Sales Coaching Podcast

Top Coaching Methods That Drives Successful Results

This week on sALES with ASLAN®, VP of Marketing Scott Cassidy chats with ASLAN President Marc Lamson on sales coaching and what it means to lead and manage successfully  (hint: It starts with a nice beer on Friday afternoons). 

Scott Cassidy:  Welcome back to another episode of sAles with ASLAN with the little S in front for sales, and I’m back again with Marc Lamson, President of ASLAN training and development, and we are talking, continuing, the dialog about leadership. You’ll remember, last week we actually spoke about, really, three key points. Leadership is really best established one-to-one. This is not a one-to-many approach. We measure success, not in two dimensions, but four dimensions. And by all means, please go back and listen to previous episodes to catch up. And finally, there are really three hats that are worn by leaders. It’s really the ability to lead, manage, and also coach.

Scott Cassidy:      We’re going to get into that, but with all due respect, I really think we need to stop the presses, and crack a fresh, cold beverage. So, Marc, tell me what you’re going to enjoy this afternoon.

Marc Lamson:        Victory HopDevil IPA. You may know it. Brought some Rhode Island beers to the equation, but my roots are New Jersey/Philadelphia area, so a small brewery in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. If you look at the side of the can, it actually has the brewmaster’s approval. Bill Ron, Bill if you’re listening, thanks for approving.

Scott Cassidy:      And send more.

Marc Lamson:        I want to say, we need to pick the pace of this up because when I open this, it is a 6.7% alcohol by volume.

Scott Cassidy:      Oh, so by the end of this 20 minutes, you could be lying on the floor, if all possible.

Marc Lamson:        That’s right. What have you got there?

Scott Cassidy:      Well today, I’m going to enjoy Thimble Island Brewing Company has produced this, let me just- Look at the color on yours. That’s nice. This Thimble Island Brewing Company Coffee Stout. Now, I must admit I’m not a huge stout person. I’m very curious how this comes to taste, because it’s brewed locally here in Branford, Connecticut. Not too far off. It’s dark, and maybe chewy, if it’s that kind of stout.

Marc Lamson:        That looks good.

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah.

Marc Lamson:        Looks like the right temperature.

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah, it does. So I’m going to enjoy that.

Marc Lamson:        Cheers.

Scott Cassidy:      Cheers. That is delicious. Yum, yum.

Marc Lamson:        How much alcohol is in a sip of a 6.7% beverage?

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah, I don’t know. And I’ve got 6% in this one, so-

Marc Lamson:        There you go.

Scott Cassidy:      We may be, both may be in trouble by the end of this-

Marc Lamson:        Short podcast, and it’s going to get better at the end, or worse.

Scott Cassidy:      Excellent. Well, good. So we kind of covered in the opening, what we spent some time on last week. This week, I think really, there’s a key component of what we talked about, which is really the coaching. The coaching hat. And I think there’s an aspect of that, that is really the time you spend coaching. A lot of people, you hear it all the time, “I don’t have time to coach. I’m too busy managing,” Or, “I’m too busy with forecasts,” and so on, and so forth. And yet, truth be known, it’s probably the most important thing that leaders need to do from a sales organization perspective.

Scott Cassidy:      Tell us a little bit about that time. How do we carve out that time? What’s important to best utilize time when it’s with our reps?

Marc Lamson:        Sure. The best coaches simply don’t coach everybody. That’s the bottom line. Is everyone coachable? Yeah, if you had unlimited time, but in the reality, you have a team, whether it’s four, six, eight, ten, twelve or more reps, if you start drawing out your spreadsheet, or your whiteboard about how you’re going to coach them all, whether they’re inside or field based, you just don’t have time to coach everybody.

Marc Lamson:        And so, when you strive for that goal, you’re sort of set up for failure right away. Then the question is who do you coach? That’s the natural question. Who do you coach? And really, if you go back to our earlier podcasts about this idea of desire, we’re trying to turn three dials. A catalyst turns desire, they turn the productivity dial, and they turn the competency dial.

