Top Sales Coach Competition 2020: Meet the Judges [Special Episode]

On this special episode I have a series of short conversations with front-line sales leaders about the power and value of effective sales coaching. First up, I’m joined by Alex Smith, the Global Sales Development Manager at Headspace. Then I speak with be Deb Calvert, the founder of The Sales Experts Channel and CEO of People First Productivity Solutions. Finally, I’ll wrap things up with my friend Lori Harmon, the Vice President, Global Cloud Sales & Customer Success at NetApp.

My guests today are all on the panel of judges for 2020’s Top Sales Coach Competition, brought to you by ringDNA and this podcast. To enter for your chance to be recognized as the World’s Top Sales Coach and win $1,000 go to topcoach.ring.com.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Hi friends. Welcome to the Sales Enablement Podcast, I’m your host Andy Paul, and on this special episode of Sales Enablement, I’m having a series of short conversations with top sales leaders and some leading voices on sales, performance improvement about the power and value of effective sales coaching, and in particular effective call coaching.

Using recordings of phone and video calls to help sellers learn the skills and acumen they need to drive more productive and valuable sales interactions with their buyers. Now, my guests today are all members of our panel of judges for the top sales coach competition brought to you by ringDNA and this podcast Sales Enablement with Andy Paul.

And this is where coaches from around the world are submitting videos of themselves coaching a recorded sales call, and now to enter for your chance to be recognized as the top sales coach, go to topcoach.ringdna.com. Now in this episode, you hear my conversations with Alex Smith, Deb Calvert and Lori Harmon.

First up I’m joined by Alex Smith. Alex is the global sales development manager at Headspace.

Following Alex will be Deb Calvert. Deb is the founder of the sales experts, channel and CEO of People First Productivity Solutions, as well as author of several books, including Stop Selling and Start Leading.

Then I’ll wrap things up today with Lori Harmon. Lori is the Vice president of Global Cloud Sales and Customer Success at NetApp. Okay. Let’s jump into it.

Alex, how are you doing?

Alex Smith: Hey, Andy, I’m doing so well. How are you?

Andy Paul: Great. So thank you so much for participating as a judge in our top sales coach contest. so tell us what’s what makes a great coach?

Alex Smith: That is such a great question. And I think what makes a fantastic coach is someone who really understands the psychology behind interacting with people. The art of persuasion, if you will, that can really break down and understand, how interactions are going between two people. So I think that is something that I’m going to be really looking for in this particular competition.

Andy Paul: And so along those same lines is if you’re looking at, one of your coaches seeing how they’re doing are you evaluating, what they’re telling people to do or, in terms of coaching people, what they should be doing or coaching people, how they should be saying it? What do they sort of try to establish as a balance?

Alex Smith: First, it depends on the person that they’re coaching. Everybody learns a little bit differently. So I think that there is definitely value in sometimes just delivering the information as it is. But I think to your point, the second point was really explaining the how, I think is probably my GoTo in breaking down the specific situation and how you would approach it should it have been differently. So that’s what first comes to mind for me.

Andy Paul: And when you’re  looking again at your coaches, and what they’re doing, how do you coach them in terms of how they should be blending in the constructive feedback as well as the positive reinforcement?

Alex Smith: So, I know that there’s a lot of hype around this, but I’m actually a pretty big fan of the feedback sandwich. I think it’s so important to start with, areas where the person was doing great. And I think that there’s always something positive to pull out of the experience, even if it’s just for being courageous for even doing it for the very first time. We know it’s not perfect. So I think that’s. something that I have personally found people to be really receptive to. So I like to start with some positive reinforcement and then of course we want to get into, I would like to say very particular language choice when it comes to coaching, not, Hey, you did this wrong, but really prompting it before you give a important feedback that, Hey, here’s where I noticed are some big areas of opportunity for us to work on.

And I think that is a really important part of really good coaching is just making sure that it’s not, you’re not using you and you’re not using language that is in a negative commentation because essentially we’re all in this together. And you’re only really as good and developed as the coach that might be leading you. So that’s the way that I view it.

Andy Paul: And I agree. And so following on that trend though, is that not the treble that theme we were talking about is I know, there’s a tendency for some coaches to only coach negative calls or calls that went badly.  What do you recommend for people in that regard?

Alex Smith: First I think the coach should be really upfront about making sure that they want to hear both. They want to hear some of the things that person might be the most proud of. It’s also about, learning how that rep is also assessing themselves. And so I think coaches should always be saying, “Hey, I don’t just want to hear things that you might need support on that maybe went south. I also want to hear the things that you’re the most proud of and why.” And so I think prompting that as a coach or as a leader in this situation is going to help, have a really constructive conversation about both things, right? Cause it’s about playing your strengths, for sure that we can know is going to happen a lot quicker than improvements they happen over time. So I think that would be my one piece of advice on that.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And following up on that is you want to create a safe space so the person that’s being coached can say, these are the areas where I think I need improvement. Not just the we’re proud of. I think I did well, but, and can feel, I said, have the ability to ask for help.

