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EP51: Coaching vs. Evaluating - How Fear Impacts Performance

October 6, 2020

coaching and evaluation how fear impacts performance

When we’re performing in the presence of someone we know to be more expert than we are, our performance usually suffers. In the world of sales, managers often put this pressure on salespeople, although often unwittingly. They may approach their sales rep with every intention of being a helpful coach, but too often they slip into the role of a critical evaluator instead. And as soon as a salesperson thinks they’re being evaluated, fear sets in — their stomach sinks, their voice tightens up, their intended flow of words gets backed up — and there goes their normal, relaxed performance.

In this podcast, Chris talks with Susan Finch, president of Funnel Radio, on this topic and then segues into the benefits of how a mutually beneficial relationship between members of the company’s team (sales, research, engineering/manufacturing, customer support) creates the best possible means of serving customers. Chris and Susan then discuss how showing appreciation and respect for the behind-the-scenes team members keeps those people from feeling invisible, motivates them to perform better, and to willingly offer support to the people on the front line.

Join Chris and Susan for another relaxed, entertaining, and informative Market Dominance Guys podcast as they explore what works and what doesn’t when managing salespeople and dominating your market.


The complete transcript of this episode is below:


Announcer (00:06):

When we're performing in the presence of someone we know to be more expert than we are, our performance usually suffers. In the world of sales, managers often put this pressure on salespeople, although often unwittingly. They may approach their sales rep with every intention of being a helpful coach, but too often, they slip into the role of a critical evaluator instead, and as soon as the salesperson thinks they're being evaluated, fear sets in, their stomach sinks, their voice tightens up, their intended flow of words gets backed up and there goes their normal, relaxed performance.

I'm Susan Finch, president of Funnel Radio, and in this podcast, I talk with Chris Beall on this topic, and then we segue into the benefits of how a mutually beneficial relationship between members of the company's team, sales, research, engineering, manufacturing, customer support creates the best possible means of serving customers. Chris and I then discuss how showing appreciation and respect for the behind-the-scenes team members keep those people from feeling invisible, motivates them to perform better, and to willingly offer support to the people on the frontline. Join us for this episode of the Market Dominance Guys, Coaching Versus Evaluating: How Fear Impacts Performance.

Chris Beall (01:54):

Sales is a game ultimately of dissonance and irony, ultimately of dissonance and irony. There's very little of it where you get to play it straight up because you're operating in the field of other people's emotions and their factual vulnerability. They are vulnerable to you if they let you begin to pitch them, and so there's resistance, "psychological reactance" is generally what it's called, and they can't help it. Then if you respond to that by being offended that they're rejecting you by raising an objection, you're toast.

Jeb Blount wrote a whole book on this called Objections. Here's the book. I mean, it's a brilliant book. Don't take my synopsis and say, "I've read the book," but here's the book. Inside, we hear objections, which are reasonable things for people to say in their circumstance, as rejection, and rejection is the toughest thing that happens to us because it creates embarrassment for us. How we handle hearing an objection and dealing with our inevitable emotional response internally that it's rejection is the key to handling the hard part of sales, which is what to do when they say no and they don't mean it.

What do you do when they say no, but that's not what they mean, because you can't say, "You didn't mean that"? What do you do? Jeb makes this point, which is you do a thing called "ledging." I'm an old climber, as you know. My game growing up was rock-climbing and mountaineering and a ledge, when I just heard the word for this first time, "ledging," a ledge is a safe place. Ledges are where you sit and belay, they're where you sleep, and they're where you don't need handholds anymore. When you're climbing, sometimes you can go through extended periods of time where one hand or the other must be very active on the rock holding on, or else bad things happen, right? For certain kinds of climbs that can get worse than others. It's always a game where you can't make an awful lot of mistakes. It's kind of a tense game. A ledge is where you can relax and that's his point.

How do you ledge? You just have to have a word or phrase that you say out loud at that point that tells you that you've had the reaction of rejection to an objection so that you can have a little bit of time to regain your equilibrium, assess the situation, categorize the objection, and know what kinds of things you might want to be addressing at that point. My ledge is the word "fantastic," so when somebody calls me and says, "Our number nine production system just went down for the second time this week," I say, "Fantastic," because that feels like rejection by the system to me. It's like, "Oh, man, did it go down? Our users need it. It's down. That's not a good thing." I feel bad on the inside, so I go to my ledge and my ledge is the word "fantastic." It sounds good to me, "fantastic." I love the way it sounds. It's poetic. It's three syllables, it's like a little haiku: "Fantastic!" It's real easy to say with an exclamation point on the end and not be sarcastic.