Marc Lamson:        Sales Coaching is about turning the competency dial. It’s about improving skills, but the key to the time question is that, desire determines development. The people with high desire determines who is going to be most likely to respond to Sales coaching. Think about this as a manager. You coach people. You’ve been a sales management, you coach people, and you see a call, give them some feedback. They say, “That’s really good feedback. Thanks, Scott.” You all agree they’re going to go work on it. They go back. You see them in a month or two, and what happens? It’s the same thing. They don’t do anything different. They don’t want to do anything different. They don’t do their homework. It’s like, going and hiring a trainer and you’re supposed to go home and do these things at home, and you don’t do anything different, and you wonder why you don’t get stronger, or healthier, or lose weight.

Marc Lamson:        So, desire determines development, is rule number one for good coaches. Only focus your energy, shouldn’t say only. You lead those people. You have different conversations, but the assessment, the coaching, the giving them feedback is really best served by people who are going to respond, who have high desire.

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah. In the old days, we used to use, what did we used to call it?

Marc Lamson:        Ride along forum-

Scott Cassidy:      The feedback sandwich, or something like that, where you’ve got the positive on either end, and in the middle is the meat where you tell them how bad they’re doing, and give them the-

Marc Lamson:        Positive sandwich.

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah, positive sandwich. There’s probably a better way to do that, and what I think we want to talk about next is, once a coach determines who they should be coaching, what makes a good coach? What are the things that really allow them to be successful in the development of their people?

Marc Lamson:        Well, to your sandwich point, everyone focuses on the positive sandwich. I’ve heard where there’s a positive, piece of bread, then there’s the meat-

Scott Cassidy:      Ma, the meatloaf!

Marc Lamson:        The meat of the conversation. You end with a positive top, or whatever. So there’s a lot of focus on the coaching conversation. Candidly, there is some truth to the sandwich. You start with something positive, there’s something around, they see their own gaps, and you sort of wrap it all up and give them a plan. There’s lots of models out there. We have a model. Everyone’s got a model. There’s lots of things to do, and go have a good conversation. But the real differentiator, and it’s important, but the real differentiator is what happens before and after the coaching session, which managers miss.

Marc Lamson:        So, the best managers, or the best coaches who are catalysts, the best coaches avoid to the common problems. Here’s the two problems we see from coaching. Number one, sales managers give too much feedback. If you or I went on any sales call, if you went on my last sales call, I went on your last sales call, and I pay attention, and I sit there as an observer and listen, I could write down five, ten, fifteen, twenty things. I mean, you know, maybe I could write down more about your call than mine, potentially.

Scott Cassidy:      Well, I’m not going to go fix 15 things, to be honest with you.

Marc Lamson:        Yeah. So, I write down all those things. Managers are always trying to teach someone to sell like I sold. “Hey, look at me. I’m a manager, so I sold well, so you should sell like me.” That doesn’t work, and personality styles, and that’s for another podcast. So, I write down 15 things, and that’s okay. Worse is, I tell the rep all 15 things, because I can’t give them positive reinforcement on something that they did wrong.

Marc Lamson:        So, what in the world does my, you know, I’ve used my son before, who plays basketball, who after the game we’re on the way home, and I have two types of conversations. One, when I say, “Hey, how did you make out? Anything you would have done differently?” We talk about one thing. Or the ones where I’ve sort of can’t control myself, because I’m a little too emotional, I just say, “Here’s the six things that you need to improve in the hour of your life,” and he just shuts down. No one listens. It’s too much.

Marc Lamson:        So that’s probably number one, too much feedback. Too many things. So we’ll solve that in a second. But the second problem is, what happens after sales coaching? What happens after that sandwich is given or eaten. I don’t know what actually happens. Do you give the sandwich? Do you eat the sandwich?

Scott Cassidy:      If it’s a meatloaf sandwich, I’m gonna have it, yeah.

Marc Lamson:        You made the sandwich? But it’s after the conversation. You’ve been in those conversations. How do they end? “Hey, Scott. Go work on your open ended questions.”

