“Coaching? We’re already doing that!” Part One: Analyzing the performance deficiency

Some years ago I did consulting work for a guy named Jack, who managed the northern NJ area of a top ten bank. One day he and I got talking about coaching and he said, “You know what my managers think coaching is? It’s telling people what they did wrong.”

I never forgot that, mostly because I see that same approach so often, which makes me skeptical when a client says, “Coaching? We’re doing that. The managers take a training program on how to coach and then coach each of their team at least weekly.”

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedWhen I wrote last week that I was going to explore concepts like coaching and leadership, I intended to break these down into discrete behaviors so that when someone says “coaching” we can all agree on what effective coaching is.

So today we’ll begin with the first step: analyzing the causes of the performance deficiency. Let’s look at an example we’ve all seen.

You manage a sales rep who isn’t performing as expected. You tell him, “You’re not making enough calls, and of the ones you do make, I’m not seeing much in the way of sales results. I know you can do better, so let’s sit down and talk about it. What’s going on?”

Before the salesperson speaks, the coach’s intent is to explore the three areas of the brain that influence the salesperson’s behavior.

Know: The salesperson has to know a few things to sell effectively. Product knowledge, the sales process of the company, what questions are best to ask, the background of the prospect and several others. This knowledge component falls under what is called the cognitive domain in instructional design. Maybe the salesperson is new. Maybe he hasn’t studied the products. There could be a lot he doesn’t know.

Do: The salesperson has to execute a number of skills, and in this case they are mostly communication skills, e.g., open-ended probes, listening, summarizing, trial closes, dealing with resistance and the like. Perhaps he’s new or hasn’t been trained, or he doesn’t practice what he’s going to do on a call. This is the psychomotor domain of the brain.

Feel: The salesperson’s feelings about the job are a huge influence on performance. Did you ever have a salesperson work for you who was afraid to pick up the phone? I see it all the time. Maybe he just doesn’t like people, or he gets nervous in formal settings. In instructional design we refer to these as affective issues, so we have know, do, feel equating to cognitive, psychomotor and affective.

For the coach to be effective at helping the salesperson, he first has to analyze the reasons for the substandard performance, and you can see there are many, and quite often they are in some combination, e.g., he needs to make more calls so he gets experience (do) but he’s shy around people so he won’t do it (feel).

Sometimes I get an older person in my sales training program, who hates being there after 35 years of experience on the job. He isn’t selling effectively any more. I learn that he has the skill because I see his performance in the class, but the “feel” component is the big obstacle. He’s tired; he’s not running through walls any more. He prefers to sit at his desk rather than go out and call. So they send him to training, which just frustrates him more. See the idea?

In the next post I’ll ask you to solve some K, D, F problems to see how well you analyze before you coach.

By the way, what did you think of the sales manager’s comments at the beginning of the sit-down with the salesperson? What was the best thing he said? What should he have not done?

Think Like Your Customer

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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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