Alex Smith: Yes. It’s about empowering as when you’re in the coaching position. It’s about empowering the person that you’re working with to feel comfortable, to also learn how to assess themselves in the situation. And then it allows for a really dynamic open conversation between the person that you’re working with.

And so I think that is a really big part of the coaching process. In general, you said building trust. I don’t know if you have any experience, but I know for sure that I’ve had experience with a certain managers in my sales career, where they come in a little too hot, right? It’s your on the job they’re giving you brutal feedback. And, it really sets the tone to have a very hard working relationship with that person.

Andy Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So last question is then for your coaches, your managers is, do they have a coaching template – this is what a call looks like – that they’re working from?

Alex Smith: Yes. So I have built templates and I know that there’s obviously a ton of fabulous educational platforms out there now that can really streamline this. But I, one of the first things that I do with the organizations that I work with my peers and managers that I’m helping to help develop other people is give them a framework for how to structure the call.

And so breaking that out in a way where it’s easy to input information, that also is easy on the eyes, but also tells a story and there’s also an area within the coaching template, if you will, that really outlines key takeaways from what the rep has assessed of themselves and what the manager has recommended as far as next steps go.

So I’m a big believer in making sure that you have a really well set up template so that way you can refer to the information later on. Cause it takes time, obviously for things to settle in and improvements to be made.

Andy Paul: Absolutely. Okay. Alex, thank you for your time. And again, we’re so looking forward to your participating in this contest.

Alex Smith: Yes, indeed. Thank you so much. And I’ll talk to you soon.

Andy Paul: Deb Calvert, so excited to have you participate in our Top Sales Coach contest as a judge.

Deb Calvert: I am really flattered and I’m excited too Andy. This is going to be good.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. This is a, I think a really fun idea to get people to submit call, have coaches, submit calls that they’re coaching and be judged for how well they do. So in your mind, what’s what are the sort of elements of a well coached sales call?

Deb Calvert: You can tell when somebody has received coaching. I do a lot of field coaching myself and after one or two calls with a sales rep, I can ask so where did you get coaching before? Because it just, it really does show up. So the evidence of a good, coached individual that shows up on a call is that they are emulating some of what good coaches do. They’re asking questions. They’re truly listening. They’re not asking manipulative going to box you in. I already know where I want you to go kinds of questions. They’re asking broader questions and natural drill downs to get to the essence of what they need to know.

Andy Paul: It isn’t to some degree. And I’ve had this perspective for a while that a good sales call in the way that you just described is actually pretty similar to a good coaching call.

Deb Calvert: I hundred percent agree. And people are often surprised by that because they think that coaching is the same as managing or mentoring. That’s a lot of tell. And then they make the same mistake and sales calls it’s a lot of tell. One way. As opposed to. Promoting self discovery and holding up a mirror to reflect certain things back and allowing there to be opportunities for the person being coached or the person being sold to set some of their own goals. It’s a huge difference. That makes a lot of impact.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think it’s the difference between going in. If you’re I call it, if you’re a persuasion based salesperson, then you go into a situation, a sales situation, confident that you kno2 what’s best for the buyer. And I think coaches oftentimes make that same mistake because they go into a call to coach thinking they know what’s best for the seller.

Deb Calvert: And they might be right, but that’s beside the point. it’s always important to get buy in before you try to get the buy. So if something is my own idea and you’re my seller or my coach, and you helped me discover my own idea or not. Not manipulatively, but authentically I’m then I’m all in.

Andy Paul: Yeah, because you’ve you feel like you participated in that solution?

Deb Calvert: Yes, exactly.

Andy Paul: So often as I see this problem with coaches, as they only focus on coaching, what they think are the negative calls.

Deb Calvert: Yeah. It there’s a distinction. People often resist coaching because they only know the one type which is coaching for performance.

You’re on performance review. Coaching is your last chance. It is something that is a way too late in the process. Versus coaching for development. Let me take what you do well and help you build on that. Let me help you discover the places where you can improve and you want to do that. And so you start setting some of your own goals toward that. Those two things go hand in hand when it’s about development.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I like that. That perspective agree with you. Oftentimes yeah. Coaching comes to serve a rescue mission as opposed to a function of development and making sure that managers, coaches are always doing the coaching is budgeting their time to include development time.

Deb Calvert: Yes. I often, as an outside coach, I often get a call where somebody wants to hire me as a coach. And it’s only because they’re too chicken to do what they really are expecting to do, which is to fire the salesperson or the executive, even because I do executive level coaching. And I just don’t. I refuse to do that for me. That it’s not fair to the individual, if this is just some last measure to pretend that they’re going to have another shot.