Marc Lamson:        “Yeah, Marc. That’s really good feedback. I’m really gonna go do that.”

Scott Cassidy:      “I’m gonna do that with the cat, and the family, and-“

Marc Lamson:        Yeah, “I’m gonna really think about that.” You go away. We come back. We have another ride along in a week or two, or month, and what happens? Nothing, right? Or even better yet, I start and say, “Hey, how have you been doing? You’ve been working on your questions?” And what I here is like, “Ah, yeah. I’ve been really keeping them in mind. I’ve really been thinking about it.”

Marc Lamson:        That’s two sales people feeding each other a sandwich, all right, just a different kind of sandwich.

Scott Cassidy:      You can’t say that on the radio.

Marc Lamson:        No, we can’t. Are we under FCC rules? Is it FCC?

Scott Cassidy:      I don’t know if we’re susceptible to those.

Marc Lamson:        Just an internet or something?

Scott Cassidy:      It could be. Yeah.

Marc Lamson:        So, yeah, two problems. Managers give too much feedback, and they don’t know how to focus their sort of, what should we really work on? And two, when people leave, they don’t really do anything different. They don’t really work on it, so it just gets talked about, and as a result, nothing happens. The rep doesn’t actually develop better skills and competencies.

Scott Cassidy:      Good. Well so, why don’t we get right into how to solve those, because we’ve identified a couple problems that I’m sure everybody out there is curious about. How do we avoid making these mistakes that previous sales managers all over the world have made?

Marc Lamson:        I think you just quit and just become a rep, and don’t be a manager. That’d be easier. Should we do that?

Scott Cassidy:      Why do we always take the best reps and make them managers and just assume that’s going to work? It happens all the time.

Marc Lamson:        If you’re up for the challenge of being a world class coach, we’d recommend, there’s two things that address those two problems. One, the problem of 15 things. That’s fine. You can write down 15 things on a call, or in a meeting. You’re observing. But then the question is, well yeah, but which one of those would make the biggest impact?

Marc Lamson:        So here’s one piece. You need to use, develop, have, whatever the right word is, going to put a big word here, a big phrase, but an outcome based capability assessment. What does that mean? It means, you need to have a way to decide what’s really important, and what’s not. When we say “outcome based,” it means what happens? Let me give you an example. We teach in one of our training programs in Other-Centered selling, we teach four key competencies of kind of the dialog. We talk about engage, discover, build value, and advance.

Marc Lamson:        Under each of those, there are several things to do to start a conversation, and ask questions, but what we’re focused on is, what’s the outcome? In your organization, it’s about defining what does engage, or fill in the blank, what does that look like? What does good engage look like? In our world, start a conversation, in general, we say the customer has agreed or committed to the agenda, whether it’s a prospecting call, whether I’m setting up an hour and a half presentation. We’re going to get to the stakeholders. I set up the meeting, and talk about where we are, and I say, “This is what we’re going to achieve. And then we’re going to take an hour and a half, and this is what we’re going to do. Does all that sound good?” And the customers say, “That sounds good.” They embrace the agenda.

Marc Lamson:        Well, if we do that, we’re going to say that outcome, that desired outcome, that was achieved. If it was, move on. As a coach, look somewhere else. Now, we could all agree, I got into an argument with one of my managers one time about, “Well, I always hand out business cards.” Well, I don’t hand out business cards, because I don’t think anyone uses them. We can go round and round, but at the end of the day, that’s an opinion. But what’s not an opinion is, did the customer agree to the agenda? If they did, who cares about the business cards, but if they didn’t agree to the agenda, now business cards and, “Did you confirm time? Did you give a general benefit?” Now those behaviors are relevant. But don’t focus on each and every behavior. Focus on the high level competencies defined by outcome.

Scott Cassidy:      That makes sense. Good.

Marc Lamson:        And that’s the key to the byproduct of that, it helps develop the rep, but what happens in an organization is, that makes everyone more consistent. We run something called Coach Focus.

