Anyone who’s ever gotten married will agree; the preparations leading up to the big day are a blur. Extended family, comprehensive planning and growing expenses all contribute to the madness. It’s also not uncommon to start some kind of fitness routine to look your best on the big day.
This past summer, I embarked on this hectic journey with all of the hallmarks, including getting in shape. I started a weekend job giving DC Bike Tours on the National Mall; my husband chose another path: personal training. Watching his progress with a trainer renewed my appreciation for the role that coaching and good management can have.
In sales, there’s often a lack of emphasis on the ways that managers can impact their team’s number from a coaching standpoint. Most teams track and report their performance through dashboards, but few have a plan for qualitative improvement among individual team members. Inspired by personal training, here are three ways managers and sellers can ensure a successful sales training engagement:
In Preparation for Training
The concept of ‘preparing for reinforcement’ might sound odd, but it makes sense. By preparing for a big change, you increase the likelihood of that change becoming a habit.
A good personal trainer wouldn’t launch into a program without first understanding your starting point: stats, goals and strengths/weaknesses. Sales managers should take the same approach and array it against the organization’s measure of success. Depending on the scope of the training, evaluating current performance might be taking a simple pulse on the group’s performance, or a deeper dive into each individual’s metrics.
Asking “what would you like to be able to accomplish as an outcome to the training program?” might be appropriate to collect some general themes during a group discussion, or it could be valuable to pose in a one-on-one with each individual. It all depends on how much the training will cover and the time that will be invested in it.
Assessing each team member’s strengths and weaknesses can provide a solid foundation for training: especially when the manager can compare his or her impression of those areas, compared with the individual’s own perception. Identifying any discrepancies or differences of opinion may help inform how to coach or prioritize certain skills as learning happens.
Managers should be present in the training along with their teams. (Sadly, even this is not always a given!) When I say present, I don’t just mean in the room, I mean involved and invested. Imagine if your personal trainer showed up, only to respond to texts and scroll through Facebook while you were doing hard work! Your credibility as a coach starts with your team seeing you buy-in to the new content.
The best coaches know they have to create a safe space for their sellers to try new things, but they also have to ensure that the sellers DO them. Role-playing and other practice exercises are difficult, but they are incorporated into training programs for a reason: it is best to practice in a safe environment as opposed to on a call with your most important prospect. Nearly everyone is hesitant or nervous to try them the first time, but manager support can be a great catalyst.
In addition, managers have the best understanding of their own team dynamic and how each person processes information. They can be a great help to the facilitator by nudging a team member to ask a question they might be holding back, or suggesting the teacher call on some of the quieter individuals in the group. Don’t be afraid to have a word with the trainer between sessions and tip him or her off on who to call on or when to call on them. Your instructor will appreciate it!
Ongoing Support Post-Training
When you’re trying to make a new habit or learn a new skill, the amount of time it takes to complete the task or learn the skill is usually far shorter than the amount it takes to become a master. Many are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour requirement to become an expert. This time period is critical for sales managers to be helping each individual get over the discomfort of trying a new approach. Without a personal trainer around to make you pick up a heavier weight than last week, or finish one more repetition, it’s much easier to fall back into the comfort zone that results in much slower progress.
Success requires keeping the starting point, as well as the end goal, clear and in-focus. Managers can guide ongoing development by centering the focus on just one small change at a time. They also serve as valuable sounding boards by recording and sharing each individual’s progress; this structure helps the learners see how they’re doing in the big picture. Finally, don’t forget about celebration. Recognizing an individual, whether privately or publicly, can contribute to their motivation and enthusiasm for continuing to practice.
Management and coaching is not just a role, they are each a cultivated skill. By investing in behaviors like these and committing yourself to helping your team improve, you can simultaneously improve as a manager and coach.
Read the ebook:
How to Reinforce Sales Training