I had two sales coaching sessions with new coaching clients back-to-back the other day.
At the end of the second, my client articulated something that I had known for years, and practiced for longer than that – but he said it so clearly – about why sales coaching, in one form or another, is such an essential element of increasing sales success for so many people.
Give me a minute for some background, and I’d like to share it with you.
A FAR TOO UNIQUE KIND OF A SALESPERSON
This coaching client – we’ll call him John (not his real name) is one of those rather unique salespeople.
- He is one of those rare salespeople who takes time outside of his scheduled working hours to read books, follow blogs, to be on my mailing list and who responded to an offer about coaching. (Yes, he has scheduled hours, he’s pretty junior – for now….)
- He is one of those rare salespeople who told me a story about how his company didn’t have a CRM – so he went out and bought one with his own money and used it at work – as a tool to make him better.
- He is one of those rare salespeople who picked the right priority when, over time, his tracked number of dials went down, while his revenue went up – in spite of the fact that the number of dials was a tracked KPI that management focused on.*
*Side note – we discussed this low call volume issue. His revenue per conversation was at the top of the list, although that wasn’t a metric tracked by the company – but that’s a different story.
THE POWERFUL CONCEPT
So John – this thoughtful, driven, eager-to-learn salesperson ended his first coaching session with me with a fantastic sentence.
I was pointing out to John that the vast majority of salespeople don’t put in the effort to learn that he does, and that it was an honor for me to be working with such a diligent and self-motivated person.
John replied by telling me that in his opinion and based on his observations, there are a lot of reps who buy audiobooks, listen to podcasts, read books and blogs, and all of that – but then he dropped the sentence on me:
“The problem is applying it.”
THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF INFORMATION
What John seemed to be saying is this.
There is no shortage of information about sales, but reading or watching or listening isn’t enough. To get better faster, you will benefit immensely from having someone help you understand how to apply that information to your unique situation.
Someone like a mentor, or a coach – maybe someone you hire, maybe your boss if you are lucky – but someone.
So when it comes to sales, you can read – and you should, because reading or watching videos or attending courses (online or off) is a great way to stimulate thoughts, but then you should work with a coach or a mentor to help solidify how to apply those concepts to your unique situation.
DON’T RESIST THE IDEA; IT’S WHY YOUR JOB EXISTS
Do you think that you can learn to improve at sales just by reading and applying? It might be true – it has been largely that way for me, and I think some are more able to do this than others, but that’s not as fast (or as enjoyable) as working with someone who can help guide your way.
Still not convinced? OK – let’s close with a look at a different application of this same concept to bring it home for you.
YOUR CUSTOMERS NEED A COACH TOO
Just like salespeople (and managers) should have a coach or a mentor to supplement what they may learn from reading or videos or lectures, customers often need salespeople to supplement what they may learn about products and services from the internet or wherever else they may get information.
Let’s face it – every fact about your products or services could be written out, put into videos, demonstrated on the stage in large lecture halls – but unless you sell a very simple product, in many cases a salesperson adds value to the mix and helps ensure that a specific product or service is matched up correctly to a specific customer need through conversation with a prospect.
Makes sure the deal actually gets done too, which counts for a lot – don’t you think?
For whatever kooky reason, we humans like to learn from and be persuaded through interaction with other people. We’ve been doing it for a long time.
THE PROBLEM IS APPLYING IT
And that brings us back to John and his insightful sentence.
The problem isn’t access to information.
The problem is applying that information to our own, unique situation.
Make no mistake – it is absolutely possible figure out how to do that on your own, and the more simple the problem, the more likely it is that something written can get us all of the way through (think IKEA assembly instructions or a competently written instruction manual).
But when it comes to learning how to be proficient with human interactions aimed at a specific outcome (like making a sale), it’s a good start to feed our heads with ideas we can find on a screen or a page and certainly from our own experience.
…but to really bring it home – to really help us learn how to apply it – efficiently and effectively, a coach helps a lot.
SO WHAT’S THE TAKEAWAY?
If your boss or someone at your company is an effective coach or mentor for you, you’re lucky. If you are not that lucky, you should find someone who can help you.
If your pay is at all performance-based, and you are motivated enough to really bring your A-game to the coaching, pay for it yourself if you have to. It’s that important.
Invest in your success – and rock your ROI!
If you find a good coach and work to apply what you learn, chances are pretty good that you’ll pay for it from your commissions and bonuses in no time, and probably start enjoying your sales work a lot more along the way as well.
That’s what John is hoping for. I’m honored to be working with someone like that.
If you have made it to the end of this article and you don’t have someone who is coaching you, think hard about finding one. It can make all of the difference in the world and will help you apply what you might be aware of into something that you can make work for you.
…and that’s a difference worth recognizing and taking action on.