Posts Tagged leadership
Extract from How to Sell Coaching.
Coaching is not mentoring. Coaching is not consulting. Coaching is not training. Coaching is not therapy – but it’s probably more akin to therapy, and the term ‘therapy’ is still struggling to find a foothold in corporate cultures where problems are seen as weaknesses.
Coaching is about helping people to make breakthroughs to improve their business or personal performance. The ‘coachees’ might already be at the top of the ‘performance tree’, they may be struggling, or (like most people) somewhere in between.
My value proposition is hopefully clear and simple. “I will help people improve their performance by 30% or more in a matter of weeks, and in some cases, days.”
My definition of coaching, addresses the issues that inhibits clients from making breakthroughs. These issues are almost always emotional issues and not intellectual issues.
Case Study: Me and My Comfort Zones
In my early years in sales, by and large, I got on very well with clients’ operations managers. When I met or presented to a client’s more senior management, I would do my best to make sure I was structured and grounded my proposals in facts and data. Nonetheless, I often felt nervy and that came across in my body language and in the tonality of my voice. Senior clients would often think to themselves, “Paul does his ground work and thinks things through but he’s uncomfortable at this level. If I’m going to take his proposals up the line I’ll need to involve someone more senior from his company”.
*** End of case study ***
Coaching takes people outside their comfort zone in a safe and secure manner; so that a client is okay if things don’t work out the way they want, the first time around. It provides the client with tools to learn equally from successes and setbacks – especially in the domain of relationships. (For a guide to forging excellent business relationships I refer you to Quick Guide III: How to Bridge the Pillars of Successful Business Relationships.)
I have found that business, and life for that matter, is all about relationships, relationships, relationships.
When there is no-one with the power of veto to stop what you’re trying to achieve, including yourself, then you cannot fail. You succeed.
Mentoring or consulting, on the other hand implies that you are dealing with an expert; someone who has first-hand experience of new areas in your line of business; experience that you do not have. They might, for example, have studied world-class practice in a new business model in which you wish to engage. They will be capable of identifying the gaps between where you are now and where you wish to be. They will be able to customise a business model that meets your precise needs to fill those gaps. They will transfer skills over to you to fill those gaps, so that at some point in time you no longer feel dependent on their input.
The outcomes for both coaching and mentoring/consulting are the same, improved business performance and improved personal skills. Both get you to do things differently, whether those things are old or new. But the processes of achieving improved business performance are different and often complimentary. Coaching primarily addresses the emotional journey (which is still often overlooked) involved in change, whereas consulting/mentoring primarily addresses its intellectual journey.
The two categories, coaching and consulting/mentoring, require different mindsets: non-expert and expert. The two categories each require a different approach as well, directive and non-directive. I’ll explain what I mean by ‘non-expert’ and ‘non-directive’ through the following case study and later, when I define what coaching is and is not, to a prospective client.
Case Study – Top 5 Global IT Firm, Managers as Coaches
I coached a European team of managers who were already equipped with/‘trained-in’ an oft used coaching technique (GROW: Goal, Reality, Options and Way forward). BUT, they were not equipped to help their salespeople ‘grow’ their performance by more than a few percentage points. Going for, say, 30% growth requires a much more profound approach.
It involves taking people though a structured process outside their comfort zone to do some things very differently, often things that in the past, have anxiety associated with them. This level of coaching is not a competence that coaches will pick up in a two/three day training course. It requires that they experience passing though their own anxiety barriers – so that they understand more fully the emotional journey that they’ll subsequently be coaching others through – by taking their own ‘medicine’ first.
Here are testimonies from the sales managers I coached, about what it’s like to be coached and subsequently coach people to increase their sales by over 30%. Some refer to specific tools and techniques which they hadn’t received in their conventional ‘coaching-training’.
Coaching requires a completely different mindset. When I use it the process gets an A* for managing poor performers.
Coaching isn’t an individual session; it takes place over a period of time to get to a solution. Using ‘2nd position’ (how to stand in another person’s shoes) has helped enormously. It’s made me face some of my own demons.
I took the material and applied it rigorously to coaching X. The meeting wasn’t easy! I faced my demons and got on with it. It’s not there yet but the mountain has moved.
I’ve used the ‘Success and Setback Analyses’. (Two tools that, respectively, ‘paint’ both sides of the boundary of, or limits to, the success we create for ourselves.) I’ve overcome my shyness… I feel I’ve moved out of my comfort zone.
I am more rigorous in the ‘Analytical and Process Quadrants’ (a ‘thinking preferences’ analytical tool) and it’s paid off.
