Updated: Mar 15
It was 1983, and six months into my job as a business forms salesperson. My boss, the District Sales Manager, informed me that he had listened to a number of my prospecting phone calls (while out in the bullpen) and shared the following with me:
“Mike, I have seen you face-to-face with customers and you do a nice job. But, I have been listening to your prospecting calls and you suck over the phone.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, was fact-based coaching in 1983. That was when Human Resources was called Personnel and the goal of the interaction was to get my attention (“coachable moment”) and not worry about my “feelings". He then asked me to follow him into his office. This obviously got the attention of the other six sales people in the office. Everyone looked at me as I followed Joe into what felt like being summoned to the Principal’s office.
“Close the door behind you, Mike,” he said. Never a good sign, I thought to myself. I was 125% of quota at the time, but to say the fear of getting fired didn’t cross my mind would be a lie.
As I reflect on my life in business, this was one of the key inflection points that changed me as a salesperson.
Guess what happened?
He coached me. That’s right, he coached me! And he did it in the best and most vulnerable way possible.
“OK, Mike, we’re going to cold call your customers. You do one and I’ll do one.” And that is exactly what we did for the next hour.
What did I learn? Truth be told, Joe wasn’t much better than me, but it was the way he handled the rejection that made it fun. He laughed when summarily rejected! We laughed! We would get blown off the phone by a prospect, then discuss what adjustments we need to make to handle the objection they would throw at us.
“Mike,” he said, “They love you, they just don’t know it yet. All you have to do is get in front of them. How could they not love you when they understand what you bring to the table.”
Guess what? I got better. I got better because my manager took the time to invest in me. It was not just taking the time to invest in me, it was how he invested in me. He taught me that rejection doesn’t need to feel like rejection. He taught me how to laugh it off. He taught me how to have fun with cold calling.
From “you suck on the phone” to “they love you, they just don’t know it yet” was exactly the coaching and motivation I needed. I was able to secure more appointments which resulted in more business. I finished the year 259% of quota, won Northeast Rookie of the Year and finished 2nd in the company for National Rookie of the Year.
Why did I write this blog? Because, I believe in the lost art of coaching. My boss took the time to:
1. Evaluate: He identified gaps in my performance
2. Coach: He invested in my professional development by giving me his time, experience and doing it in such a way that it was fun
3. Motivate: He was clearly able to push the right buttons by getting me to believe that the customer needed me, but just did not know it yet.
Do your sales managers take the time to invest in salespeople like Joe did? I love this related article “Cold Calling is… Humbling” by Jeff Zellmer, Area Vice President for Konica Minolta. The way he invested in his team is rare.
At Butler Street, we understand firsthand that a great sales team and profitable growth starts with great sales coaching. That is why we provide a structured, scalable “system” for sales coaching and mentoring. Let’s discuss how we can help you grow your sales coaches.