known? baseball inside and out, but his method of sharing his knowledge (beating up) did more harm than good.

As a sales manager, you certainly have a solid base of knowledge and experience. You know what you?re doing, and I?ll bet you?re good at it. It?s my hope that by sharing the difference between training and coaching and helping you discover when to use them, will guide you down the path of building up your team to even greater success than they are having now.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach me at

Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

(7/30/2014 4:45:40 PM)
Thanks Barry! I'll try to find your presentation.
(7/30/2014 10:01:32 AM)
As a former GM, I agree completely. Go back and check the RAB for my 2005 workshop entitled "Drop Dead Management" presented at the annual sales seminar.

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