I took away the ‘Being at my peak’ tool from our session and used it – it’s brilliant.
The ‘Being at my peak’ tool helps me synchronise with people.
I am more effective in how I use my time and am more prepared for important meetings.
First two sessions were particularly useful. I would not have gotten through that month without the self management tool.
When I do follow the coaching process it works and it fails (I fail???) when I don’t.
This team of sales managers, in a Top 5 Global IT Company, went on to receive an award for being the top performing sales branch across Europe within six months of participating in this endeavour.
*** End of case study ***
Note that, in the case study above, the managers focused on taking themselves (and thus learn how to lead others to do the same) outside their comfort zones. In the subsequent coaching of their people, the managers specifically did not focus on directing their coachees what to do – even though previously, the managers all had successful careers in sales. Instead, the managers coached their direct reports to explore the space beyond their ‘boundaries of current success’.
In a nutshell…
- Coaching implies a non-expert and non-directive approach.
- Consulting/mentoring implies an expert and directive approach.
Most sales training I’ve come across focuses primarily on developing a salesperson’s skills or competencies, for example: opening, qualifying, questioning, advocating, presenting, negotiating and closing. The intention is that, over time with experience, the salesperson will get better and better at demonstrating these skills. It follows logically that they’ll become more confident in their sales approach and thus hopefully more motivated.
I haven’t seen much in the way of material that focuses on engendering an ongoing sense of curiosity, for example, how can I be the best, if not better, at what I sell?
The E=MC3 equation implies that an individual’s effectiveness is three parts mental and emotional (motivation, competence and curiosity) to one part intellectual (competence).
Let’s take a first pass at each of the qualities: motivation, confidence, competence and curiosity.
Most salespeople are motivated to win, especially when the selling is relatively easy. Likewise, most are motivated by earnings and win bonuses. Some are motivated by advancing their career.
What motivates top salespeople? The answers from my research fall into three categories:
1. “To be the best I can be” or “…recognised as the best salesperson there is” – not only the best in terms of results but the best at selling too (outcomes + journey).
2. “To deliver customer value above and beyond that expected.”
3. “To create a legacy so that I am renowned for the value I bring to customers and my organisation’s business.”
In all three categories, the top performers are motivated by being (and being seen as) excellent. ‘Moderates’ talk of winning and earnings but talk less of personal excellence.
I worked with a 26 year old CEO of a recruitment firm who had a good reputation for hiring confident as opposed to arrogant people. I was asked to model how he went about the task. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “How do you differentiate between a confident person and an arrogant one?”
CEO: “Well, I’m not sure; I just get a ‘feeling’.”
Me: “Describe that ‘feeling’.”
CEO: “Well you just sort of know, don’t you? It’s something you sense….. a gut feeling.”
Me: “Okay, imagine you have an arrogant person to your left and a confident to your right. What’s the difference between them?”
CEO: “The confident person asks questions; the arrogant person doesn’t. The confident person probes for where they feel they’ll bring value to the organisation. They look to find out if they will enjoy the role. They seek opportunities for themselves to grow in the role. The arrogant person takes a position that they have the knowledge and wisdom suitable for the job and makes no effort to see how well they’ll fit in.”
Top salespeople exude confidence by the quality of questions they ask as well as the articulacy by which they convey reassurance. (For a framework with which to construct quality sales questions, refer to the INCREASETM model in Number 1 of this series of business guides, Quick Guide – How Top Salespeople Sell.)
If you stacked all the sales training and development materials in the world on top of one another, you’d probably build a mountain higher than Mount Everest. So I’ll attempt to put a different slant on competence by giving you a customer’s perspective. (For completeness, Appendix 1 lists the skills and knowledge demonstrated by top salespeople at, and away from, the customer interface.)
A corporate salesperson spends, on average, 15% of their time speaking directly to a customer. Ergo, 85% of the time, they apply their skills and knowledge to researching, developing and planning; how to be more effective during the ‘15%’ customer interface window when the occasion arises.
Top performers prepare themselves, intellectually and psychologically, to be at their peak when speaking to the customer. They develop appropriate skills and knowledge (the intellectual exchange) and they also prepare themselves to be in the right frame of mind and body (the mental and emotional exchange) with the customer.
Being perceived as ‘competent’ by the customer requires you to be:
1. Prepared: with insightful questions to ask and have answers to potential customer questions, including facts, data and logic so that your proposals are visionary, ‘grounded in reality’ and hopefully compelling
2. Clear about the outcomes: What do you want to achieve in the meeting both in terms of the task-in-hand and your relationship with the customer (e.g. engender trust). It’s also being very clear about the outcomes the customer might want to achieve, in terms of their task-in-hand and from their relationship with a supplier like you.
