RAB Insights

RAB Research Archive

Are You Building Them Up or Beating Them Up?

Randy was my son’s baseball coach when he played Little League. The team was made up of 13- and 14-year-old boys in a critical phase of their baseball education. They have the fundamentals; they know the game. At this point, it’s about refining skills and reducing mistakes. At the end of the day, it’s still a game and they should be enjoying their time on the field.

Randy was a self-proclaimed “expert” regarding baseball. “I know this game inside out, and it’s so (expletive) frustrating that these kids just don’t get it.” Hardly a game went by where Randy’s wife didn’t run over to the bench, tell Randy to, “settle down, shut up, and let the boys play.”

Salespeople at all levels in their careers are going to make mistakes. I know I make my fair share of mistakes. As adults, often we “know” what we did wrong. We are embarrassed, humiliated and feel stupid. The last thing we need is the coach yelling from the sidelines, “why did you do that?”

My mentor and friend Bill Mann would often tell me, “Jeffrey, stop fighting your head. Shake it off, move on and learn from it, and do it better the next time. I know you can.” “Shake it off” gave me permission to stop beating myself up, analyze what I had done wrong and do it better the next time. “I know you can” was the belief in me that built me up, even when I was down after making a stupid mistake or losing a sale.

Every encounter with a seller is an opportunity for the manager to “train” or “coach.” Less experienced sellers need more training, more advanced sellers need more coaching. Experts speculate up to 60% of salespeople never get any real coaching. What most managers think is coaching, is teaching, and telling the seller how they would do it. There is nothing wrong with teaching, it’s a required management activity for new and less experienced sellers. You’re more directive on their path to success. As they develop and grow, the choice of teaching vs coaching becomes important.

Coaching gets its roots from the Greek philosopher Socrates. He developed the Socratic method that you’ve likely heard about or read about in management books. The Socratic method involves debate, discussion, questions and brainstorming to solve problems. As a leader or a coach, what this means to you is that rather than telling your sellers what to do, you ask them a series of questions, discuss with them, and guide them on a path of self-discovery. People who discover the answers on their own, with some guidance, will reduce their reliance on you and become more independent and successful at problem-solving.

As a new manager, I used to pride myself on being the “answer man” for my team. Sadly, this was ego-based, and I simply wanted to be needed. If they could figure it out on their own, what did they need me for? By guiding your sellers to solve their own problems you become a partner. You focus on larger, more strategic issues. You coach sellers to achieve higher levels of performance by guiding their discovery. You also have more time to provide the “training” newer sellers need.

Thankfully, Randy’s career at coaching 13- and 14-year-olds ended after one season. He was beating them up, not building them up. As a manager, you have a solid base of knowledge and experience. You know what you’re doing, and I’ll bet your good at it. We hope that by sharing the difference between training and coaching and helping you discover when to use them, they will guide you down the path of building up your team to even greater success than they are having now.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB