Don’t send them to a time management workshop; coach them!

Last week I conducted a workshop in Philadelphia for salespeople on how to improve their performance in prospecting. So let me walk you through a few ideas from the point of view of a workshop facilitator.

I began by asking the group two questions:  first, what skills or knowledge do you have to have in order to be good at prospecting, and second, what obstacles get in the way of your being better at it?  These questions are useful to begin any workshop for several reasons.  Let’s review these four facilitator tips:

1)      Discussion questions set the tone of the workshop. The learners are going to do the work.

2)      Sometimes you get great answers that help others learn something new, as when you ask the learners to share success stories.

3)      They give the facilitator a hint as to the level of sophistication, knowledge and performance of the group and thus allow for adjustments to the content, delivery and exercises.

4)      They “warm up” the participants, easing them into the content and helping them become more comfortable with each other.

The downside of group discussion questions is that no new content comes from the facilitator.  As my former boss Robert Hall once said, “No one learns anything from a pure facilitator.  The facilitator merely pools all the ignorance in the room.”

When I asked the second question regarding what gets in the way of prospecting, I got the expected answer “Time Management,” which I scribed on the flip chart along with the other responses.  I asked, “What do you mean when you say ‘time management’”?  This is the next facilitation tip:  don’t let learners answer in concepts.  Get a behavioral description.  When someone says they do something because it’s “more convenient,” always ask, “In what way is it more convenient?” 

In response to my question about the meaning of time management, what I got were a number of responses that I would classify as excuses:  too many administrative tasks we have to do, not enough hours in the day, etc.

Now here is where I made a bit of a faux pas.  I told the group that time management issues should be coached by the sales manager. If the salesperson doesn’t seem to be prioritizing his activities well enough to meet goals, it’s the sales manager’s job to talk it through and help guide him.  I concluded by saying that time management workshops are unnecessary if people are effectively coached.

I saw some smiles in the room, so I asked what was amusing.  I learned that my morning workshop was to be followed in the afternoon by a workshop on time management!  Oops.

I’ve attended these workshops and taught a few of them myself.  Here is the basic approach.  You get asked what you like to do on the job:  read your email, get a coffee, look at the Wall Street Journal, etc., and make a list of those tasks.  Then you are asked to stack rank them all in importance to your job.  Then everyone slaps their forehead and commits to going back to the job with a new sense of purpose.

As I was leaving my workshop, the facilitator who was about to conduct the time management workshop came in to get the room set up. I told her what I had done, and she was very gracious about it and agreed with me that it’s the coach’s job to help the salesperson.

Next time your salespeople tell you they need help with time management, don’t send them to a workshop for it.  Coach them!

Think Like Your Customer!

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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