Illustration: 4 Outcomes to a Meeting
Most of us prepare ‘box 1’ before a meeting. Many ‘moderates’ omit boxes 2 and 3 above from their preparatory work. Most salespeople miss out box 4 altogether – often because of a lack of self-belief and sometimes unconsciously. They don’t visualise themselves in a picture working closely with the customer.
3. In the right frame of mind: If you were to prioritise the three factors: Prepared, Clear Outcomes and Frame of Mind – which order would you place them?
Exercise: Allocate three weighting percentages (that add up to 100%) against Prepared, Clear Outcomes and Frame of Mind respectively – in terms of how important they are to being successful during (not before) a meeting.
The most important thing you take into a meeting is your frame of mind.
This statement often raises a few queries. It doesn’t say that you shouldn’t prepare diligently for a meeting. What it says instead is – the moment the meeting starts, the single most important factor that will determine your success is your frame of mind. You may well feel you have to do a significant amount of preparation to get yourself ‘centred’, for example. BUT it’s not the process the meeting follows that determines success the most; it’s you, your frame of mind and the thoughts that engender that frame of mind.
Specifically, whatever thought you process in your conscious mind passes straight into your unconscious mind and merges with any ‘subconscious programmes’ running there. The aggregate information is then passed directly to your DNA which vibrates at different rates in accord with your temperament. That is:
The vibe you put out determines your success.
I coached a very successful salesperson who never felt at her best in front of a CEO customer. It took a wee while for us to discover a subconscious programme she’d developed from her authoritarian parents, created by a ‘single significant emotional event’ when she was three years old. Once she ‘released’ this programme, her faith-in-self in front of CEO’s increased significantly. Her sales soared.
Research by scientists (e.g. The Biology of Belief, by Dr Bruce Lipton and The Genie in your Genes, by Dr Matthew Dawson) demonstrates the subliminal communicative functioning power of DNA between human beings which can be harmonious (I prefer the term, ‘resonant’) or out of tune (dissonant) – and at its extreme, disruptive.
Allow me to define ‘being competent’ as not only having the capability to demonstrate requisite skills and knowledge at the customer interface, it’s also about being competent at preparing yourself to be at your peak, to achieve the gravitas (sometimes called ‘traction’) you seek.
Author’s note: gravitas is something we can all achieve; it’s a result not a gift privy to a chosen few. Only 15% or so of salespeople achieve the ‘customer gravitas’ they seek, hence this book!
Let me add, the competence that customers attribute to you will also include an element of the perceived competence of the solutions you bring to the table, i.e. an acknowledgement of the potential of your solution’s value proposition. Put another way, if the customer has little faith in what you’re selling, even though they value your personal contribution, to what degree will you be invited to participate in the decision making process?
We’ve covered two of the three ‘Cs’ in the E=MC3 equation. A salesperson not only has to be competent in following ‘top sales processes’ (and have potentially ‘competent’ solutions); they need to be confident in their ability and motivated to follow those sales processes too. And still there’s one further factor that determines how effective you are (by seeing what’s really going on), a heightened sense of…
Top salespeople are unstintingly curious. For example, they love to be coached. They are very willing to learn how to become more effective at selling.
Top performers focus on working smarter, not harder, than ‘moderates’
You might ask, “Curious about what?” Answer: “Everything!”
Top salespeople probe below the surface of what’s going on – especially when forging business relationships. Like a metaphorical iceberg, they acknowledge that you only see about 15% above the surface; the obvious facts and logic by which a customer makes a decision. But they don’t stop there, they’re proactive to find the real passions and fears which will motivate or deter key stakeholders in the decision making process.
Curiosity is the sonar signal you emit to track changes on your ‘sales radar screen’. You track political, economic, sociological, technological and organisational developments as well as your competitors’ manoeuvres. At the deepest level, you’re tuning into changes in customers’ feelings, e.g. inspiration, motivation, confidence, sense of security, anger and most of all – trust and fear.
There’s more. You also need to be proactively curious about what might happen. I return to this later.
To summarise: selling is three parts mental/emotional to one part intellectual.
E=MC3, it’s not rocket science!
Paul C Burr
I’ve released a new page in this website devoted to the Quick Guides to Business I’m writing. It will contain links to extracts that you will hopefully find interesting and helpful.
Your feedback about Quick Guides to Business or any aspect of this site would be most welcome.
Paul C Burr