When Brandon Gracey, Principal at Gaslight Solutions, asked if he could put me on the hot seat about sales coaching, how could I say no? (After he agreed to let me record it for everyone!)
Read on, or watch a video snippet of our conversation around:
- Whether to focus on areas that the salesperson is best at or where there are gaps,
- Whether there is a rubric to start from in training or if things begin with a self assessment,
- What are the typical reps that you look for coaching?
- How does mindset play a role in sales training?
- And more!
Do you focus on, when you think about improving the skill sets of an individual contributor, do you focus on force multiplying the things that they're already best at, or the things that they have the biggest gaps on?
Both. But the focus initially is going to be on where are their biggest gaps? Strength based coaching is what you would call that. What are the strengths that have been able to get you to where you are now that we can use to help you to continue to carry you through? Where are the places that you're getting hung up, that you're tripping up, where deals are going sideways?
I relate it to Superman. Superman's really strong, but he has a weakness that can cripple him, and that's his kryptonite. So figuring out what's their biggest block, what's their kryptonite?
Ultimately, they're coming to me because sometimes they're the best of their team. Sometimes they're the worst of their team. Sometimes they're in the middle. But either way, they know that there's something that they could be doing better, and they're motivated by something to do it.
Cool. Do you have a rubric that you start off from, that is here are the 10 skills that I think are most important? Or do you have people come in and self-assess? Is it some combination?
It's a questionnaire that's standardized. And that's how we have the data points that are predictable. And then from that, I take that interpret where their strengths and weaknesses are hurting or hindering based on who they're selling to, and the market that they're in right now.
Cool. What are the typical reps that you coach look like? Are they the people that I was talking about (new) or are they deeper in their career?
The thing I've found is this, the salesperson that pays their own way improves, and they start to make changes in their company, and get noticed. Or they become a thorn in the side of the company because they're bitching and complaining about how much they're messing everything up. And they're like, "I just need to get out of here." Or, they get kicked out, or fired, or whatever. This isn't a cultural fit anymore, kind of thing. And at the end of the day, the company is the one that's losing out.
I still work with individuals. I'm working with startup accelerators, and those kinds of things where maybe they need to hire their first salesperson, or their first five salespeople. But they've got some kind of growth trajectory, an exit strategy worked out to be able to do that, either get bought out, or go IPO, or something like that. If I could work with them earlier, then I'd rather do that than when they've already set a culture, and started making mistakes. It's a lot more work to try and fix that. And it's like trying to get them to throw good money after bad.
Yeah. I mean the consulting work I do when I'm consulting is generally unwinding all of the mistakes, and then kind of resetting a management cadence, resetting what the actual funnel will look like, resetting what the process looks like. Putting all the kind of Humpty Dumpty back together again, so that when they go attempt to scale the second time, they don't have to hire a bunch of people and fire them again.
Yeah. Because it's expensive and it's a much more expensive problem later than it is when you get it right the first time.
Totally. Yeah. It costs you a round of funding.
You've said mindset a couple of times. Particularly when an individual rep is coming to you, how much of it is just like they can't get out of their own way?
I would say 90% of them. Pretty close, if not more than that.
There's been very few cases where, I might even say more than 90% of the time. It's always that we just can't get out of our own ways.
It's just simple, like I was coaching one of my clients this morning, and he was talking about how he has a call coming up where he has to try and figure out if they can come up with more budget.
How about we see if we can help them find a way creatively to come up with more budget. We go through the list of questions of, here's some questions that we could ask to find out. Are they going to be able to reduce the amount of technologies they were using because it's redundant? So they've saved money and time and resources there. Is it going to improve the efficiencies of the individuals where maybe they don't have to hire five more salespeople, they only need to hire two more salespeople?
There's savings there. And he's like, "Oh, I never thought of that." I'm like, "Why didn't you?" He's like, "Why didn't I think of these things?" And then we go back into, all right, "Well what's going through your head?" The mindset of it. It's so much managing and replacing beliefs is a lot of times what I'm doing.
Yeah. Is what you're generally, the system that people are going through when you're their coach, is it more of a product, or is it more entirely bespoke that like every snowflake is individualized enough that you have to completely throw it out of it?
I think of it more like a puzzle of I've got a set number of pieces that I can arrange in a certain way. And yeah, those pieces, and how they're arranged will be different from one individual to the next, but they're the same pieces.
So we start with understanding what their motivations to change are, and actually going through like the five steps of setting real goals; not just thinking about them, but writing them down and creating actual strategies and action plans for those. And then sharing it with other people, and making reports back to those people.
Sometimes that alone, that was the thing that I was most surprised with, that that's what a lot of people got the most value out of, they haven't really figured out how to tie their personal and professional goals together. I want these things and this is the kind of life that I want, but they haven't figured out yet how work ties into that. How work can actually help them to achieve that. And a lot of times, that's what I'm doing. And once that clicks for them, they're like, "Okay, what do I got to do?" And they're willing to do almost anything.
It's amazing how many managers at all levels, whether it's commercial or otherwise, miss that very simple tactic. If you can align people's professional goals to their personal goals, you will get much better performance out of them.
Yeah. And it's a lot easier to keep them accountable because now you're not having to chase them, they're coming to you, and saying, "Hey, I wasn't able to get this done right," or, "This is tripping me." They're coming to you versus the other way around.
Yeah. Now I can't afford my wedding. Now I can't do this, now I can't do that... Yeah.
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