Much has been written about sales coaching and it's value to a tele-sales rep.. The trouble is "coaching" has different meanings. To clear up the mystery here are seven things that coaching is not.
1. Coaching is NOT a Personal Anecdote
Have you ever had a manager whose approach to coaching was to tell you their war stories from their days in sales trenches? They dredged up all sorts of colourful anecdotes of how they tackled this or that, of their flawless presentations, and of their ability to close on a dime and make the sale.
While 'good old day' anecdotes may be interesting do not mistake them for coaching. The stories might provide a useful tip or perhaps illustrate a point that has a degree of value but as an effective means to modify and change selling behavior of a sales rep, the stories have limited value.
Why? First, they are often lack relevance. Anecdotes tell of a different product, a different time or era), a different market, and a different customer. The tele-sales rep has to somehow extrapolate the similarities (if any) to the present and apply it to the situation. This can be tough.
Second, personal anecdotes are usually not based on an objective standard. The key to effective coaching is having a defined 'standard' or 'process' which has been formally taught and communicated. If the anecdote does not support the standard, it cannot be applied to the situation. One rep can interpret the story one way while another rep may interpret it another.
2. Coaching is NOT Rah, Rah, Sis, Boom Bah
Coaching is not a Vince Lombardi-like speech. Some managers act like big time coaches trying to pump up their reps, get them hyped, and exhort them into selling more.
A good speech can help create a motivating environment and can possibly get a rep to push or dial a little harder. But as good as an inspirational a speech might be, it does not teach a rep to sell smarter or more effectively. It does not modify or change or alter skills sets.
3. Coaching is NOT Training
A good training program is like a good foundation for a house. The better the foundation the more you can build and expand. Training is the formal presentation of knowledge and skills and it establishes the basis for coaching. If done properly, skills training should create the "standard" for all parts of the call such as opening statements, handling objections, dealing with voice mail, closing etc.
But training is definitely not coaching. Coaching supports training. If your reps learn how to create an effective opening statement using a five-step process in a classroom setting, coaching should support those five steps. Coaching helps remind the rep to use those steps in the proper manner. It encourages the reps to stick to the plan.
Finally, coaching takes but a few seconds or a couple of minutes. Training takes hours.
4. Coaching is NOT an Open Door Policy
Some managers think that coaching is telling their reps, "If you having a problem or difficulty, come and see me. My door is always open. I'll help."
That's nice but what a cop out! While some tele-sales reps will knock on the door and say 'boss, I need your help," most well not. They won't because they don't want to be embarrassed by raising their hand as saying "Heh, I don't know how to close."
Meanwhile, others - the majority- will not take you up on your offer because often don't realized they need help. They don't realize that they have diluted the skill set. They're not objective.
Coaching is proactive. It means YOU actively work with your reps ensuring that the skills and techniques are consistently applied. Coaching is NOT your reps identifying an issue and bringing it to your attention.
5. Coaching is NOT a Personnel Review
Personnel reviews are formal meeting between the manager and the tele-sales rep. They tend to be monthly or quarterly and are used to provide feedback to reps on how they are doing, what they need to be doing and so forth.
As a communications process, personnel reviews are great but they are not the forum for coaching. Providing feedback on a call or a skill set three weeks after the event is an utter waste of time. If the sales rep is stumbling over objections at the beginning of June, you don't need to wait to the 30th to address the issue. Coaching is real time, personnel reviews are not.
6. Coaching is not Quality Control
Quality control groups mean well but they are not always effective. The reason is that most quality control sessions are like personnel reviews and provide feedback well after the event has occurred. This means the rep often continues the same ineffective behavior (e.g., using an opening statement that is not to standard and producing mediocre results) for days or weeks after the event. How ineffective is that?
7.Coaching is NOT a Group Meeting
Some companies provide group coaching sessions on a daily basis. Usually a 10 or 15 minute session where 'tips' are provided. While these sessions may have some value, they cannot be viewed as 'coaching' because the feedback may apply to some but may not apply to others.
Effective coaching is one-to-one and provides specific feedback relative to specific rep and a specific call. It seeks to modify the selling behavior of a specific rep and that is why it is so powerful.
Don't misunderstand: these seven items play a role in disseminating information and imparting knowledge. A good story can illustrate a point and a good speech can motivate a rep to use a technique or skill. Similarly, reps should know they can come to your door at any time and any feedback any time can be of value. But these situations are not consistent and effective means of getting reps to change and modify their behavior.
Make certain that your coaching is one-to-one, real time feedback and you'll reap the benefits of a better rep and better sales.