As a sales manager, you have no doubt had this experience. You just returned from making a sales call with one of your people and they begin to describe to someone else how the call went, who said what, and what got accomplished. As you listen, you are wondering if you were even on the same call, because what you saw and what you experienced was quite different. So, what’s going on here? Is your salesperson just obtuse, or perhaps trying to spin the story to make himself look good? Chances are, neither.
The reality is no one can see themselves in action, and thus, their experience is necessarily different than yours when you had the opportunity to observe them in action.
Bear Bryant, who is tied with Fielding Yost for winning the most college football national championships, shared these words with the reporters from Training Magazine about how he used observational training to coach his players:
"If I were coaching a boxer, every inch would count. If he develops a habit of throwing his left jab an inch too high or an inch too low, he's going to get battered. To prevent that, I'd have to observe him carefully, since he has no way of knowing.
It's the same with my team, except that there are 11 of them throwing a left jab all at once. So I have to observe them, inform them and train them. And you can't do this sloppily. The winning coach is the one who does these things extremely well."
This makes a pretty convincing case for the value of coaching in the field, not in the office, wouldn’t you agree?
Most sales managers tell us they simply don’t have time for in-field sales coaching on a regular basis. Too bad! There are certain principles of human behavior we cannot change, like the fact that salespeople cannot observe themselves in the field. As Steven Covey might ask, why try to break yourself against that principle?
The next time your salesperson comes back from a call and you ask how it went, just know what you’re getting. And, maybe next time, you can see it for yourself in the field.
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Jim Hopes is the Chief Executive Officer at The Center for Sales Strategy