How to Curbside Coach

Have you ever heard of a gentleman by the name of Butch Harmon? Most of you reading this newsletter probably won’t recognize that name. However, I’ll bet you recognize this name "” Tiger Woods. I won the bet, right.

So just who is Butch Harmon and what’s his connection to Tiger Woods? Well, Butch Harmon is the person Tiger Woods went to for instruction and coaching during his early years. Think about that for a moment. If the world’s greatest golfer needs guidance and coaching, then we can safely assume that the world’s greatest salespeople, like the ones who work for you, would benefit from what a coach offers.

What? You don’t have the world’s greatest salespeople! Well, maybe it’s time to invest some time in the salespeople you’ve got to help them be the best of the bunch.

Just like athletes, salespeople need to be coached if they’re to perform at their best. But don’t confuse teaching with coaching. Many sales managers fail to make the distinction between these two roles. Teaching is “show and tell.” Coaching is “observe and suggest.”

Teaching is something you do before you set the salesperson loose on your prospects. It’s best done in the comfort of your office or during formal training sessions "” although some companies use the B-L-B method (blind-leading-the-blind), where they send new recruits out with a more seasoned salesperson, often with interesting results.

Coaching, on the other hand, is best done in the field, after the salesperson knows what he or she is supposed to do. I call this curbside coaching. It’s a way to build or improve on the strengths that a salesperson brings to your company. You may never be able to get rid of a person’s weak points, but you can build up his or her strong points so that the weak ones become small in comparison.

Curbside coaching doesn’t always take place at the curb. With inside salespeople, it can be done in a quiet corner of the sales floor, in the stockroom, or during a planned coffee break. Telemarketers can be coached at their workstations during planned coaching breaks.

Guidelines for Curbside Coaching

  • Curbside coaching should be done immediately before or after the call.
  • The best place is in the salesperson’s car, while it’s parked, with the motor turned off, and your minds turned on!
  • Don’t make a big deal of it. Coaching should be something that you do naturally and the salesperson expects you to do in your role as sales manager. The important thing is to do it systematically and properly.
  • Whenever possible, confine the coaching to just one point or idea. Don’t overwhelm the salesperson.
  • Don’t feel obligated to coach. If there are no particular points to be made, don’t make any. Simply compliment the salesperson on a strength you noticed and get on with the next call.
  • When doing corrective coaching, always start with a positive "” something that the salesperson did right. After you make your point, finish on another positive note. The idea is to keep the salesperson’s attitude as positive as possible while helping him build his selling skills.
  • Before the call, help the salesperson set some call objectives. Help him develop the habit of putting his mind in gear before opening the car door.
  • After the call, compare the pre-call objectives with the actual call results. Help him determine what follow-on activity would be appropriate.
  • Ask the salesperson what, if anything, he would have done differently during the call. Why?

Above all, avoid the incredible temptation to jump in and "save the sale" during the meeting with the prospect. Use the situation as a learning experience. Remember, good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement. You may have to lose a few small sales in order to help the salesperson develop the skills to get the big ones.

Here’s another tip. Use a checklist to simplify your note taking. Use it to check off the things the salesperson does right as well as those areas that need attention.

Those of you who have invested (wisely) in a copy of my e-book  Salvaging Problem Salespeople will find a list of the things that should be included in a typical coaching checklist.

In sports, good coaches aren’t or weren’t necessarily star players. They know how  to play the game and possess the ability to pass that knowledge on and help their players excel. It’s the same for sales managers.

Butch Harmon may not be a world-class golfer, but he knew how to get the best out of his protégé, Tiger Woods. It’s the same with good sales managers. Good sales managers may not be superstar salespeople, but they know how to sell and can pass that knowledge on to those who want to become superstars.

So help your salespeople make a difference. Be a Butch Harmon to your people. Coach them to sales stardom.

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