Recently, I ran across an article by Michael McIntyre entitled “Try Coaching Instead of Commanding.” Michael is the director of the University of Tennessee’s Professional MBA program. His article began by stating, “Productivity, by definition, is a ratio of outputs to inputs. So, it’s understandable when sales managers try to increase productivity by squeezing more outputs from the same inputs.”
Sales managers are often pounded on for sales closings by VPs of Sales or company owners. In the absence of a sales process they, in turn, pound on the reps for results. Appropriate listening skills and instructional approaches give way to the expedient – what brings in a sale today. In the worse case, this produces lying to the customer, In the best case, in precludes coaching new habits and ends in pressuring the customer. When neither of these works, salespeople look for new positions, gossip about the leadership, become passive, or make excuses for poor closing ratios and fewer opportunities in the funnel.
To command someone means to give an authoritative order. In emergencies or in battle, this style of leadership occurs by necessity. Obstacles or direction must be corrected quickly and a command structure works best. (However, even in the military, recruits are coached or drilled over and over again on basic fighting responses both offensive and defensive.)
But for creating healthy productive cultures, in families and in business, coaching and mentoring provide for higher quality and longer lasting relationships – ones that provide for a higher return on investments. That’s because a coaching structure includes listening skills as a part of training and instruction which bring everyone’s needs and insights into problem-solving – children, customers, employees, and a company’s fiscal requirements.
In sales management, coaching is harder work. Commanding alone doesn’t require consideration of a person’s learning styles. Coaching does. Commanding means giving orders. Coaching means helping others make adjustments in their habits and skill levels. Commanding means making statements and leaving. Coaching means staying and persevering through the attempts, the misses, and the ugly part of learning new behaviors. One pounds. The other teaches and even nurtures.
This doesn’t mean that coaching is without authority or somehow without power. On the contrary, great coaches command respect and attention because they spend time on the why, the reasons, and the purpose of what they ask for. They also lead by example often at the head of their troops.
Which is it for you? For the masses, I know the answer. Coach salespeople with the style required for the moment and the person. Help them win. You can. Lance