Two weeks ago in Vancouver, I gave the longest speech of my life: six hours! The goal was to teach some Allegra Network owners and reps the fine art of sales coaching. I must have been drunk when I accepted the gig because as I attempted to put some thoughts on paper, I drew a complete blank as to what I could possibly say for six friggin’ hours!
I accepted the speaking engagement back in July. I took the call while in Seattle, having just stepped off of a cruise to Alaska. Maybe it was the salmon martinis that caused me to say yes, but it quickly became apparent that I need to study what exactly I do for a living because it's one thing to coach sales people and quite another to teach others how to coach sales people. What I do comes so naturally to me that it’s like saying, “Teach me how to breathe.”
Sales managers are demanding and scary and knowledgeable and experts and sales demi-gods and...not always all that dang competent, but that’s another story. The managers that I have had, except for Al Pulito, have been short on experience and long on theory. They were results-driven and didn’t give a lot of people the warm fuzzies. Think: Sgt. Hulka in the movie “Stripes.”
Sales coaches are, well, um, er...how exactly do I describe what I do?
The night before the speech, I was having dinner with my friend Andre Berard (Canadian Xeroid) in Vancouver and the perfect differentiator hit me:
A sales manager asks, “What did you sell today?”
A sales coach asks, “What did you learn today?”
There you have it. I just saved you six hours. You’re welcome. You now know the primary difference between managing and coaching.
For the sales rep, this difference is huge. Think about it: The only way the rep will “do his/her job” in the eyes of the manager is if a sale is made. To the sales coach, however, "Attaboys" are handed out when sales knowledge is gained. That difference enables sales reps to be more focused and less stressed. No one wants to think, “Unless I sell something, I’m gone!” You don’t think the client can hear desperation in your voice?
Ok, sure, sure, the rep will absolutely HAVE TO sell something in order to keep his/her job and maybe the idea of coaching is a little too “Kumbaya” for some people out there, but as someone who has coached a few sales people in his day, I know firsthand the need for encouragement. The net-net of asking, “What did you learn today?” is that it promotes learning as a job requirement and acceptable outcome, especially for the young rep. I’d love to see managers learn this skill and take their collective foot off of the reps’ collective throat.
Then again, if they did, what would they need me for?
The speech went well. I talked about managing and coaching, time management, overcoming objections, and beating voice mail. Then, to fill the other 5 hours, I showed slides of my Alaska trip. I’m certain they’ll be inviting me back.Bill’s Sales Challenge program starts Oct. 6. Also, check out the Sales Prospecting Webinars coming up on Oct.r 13 and 27 at www.AspireFor.com