Marc Lamson:        It’s a consistent definition. We run Sales Coaching Calibration sessions at clients. We say, “Okay, great. Let’s have six, or eight, or ten managers listen to the same phone call, or recording of a sales meeting.” Theoretically, we should all see the same thing, and “diagnose,” we call this diagnose, and maybe I didn’t use the word.

Marc Lamson:        What happens before the meeting is, diagnose. If you’re a doctor, and you’re going to treat somebody, you’d better have the right diagnosis. When your diagnosis is 15 things deep, you’re just spraying and praying, and nothing happens. You’re diagnosing the one thing that would have the biggest impact. When you figure out which competency, engage was okay, but discover, discover is about getting someone to reveal their honest needs and feelings, that didn’t happen. They clammed up. They gave you short answers. Now we double click on that and say, “Yeah.” In every capability, there’s probably four to seven behaviors that drive the ability to ask open ended questions, provide a relevant reason, acknowledge properly, etc. when we look at those, then we can get down to the real issue. And it’s not about one particular sales call here. We all have our good and bad calls. It’s about looking over time, a handful, three or four. You start to dial in using this approach. What’s the competency that’s the issue, or the capability, and what’s really the behavior that’s kind of a problem?

Scott Cassidy:      Well, and you know, I really like this coaching consistency thing because both of us, we have worked at other companies where, you have really fast growing companies that are growing their sales teams, and people promote from within teams, and move from inside sales to outside sales, and the better the coaching is consistent along all those lines, that makes it easier, and certainly better for the development of the company, and the growth of the company. I think that’s a key component that we don’t want to overlook.

Scott Cassidy:      So, we’ve talked about that outcome based capability, and I like that word “diagnose.” What about the other side?the development side?

Marc Lamson:        That’s the word we use, develop. You walk into a coaching session, and to be clear, diagnose happens days or weeks before, or it happens on your way from the call to the Starbucks, to lunch. You’re just using that tool, piece of paper, but you’re going through your mind and saying, “What’s really the one or two behaviors?” So, you come to the meeting with ideally one. It’s one behavior. That’s what good coaches do. Good coaches figure out what one thing can you do better to improve your result? That’s your job. That’s what good coaches do. They figure that out. There are those tools, and these things, and whether you do it on paper, or whether you do it on a tool like a web-based application, we have something called Catalyst Dashboard, whatever you do to help you get there, you’re going to the call, into the sales coaching sessions with that information.

Marc Lamson:        And then there’s the conversation, and you leave with agreement that that’s the behavior to focus on. But then, what to do about it is where things go wrong. We call that develop. True development happens, nothing happens in a coaching session. I mean, you’re coaching. You might role play a little, you might practice, but all you’re doing is gaining agreement on, “This is what I gotta work on.” You gotta go work on it.

Marc Lamson:        It’s like going to, you know, if you’ve ever had a golf lesson, to use in the now, if you go to a golf lesson, a good golf pro will look at you, and he’ll look at your swing, and he or she will say, “This is what your problem is.” Hypothetically it’s, “Your backswing is off plane.”

Scott Cassidy:      “You have problems,” in my case.

Marc Lamson:        Well, they pick one thing though, right?

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah, they do.

Marc Lamson:        You have plenty of problems, on and off the golf course, and so, get a little golf course-

Scott Cassidy:      Give me one to work on at a time.

Marc Lamson:        Psychology. But, you know, they’ll say, “Hey,” in my case, they’ll say, “When you have a backswing it’s off plane. You pull your club off of plane,” whatever that means for you non-golfers out there. But here’s the deal, they don’t say, “Work on that,” because if I knew how to work on my backswing, I wouldn’t be here in the first place.

Marc Lamson:        So what the golf pro does is, they say, “I want you to go to the range twice in the next week. I want you to get a large bucket of balls. I want you to take a tee and I want you to put it six inches behind your ball. Then line up, and I want you to have one thought. When you pull the club back, bring the club head over the tee. That’s it, and then swing, and you’ll hit the ball. You’ll miss the ball. I don’t really care what you do.” They just say, “Bring it over it. Do it once on Tuesday. Do it once on Thursday, and I’ll see you Friday or Saturday, and we’ll have a second meeting.”

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah. And development, a lot of times, is not comfortable, right?

Marc Lamson:        No.

Scott Cassidy:      You’re doing something new, and you’ve got to do it many times before it becomes comfortable, right?

Marc Lamson:        You go do that, and guess what? It actually starts to change your swing. The difference is, “Go work on your backswing,” I’ll share a high school story. I played high school basketball, my first two years. I had a great guy as our coach. He was a 6’10”, UNC Hall of Famer. Nice guy, talented, successful, and he realized pretty quickly along with everybody else, that I was really slow. When you see the guy at the very end of the pack running suicides, that’s how you kind of know, it’s the indicator. That’s the outcome based capability assessment.

Scott Cassidy:      You are last again.

Marc Lamson:        You’re last. That’s bad. What he would say, though, see he was a manager. He was focused on the activity, would say, “Run faster.” “Make more calls. Run faster. Run faster, Lamson. Pick it up.” And he said lots of other things that again, FCC regulated-

Scott Cassidy:      Can’t say it.

Marc Lamson:        Sort of, media, can’t say that. And I’m like, to myself, “I freaking know. Like, I know to run faster, but I can’t.” So, he goes away, and my junior and senior year, we’re given a new coach. Little, short guy from Camden. Probably not a great ballplayer, but coach. A real coach. And he says, “Hey, man, you’re on the slow side, aren’t you?” And Tino Monte, Coach Tino Monte, this is going to you, if you ever hear this, man. And he said, “You’re on the slow side, huh?”

Marc Lamson:        I said, “Yeah.”

Marc Lamson:        He said, “Your problem is, your stride is too long.” He says, “You’re trying to get your gears going to big.” He says, “So I’m gonna go over on the side, I’m gonna put tape on the side of the-” you know, the mysterious spot when the bleachers get pushed back in gym?

Scott Cassidy:      Yeah.

Marc Lamson:        “I’m gonna go over there and put tape on the sideline. You’re gonna run over here in the special group, over here on the side, when we run suicides.” He says, “I don’t care about how fast you run. I care that you touch every piece of tape.”

Scott Cassidy:      Interesting.

Marc Lamson:        “So, just do that. We’re gonna do it two weeks.” And guess what, I picked up three and a half seconds on a 21 second suicide when he took the tape off.

Marc Lamson:        So, that’s a developmental activity. So he diagnosed my stride’s too big, and now I’m going to fix it, versus, if he said, “Just focus on making your stride shorter,” that would be hard to do.

Scott Cassidy:      Very specific, and a way to actually learn it.

Marc Lamson:  So here’s the answer. The answer to number two, to develop is just give homework. That’s the answer.

Scott Cassidy:  Give homework, yep.

Marc Lamson:    If it’s really open questions, if it’s really, “Hey, you need to work on more open questions,” when the rep leaves the session don’t say, ‘Work on your questions,’ say what? You have lots of categories to choose from. You can write things down. “Go write 10 open questions.” You can self-assess.” You can say, “Go take five of them and ask in the next 10 calls or meetings,” and say “How did they work?” Another category is, you always have an expert, so whatever problem you’re trying to solve with one rep, there’s probably another one who does it well. So say, Susan asks open questions well. Go sit with her for an hour or two.

Scott Cassidy: Can I say just, why can’t you be more like your brother?

Marc Lamson:   You could say that, yeah.

Scott Cassidy: That’s what I do at home.

Marc Lamson:  Is that in the sandwich?

Scott Cassidy: It’s a different analogy, I think.

Marc Lamson:   But this goes back to the time thing. Let’s be clear, development is not about you holding their hand and spoon feeding them. It’s directing them, and saying, “Go do this activity,” whether it’s write it down, or read this, or review your training, or sit with an expert, or whatever it might be, and what you’re asking to do is, to do the activity. What the school was asking my son to do is, do the homework, and bring the homework back. If my kid does his homework, and he goes back to school and doesn’t do well on the test, then it’s a teacher issue. They need to assign different homework, but if he doesn’t do his homework, well that’s his problem. Same thing for your rep.

