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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

There is Only One Place to Coach Salespeople


I remember when I took private pilot's lessons there were two places learning took place. The first place was ground school. We learned how airplanes are constructed, how they fly, which radio frequencies to use, and how airports are laid out – literally hundreds of  topics one would need to know to pilot an airplane.

It was good learning, and I remember most of the lessons to this very day. Completing and graduating from ground school is a big deal. 

On the Ground and In the Air

So, why can't you get a private pilot's license after such a robust experience? Because you need to FLY in order to learn how to be a pilot.

So, the second part of getting your private pilot's license is time in the pilot's seat — with a certified instructor. It's the only way to know how an airplane feels when you speed down the runway and how the plane reacts when you pull back on the yoke and it lifts off the runway. In the pilot's seat with an instructor/coach at your side is not only the best way to learn how to fly, but is REQUIRED if you are ever to obtain your license and fly an airplane.

Now, the ground school is important, but it's the flight hours with the coach that MAKE a pilot.

What is Different Between Flying and Selling?

How different is selling than flying? And, why do so many sales managers attempt to coach salespeople from their office chair and do most of their training around a conference room table? Certainly, it's convenient, but those activities are not coaching. Those are ground school, classroom training. In order to see what went well on a call that can be reinforced, and what went wrong that could/should be fixed next time, you have to actually SEE the call because the salesperson cannot observe themselves and they cannot recount what happened accurately. As a manager, you need to coach in the field.  Period. And, the purpose of your field visit must be to observe the salesperson and provide effective feedback on what went well and what they think they should do differently next time. Your purpose cannot be to get the order, because you'll be paying attention to the customer, not the salesperson.

We hear every day from our clients how tough it is to schedule field days with salespeople. We get it. But, you have to do it anyway. It's by far the best way to develop your salespeople. It's a basic principle of human behavior that people learn when they get functional feedback on their performance and salespeople perform in the field.  

The next time a friend of yours invites you to go flying on Sunday afternoon, be sure to ask about their training. If you hear ground school only, you know what not to do.

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