Andy Paul: I agree. And so people that are submitting the sample calls they’re coaching. Yeah. This is not, these are not rescue missions. These are, Hey, how do I help you get better? Type calls and it’s just really, for people that want to get better, it’s such a valuable resource. And I’m interested in your style of coaching, what you look for in effective coaches, the mix between the positive reinforcement versus the constructive feedback.

Deb Calvert: So my perspective on coaching is that you do need both, but what you need more than either of those are the promotion of self discovery, which only comes with questions. And this is the big difference between being your cheerleader and being your coach, being the fill in player, jumping in, mercenary closer to save the call and staying out there on the sidelines where coaches belong. It’s also the difference between being a manager or mentor, where I set expectations. I then hold you accountable. I tell you stories about how I would do things from my superior level of knowledge. All those have a place, but they’re not coaching.

Andy Paul: I laugh at that because yeah, my mind, everybody has their own unique set of experiences, but doesn’t actually make any of them superior to the others. I laugh, right? Cause that’s, we all have our own way of doing things. And I think this is part of what the value of coaching is, should be, is how do I help you become the best version of you? Not a copy of me.

Deb Calvert: Exactly. I tell managers, sales managers, specially that they need to wear four hats and they need to know which hat to have on at the right time. Sometimes you manage. Sometimes your mentor, that’s the sharing your stories and show and tell time. Sometimes you are a trainer and sometimes you’re a coach and coaching is what has the biggest ROI. Research tells us that you get a lot more from people when you coach them, but you got to know the difference or you’ll miss out.

Andy Paul: Excellent. I agree a hundred percent. Alright, Deb, thank you so much. this is gonna be such a fun contests fun event. And I’m really excited you’re joining us,

Deb Calvert: Me too. I commend ringDNA for doing this. it’s important for all of us in the sales space to understand what coaching really is. So this is a great place to get that message out.

Lori Harmon. Welcome.

Lori Harmon: Thanks Andy. Glad to be here as always.

Andy Paul: Yeah, so we’re so excited to have you as one of our judges on our call coaching contest. And I just want to spend a few minutes to go through what you think are the criteria for a great coaching call and maybe just start with is what is the role of the coach in a coaching call?

Lori Harmon: I think the role of the coach in the coaching call is to do everything they can to help the rep in ideally in a positive manner. And so we want the criticism or feedback is going to be constructive. So even though everything may not be positive, you want to try to at minimum sandwich positive, maybe less positive with something else that’s positive, so that you end up on a positive note. So I think overall, you want to keep the positivity there because I think the purpose of the coaching call is to help the rep to become better. So it has a very good outcome and it’s, you’re doing it because you want to help them. And not because you want to. Do something that’s going to make them de-motivated they should be somehow uplifting at the end.

Yeah. And by giving them really good tips and tricks and discussing maybe some of the situations with him to come out of it, being more confident to go into the next call and do an even better job and have a better result.

Andy Paul: And I would think that for most coaches, the idea is not to say, “Hey, do it my way,” but it’s to give people suggestions so they can find their way to do it

Lori Harmon: Exactly. It gives them different options so that they can explore what works for them and what doesn’t. And I think the opportunity, and one thing I’m really big on is the opportunity for the person being coached to do role play. Because getting comfortable before you go onto a call, your first call or your next call is something that I think is very important for salespeople. Especially some of the younger salespeople that might be starting out their careers and have less practice getting them comfortable before they start is really important. And the best way to do that is through some kind of a role play.

Andy Paul: So if you’re listening to a call recording and then you point some things out that should be, practiced on is before you leave the coaching call, roleplay it to reinforce it.

Lori Harmon: Re-do the scenario over again, and or maybe you do it multiple times, maybe you redo the scenario and they try one of your tips and then if that’s not comfortable, they can try another tip. So you give them plenty of options for when they come out of the role play in the coaching call to go, “Hey, I’ve got this.”

Andy Paul: Yeah. and they get to visualize what success looks like.

Lori Harmon: Yes. Visualize and actually really experience it. You don’t want you to be tough. I’m one of those role plays, but I don’t think you want to be crusher tough, so it does come out as a win, and that they have that confidence that I talked about.

Andy Paul: And so what do you see as the mix between. Coaching people on how they say things versus what they say.

Lori Harmon: I dunno, it probably depends on how experienced they are in terms of the level of detail versus telling them what they have should say versus how they should say it. So I think you have to be sensitive to how long they’ve been doing the role and also, what was the issue?

Did they just not handle an objection, right? Or could they have handled a pricing question in a different way? So I think the balance depends on the actual scenario. So it’s hard to be totally prescriptive on the balance between telling them what to say and giving them tips on the approach that they take. I think that’s unique to the situation.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And this is a question back to referring to what you were talking about before sellers that are somewhat new is  reinforcing this whole idea of your voice and the tone of voice and the words you use as very important.

