Are you looking for a sales trainer or a sales coach? You might already have an idea in your mind what you are looking for. Did you consider that the answer might be both? Determine which will best meet your needs and will help you create a more productive team.
Understanding Sales Training and Sales Coaching
Let’s first start by understanding the difference between the two in the simplest way. Training is putting your best into someone, coaching is drawing the best out of someone.
While the two terms are often used interchangeably, by those who don’t know any better, or those who simply think coaching is trendy and want to say that is what they do, I like to keep them quite distinct when working with my clients.
When I talk about training, it is often in reference to implementing a new technology, process or system. Something where you could use a manual to describe how to proceed.
Coaching however, is about listening with intention, understanding not only what is being said, but why it is being said, and helping the speaker discover the path best suited for them. Too abstract? Let’s look at an example…
A deeper look at Training and Coaching
Sally is a new salesperson at Company ABC. She needs to learn how to use the company’s CRM, how to track her leads, and how to follow the proven and repeatable sales process that is in place. Sally needs training.
Fast forward a month, Sally is actively selling to prospective clients. She is running into objections. The sales process has tools in place to help overcome these objections, however Sally is still not having much luck getting past them to close the sale. At this point, simply training Sally again on the sales process or use of the technology tools isn’t going to cut it. Sally needs coaching.
With coaching, we work with Sally to understand what is going through her mind before, during and after that objection arises. Also, we can look at what Sally thinks is going on inside her prospects mind at this time. This is often where the key lies. A salesperson with a lot of natural talent typically has a lot of empathy as well. This allows them to relate to their prospects on a deeper level and build that trust and connection. However, this often means that the same salesperson projects their own feelings or beliefs into the situation, when it isn’t the case.
Continue looking at the example with Sally. There is an objection over price that seems to keep coming up for Sally when talking to customers about a particular service Company ABC offers. Sally is selling this service to people who make at least double her salary. When Sally is quoting the price, in her head she is thinking “this is way too expensive” and that is reflected in her pitch (whether she is reading the exact words from the script or not, the tone and inflection of her voice indicates she is not comfortable with that price. Sally is projecting, as expensive is relative. What is too expensive for Sally may not be for someone making twice as much as she does.
Do you need both?
No training program or manual is going to help Sally recognize that she is over-empathizing in this situation. The training provides Sally with a script that is proven to work. The coaching sessions are necessary to help Sally discover how she needs to act and think and be as she is presenting that script.
So how do you determine what your sales team needs? The best way to proceed is to hire someone like Adroit Insights, who provides both coaching and training services, making them more objective to the decision. Have a company conduct a full analysis of your sales process and sales people first and then determine the best approach moving forward.
I was recently walking along the Flat River in Greenville, Michigan and I saw this wonderful little gaggle of Canadian geese on the shore. Mamma and Pappa decided to take their little goslings across the river, presumably for a tasty treat. In the water they go. It was hysterical to watch them trying to arrange themselves in a row, with one parent in the lead, one in the rear, and the little guys lined up in between. The parents did a magnificent job. The inexperienced little goslings came very close, but never quite made that perfect row of geese you see in pictures.
What does “get your geese in a row” mean?
As I was clicking away with my camera, I realized I had a wonderful analogy for the many small business owners I work with who are trying to “get their geese in a row.” For geese, it’s just the way they swim…they are trying to line up in a row behind one of their parents!
For startups, it’s different. Cambridge dictionary defines getting your ducks (geese!) in a row as, “to be well prepared or well organized for something that is going to happen.”
For startups, it means planning.
If you have not launched yet, it means creating a business plan and a step-by-step Action Plan to start your business and land paying customers. It often means having a support system in place as you create and roll out your plans, a trusted resource where you can ask questions and get guidance. Many small business owners work with experienced small business coaches to help them get their geese in a row.
If you are a startup who has been in business less than three years and have under $100,000 in sales, it may still mean creating a business plan! It probably also includes creating a step-by-step Action Plan to land more paying customers. I work with many clients who “never quite got around to the business plan” and are overwhelmed with finding more clients while also managing their business. They need a plan. We are not talking about a 50-page, glossy-pie-chart type of plan. We are talking about a basic business plan that describes who you are, what you do, how you do it, and how you make (more) money at it. And the business plan means nothing without an Action Plan to execute it. You “get your geese in a row and keep them there” by creating and executing both plans.
Take the plunge.
Back to the geese trying to get in a row. When I saw them, they were on dry land. First, they had to take the plunge
into the river to reach their goal – their tasty treat on the other side.
As a small business owner, you need to take the plunge, too. If you are starting your business, you…must…actually…start…it to achieve your goals. You must get into the river! If you are growing, you also must also take the plunge and make time to work on your business, not just in it.
They were clumsy.
Okay, they were cute as heck, but those little goslings had trouble getting “in a row” so Mamma and Pappa could shepherd them across the river. I had my camera and clicked away as they were paddled through the strong current, ending up side-by-side, in a group, and just about any other configuration you can imagine as Mamma and Pappa guided them. The goslings were clumsy and inexperienced.
Most startup business owners are clumsy and inexperienced, too. It is to be expected (though most of my clients tell me it is uncomfortable as heck for them!). Yes, you may know your service or product down cold…but that is not the same thing as starting and managing your business and getting (more) clients.
They had support.
Mamma and Pappa were with the goslings for the entire trip across the river. Whether they were breaking the strong current for them, or communicating with honks and calls, they were supporting them the whole way.
Do small business owners need support, too? Of course they do! Whether you form your own support group or hire a qualified small business coach/consultant, you will “get to the other side of the river” faster and make a better landing if you get support.
They were persistent.
That little group of inexperienced goslings never quite made that perfect row of geese. However, they continued to practice and when they reached the other shore they were about 80% there! We know from observing nature and seeing pictures taken by others that with practice, experience and persistence, most gaggles do eventually “get their geese in a row.”
The same is true for small business owners. Maybe they are just starting out and need a bit of launch advice. Or they’ve launched and are unsure of how to grow their fledgling, gosling-type business. Or maybe they know what to do and want an accountability coach as they practice a new skill. Sometimes they just need a safe and confidential place to brainstorm new ideas with a non-judgmental person or group, so they can “talk it out” and find their solution. Or maybe they need a business plan.
For sustained success, startups must practice being a business owner and gain experience, enlisting support along the way. And they must be persistent as they work through their startup challenges to reach their goals. That “tasty treat” of success is achievable for both goslings and startup small business owners.
Schedule Your Free Consult With a Small Business Startup Coach.
If you would like to talk about “getting your geese in a row,” please set up a free consult. I would love to speak with you about starting or growing your business, and seeing how I can help.
Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth, LLC. Working with clients remotely through video meeting platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning questions. She also encourages them to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their Success Steps! Check out the website for ongoing How to Start a Business and Business Plan Boot Camp workshops and seminars, as well as 1-1 small business coaching and group coaching, including QuickStart Mastermind and Growth Mastermind groups.
Also check out Startup to Growth Video Library for additional small business training and professional development videos available to you online, anytime. A very affordable option.
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