Fable Friday: How would you coach this poor performer?

A sales manager shared this problem in a seminar a couple of weeks ago.  “Phil is in his 50’s, been with us for well over 20 years and is one of my top salespeople.  He’s highly knowledgeable with all that experience and customers value his advice.  Up until this year he’s always blown through his goals.  Now this year he’s struggling. He’s a bit behind goal, but what’s worse, it’s hard to talk to him.”

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedThe manager had tried to have a coaching session with Phil, but it didn’t go so well. “I told him I wanted to talk with him about this year’s performance, that he was behind goal and that I hoped I could coach him through it and see what we could do to get him on track.  But he didn’t take that well. He more or less told me that he didn’t need any coaching from me, that he knew his job better than anyone on the team and that he was just waiting on some deals to come together and he’d be okay.

To be fair, he’s only slightly behind goal, but his previous performance had been so good that just meeting goal is far less than I expect of him. I’m thinking I’m not handling this well or not seeing the solution. What do you think?”

Well, I’m going to ask you what you think, then I’m going to share my ideas next Friday.

But first let me comment on interventions for improving performance. In my background in instructional design, I learned early that there are three domains of the brain that drive performance.  One of these is knowledge: what does the performer know about how to do the job?  In this case we know the salesperson is highly competent. Customers value his advice.  The second domain is skill.  Have we seen evidence the salesperson can do the job?  Again we know the salesman is skilled.  He was once the rainmaker on this team and has plenty of experience.

The third and remaining domain is attitudinal, how the salesperson feels about the job. Something appears to be getting in the way, so if you were the sales manager in this case, your attempt to coach the performer was the right idea.

So let me give you some specific questions to address before we solve this next week.

1)      What is your hypothesis about what is wrong? Have you encountered a situation like this yourself?

2)      How would you have introduced the subject to the salesman?  What would you do that was different from what the sales manager did?

3)      What might be some reasonable solutions for the sales manager?  If you were in this position, what remedial ideas would you come up with? Use your imagination.

How did Dr. Kahneman sign that email?

Thank you to those who wrote me about the Nobel-prize winning economist Dr. Daniel Kahneman and his gracious email to me.  I gave you a multiple choice question last week asking you to guess how he signed it.

I really enjoy people with a great sense of humor who are not so full of themselves that they can’t have some fun.  The eminent Dr. Kahneman simply signed his note “Danny K.”

See you next week, and meanwhile…

Think Like Your Customer

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

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