Lori Harmon: Yeah. And, I would have to say especially now when people who in the past, maybe weren’t virtual, who have to learn some of the virtual selling skills that everybody needs to know in today’s current environment, it’s even more important to have that the right tonality and the right pace and the right diction when you’re talking to a potential buyer.

Andy Paul: When I think even word choice, filler words had a post I put on LinkedIn a while back about why people shouldn’t say the word buddy or pal, and it set off sort of storm of comments.

Lori Harmon: I have to go back and look at that one. I think that’s interesting. And you’re right. I’m somebody who have been, I’ve done Toastmasters and I’m really anti-filler words because it makes it sound maybe like you’re less intelligent, not intelligent, but less sophisticated or less comfortable with what you’re talking about. If you have to add those filler words.

Andy Paul: I just think it’s important for reps to understand this, and this is, to me, one of the real benefits you can get from coaching calls is that reinforcing this idea, that words matter. And I think people have to understand is that word choice and how people perceive it, maybe it could be the difference between being able to set up the meeting and not be able to set up a meeting.

Lori Harmon: It can make a huge difference. And I like your point about not being too, like calling somebody dude, or buddy or bro or whatever the word is, because especially if it’s early on you’re you don’t know the person that well, so you don’t want to be too familiar if you’re not familiar with them and you might never get to that point with a prospect or a customer. So you can’t start out being more familiar than you are.

Andy Paul: Yeah. What, and you just have to be mindful, right? It’s this is, I think is such important thing to, so reinforce with coaching is, were they mindful of who they’re speaking to and so on? If a 25 year old salesperson calls me buddy or pal. And I’m thinking, okay, 40 years older than you are, I’ve held executive positions. All these it’s like you just check that out first.

Lori Harmon: Yes. And words matter is one of my key overall life and career coaching tips, not just coaching for sales calls. So I love the fact that you brought that up.

Andy Paul: Perfect. Any other last minute tips?

Lori Harmon: I think the other things I would say in terms of coaching is one, is having an outline, like what are the elements you’re going to coach on? I do think it helps reps to know like what things you’ll be looking at for their calls. Maybe like we talked about. The words and the tone and the addiction, how they handle objections. So have a template that people are familiar with before you go into the coaching call so they know what’s coming and maybe I’ll even identify or give them an opportunity. Hey, what do you think you could have done differently or better on that particular call? So they have an opportunity to talk to you and.

Do a self assessment. I think that’s really important and it’s easier for them, especially if they’re less experienced to do that with some kind of a template. And the other thing I would say is frequency. A lot of times managers get really busy. So if the manager is the coach and there’s gaps in, when they’re doing the coaching, I definitely think that’s a problem. So it should be a regular event. When they’re doing coaching because you can also coach them and say, Hey, here’s what you did great and maybe there’s no feedback that an area for improvement that you have this cadence going. And even if all the calls that week were perfect, if that’s possible, you can end up having a really positive outcome and a good experience with that with the person you’re coaching.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I think this idea of consistency is so key because, and it’s really analogous to like a TV program or that comes out on a regular or my podcast that comes out on a regular scheduled dates. People expect it. And this idea, if you don’t come out when expected, then people begin to lose interest. And this is going to happen too, is if you’re not coaching people on a regular basis, as you talked about the hacks, establish the cadence with the expectations. Yeah, just don’t get the same result.

Lori Harmon: I agree. And sometimes if it’s not regularly, you just come up and do it when they don’t have such a good call, it’s going to be perceived in a more negative fashion. Like you’re only trying to work with them on a negative event or a failed call versus just doing it on a regular basis to constantly lift up their skill.

Andy Paul: And I think that’s such a great point to end on is. Yeah, coaching is not just about correcting mistakes. That’s about positive reinforcement as well. Early in people’s careers, earlier in people’s careers. At anytime people’s careers, we all like to hear and we’re doing a good job.

Lori Harmon: Absolutely. I still like to hear that.

Andy Paul: Yeah, me too. Lori, you did a great job here.

Lori Harmon: Thank you. So did you, Andy, I really always enjoy talking to you and enjoy our session this evening.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Thank you for your help with the contest. This is so much fun.

Lori Harmon: I am really excited about it. I love the creativity that ringDNA has put forth to set up this contest. And I think you’re going to get a lot of interest from people. I’m looking forward to sharing it on my social channels.

Andy Paul: Okay. Friends, that’s it for this episode. First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to listen. I’m so grateful for your support of the show. And I wanna thank my special guests. Alex Smith, Deb Calvert and Lori Harmon. And as a reminder to enter our top sales coach companies, go to topcoach.Ringdna.com for all the details of how to enter your call. All right. Thank you so much for investing your time with me today until next time. I’m your host, Andy Paul.