There’s more to coaching than a pat on the back and a thumbs-up. In fact, one of the most effective but underutilized motivational tools at a manager’s disposal just may be coaching. That’s right – coaching can be a powerful motivator.
There is a direct connection between good coaching and motivation: good coaching leads to improved performance, improved performance leads to better results, and better results lead to higher motivation. It’s a basic law of sales: when reps do something well and see measurable improvement, they’ll want to continue doing it – and get even better at it.
Consider this example: Carolyn McGowan Coradeschi, president of Rainmaker Mindset and author of The Rainmaker’s Quick Guide to Lasting Sales Success
(Thomas Noble, 2013), recently worked with a sales rep whose job was to visit with hospital physicians and obtain referrals for an assisted living facility. After three months on the job, his referral total was zero.
Realizing he needed help, the rep reached out to Coradeschi, who accompanied him on his sales calls. Coradeschi immediately noticed several problems. “He didn’t feel like he belonged. He felt like he was an interruption, and his stature showed it,” she says. “He was hunched. He wasn’t standing tall or asking to get in. His approach was almost apologetic: ‘I know you are busy. I was hoping I could talk to someone.’”
As his coach, Coradeschi knew her job wasn’t to tell the rep how to fix his problems or even what she perceived those problems to be. Instead, she asked these coaching questions to lead the rep to his own insight: How do you feel when you walk in? (The rep’s answer: “Like I’m bugging [the prospects].”) What do you think you did well? What would you say next time? What would you do differently next time?
In thinking through those questions, the rep “realized he needed to look like he belonged,” she recalls. He also realized he just needed to ask for an appointment, not make the sale in that moment, which relieved him of a lot of the pressure he was feeling.
“Immediately, I saw him stand taller. He felt more powerful. He started getting appointments right away, and as soon as he got them he was on fire,” says Coradeschi. “He said, ‘I’ve got to go here and here. But don’t go here, because they are in the ER and we won’t get in.’ He became more resourceful, more confident, and highly motivated.”
In a subsequent ride-along, Coradeschi saw this now confident and motivated rep secure four appointments and get one meeting with a physician on the spot. There are several keys to making this connection between coaching and increased motivation work so well.
Coach, Don’t Manage
Sales managers want results – fast. This prompts many managers to end ride-alongs by laying out areas for improvement, anticipating that the rep will simply follow the advice and performance will improve. A traditional, prescriptive management response to the rep Coradeschi discusses would be a statement such as, “You are too tentative; walk in with more confidence” or “When they tell you so-and-so isn’t in, say this instead...”
While managers who take this approach do so believing that they are truly helping the rep, the opposite is true. Reps who are instructed on what to do rather than encouraged to come to the realizations on their own don’t own the changes and thus have little internal motivation to change. Unlike prescriptive management, coaching uses questions that help reps reflect and draw their own conclusions about what worked well and when and how they could improve. While the coaching process requires more time and patience, it is ultimately far more effective, as reps who determine for themselves what should be improved will be far more motivated to make the necessary chances.
Narrow It Down
Experienced managers who accompany sales reps – especially new or struggling reps – on sales calls will see many opportunities for improvement. Too often, they’ll then lay out the full list of all the things the reps can change in order to improve. But rather than motivate reps to change, this recommendation dump usually leaves reps feeling overwhelmed, resulting in no change at all.
Meaningful improvement can be gained only by zeroing in on one to three things at a time and concentrating on those until they are mastered. Short lists of areas of improvement are motivating because they feel doable and more focused, resulting in (continued on page 2)