Scott Cassidy:  All the way back to last week with desire.

Marc Lamson:   Same thing with your rep. If they come back, if they did their homework, great. Let’s talk about it, if it improved. If it did improve, great. If it didn’t improve, work on it again, but if they didn’t do their homework, there’s no reason to coach. I had a simple rule that worked pretty well. People would come to my office for coaching, I’d say, “Did you do your homework?”

Marc Lamson:   “What do you mean?”

Marc Lamson:    “I mean, last week we agreed you were gonna do this.” When I say this, I’m talking about 20 minutes, 30 minutes of time to do this. “Did you do your homework?” And I get two answers.

Marc Lamson:     I got a, “Yeah. Here it is right here. Let’s talk about it.” Great. Or I got, “Well, you know, I’ve been kinda busy, and you asked us to really focus on these customers for the report, and I didn’t get a chance-” and they say, “My dog ate my homework.” In that case, I say, “If we agreed this was your problem last week, and you haven’t done anything to improve it, what do you think the chances are it’s different, and why should we have another sales coaching session?”

Marc Lamson:    It’s not a punishment. It’s just truth. Go back and when you do your homework, come see me. And some people would come back and get the idea, and some people wouldn’t. Some people still have the homework that they owe me from 20 years ago. Because it’s silly to coach those people if they’re not going to do that. Let’s loop it all the way back around. That’s where the desire, people doing [inaudible 00:21:58]. That’s where I’m not gonna spend as much time-

Scott Cassidy:  You really can’t force it.

Marc Lamson:    You can’t.

Scott Cassidy:  You can’t. They’ve got to want it on their side.

Marc Lamson:    Two problems. Too many things I give a rep, and I don’t give them any homework on the backend. Two solutions. Diagnose, use an outcome based way to get down to one behavior, for one competency, and develop. Give them homework.

Scott Cassidy:   Excellent. Well, this has been extremely helpful, I think, for a lot of folks out there. And again, you know, ASLAN Training and Development, we do these because we want to spread this truth out into the market, and we want people to be able to pick this up. I hope people are getting value out of this. In fact, if you have ideas for future podcasts, like certain things, don’t like certain things, drop a comment down below, and tell us what you think, because we want to make these useful, and fruitful, and we’re just begging for a beer sponsor, frankly. I mean, to be honest.

Marc Lamson:    That would be great, yeah. And share your success stories, too. We were kind of real focused on this, you and I have gotten a little too serious. I’m not sure how that’s happened.

Scott Cassidy:   Yeah, I don’t enjoy that, really, at all.

Marc Lamson:    I’ll adjust that, but you know, we’re all focused on results. But this is about changing people’s lives. This is about connecting to, from a week ago to the guy’s mom’s house with the circle brick driveway. So, it’s just about helping people improve, helping people develop. Someone once gave me a sign [inaudible 00:23:30] for my office is to teach, to teach and I can I sort of cross that out to say, “To coach is to touch a life forever.” And some of the most impactful things that we can do as a leader, as a catalyst is to help people change and improve. This is the hard work it takes. So, I don’t want to lose, it’s not just all about sales numbers. It’s about helping people lead fulfilled lives, to be Other-Centered, and to hopefully just grow in our building. So, thanks for the time. Thanks for having me on.

Scott Cassidy:    Yeah. Well, thank you-

Marc Lamson:    And thanks for the beer.

Scott Cassidy:     I think just to summarize, a good coach, as we really deep dive into that part of this, is really to diagnose and develop. And that means, outcome based capabilities, and that means making sure you leave the rep with homework that you can hold them accountable to before you’ll coach them the next time. And again, not a penalty, just joint accountability in the development of that individual, and I think that’s a key takeaway.

Scott Cassidy:      So, thank you, Marc, for all of that. Thank you all for listening to another episode of sAles with ASLAN, and we hope you go out there and master your craft. See you next time.

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