Susan Finch (05:24):

But that is the key, too: It takes practice.

Chris Beall (05:32):

Yes. Everything takes practice. That takes a lot. You golfers know this, right? The hard thing in golf is not hitting the shot that you know is your weakness when trouble is on the side that you tend to go, so all of us have a tendency to either hit the ball left or hit the ball right. There's nobody who has a tendency to hit it down the middle. That doesn't exist, even the great golfers. "My miss," it's referred to as "my miss." My miss is a hard hook and it goes left.

Lee Trevino said this very well. He said, "You can talk to a slice, but a hook just won't listen." He might've said, "You can talk to a fade," to make it more polite, "and a hook just won't listen." I love that. You can yell at a ball that's going to the right and it'll listen to you because it's not going that hard to the right. But when you hook it, it's coming down. It's not just going to left, it's coming down, right? Well, when trouble's on the left and it's a game situation, so to speak, it's important, it's the club championship, or it's just you're going to break your own record or you care or whatever, that's when the hook comes up for me. That's when it comes out and it's because in my head, I have failed to say, "Fantastic, it's out of bounds to the left. OB to the left. Fantastic." Right, and treat that as a clarifying moment.

Susan Finch (07:01):

On the last episode, Chris and I have been talking about scarcity and abundance and economics. Let's go on with our conversation from last episode and continue it because I think this is the only way for us to break cycles as sales professionals before we really can get started. For those of you that have to sell, but you don't think you're a sales professional, you still need to know how to break these cycles.

Chris Beall (07:26):

Yeah. I mean, everybody has to sell. Everybody has to sell and most people get pretty locked up when they're trying to do it when it counts. Most people are actually pretty good at it when they really believe that the outcome is a good outcome, even if it's just for them. As little kids, we're really good at it. We're really good at whining at mom when we're in the grocery store to ask for the candy bar that we know we're not supposed to have. We've become quite effective little sales monsters at that point, right?

All of us, except for a certain class of person that none of us happen to be, thank God, we get tight when we have to perform in the presence of somebody we know to be more expert than we are, and so when the pressure is on, we might be able to perform, but when the pressure is on and the master is there, it's hard to perform. That's evidence that we have a hard time performing in general anything. If you've learned to juggle three balls and then you're in the presence of somebody who can juggle five, your three-ball juggling goes to hell in a handbasket. That's all there is to it.

I experience this on occasion. COVID has really saved me from it because we live in splendid isolation now, so I have this beautiful little Yamaha electronic piano that is sampled from their big concert grand, so it sounds just like the big concert grand, at least in my mind, and I can sit down and play quite comfortably in the evening and my fiance will listen to me and she'll say she loves it. That's easy. All you have to do to make me into a horrible, halting, unsure piano player would be to have my sister's boyfriend, who is a brilliant pianist and a piano tuner, walk in the room, or just tell me that he's coming to visit, and I will suddenly not know what the major third of an E flat chord is. I'll know it, but I won't be able to execute it. I'll be unsure of myself, and that little feel I have, which is, "Where is that? Oh, that's the one between those two black keys that I feel here with this finger," that feel is going to go away like that.

I think that's what happens when we get tight is we lose access to the feel feedback and it's overwhelmed by this performance expectation feedback. Salespeople often put that on themselves, and worse, sales managers often put it on salespeople by showing up. When they should be in a coaching role, they're in an evaluation role. If you want to ruin somebody's performance, and especially in something athletic like sales, all you have to do is make it clear that you're evaluating their performance while they're trying to perform and you will guarantee the outcome that you already knew was going to happen. That's why it's a self-fulfilling prophecy of scarcity.

Getting over that is hard, and one way to do it organizationally, and I'm a big believer when you can do something organizationally if you have the money for the extra person, or you can figure out how to allocate, go with a part-time person or whatever in a role, do it rather than doing it through personal transformation because personal transformation is long, it's expensive, and your overhead is burning a hole in your pocket and your company.

For instance, an example is the difference between managing and coaching. In the NFL, we manage out of the front office, there's a person called a "general manager." They choose the players. The coach has input, but the general manager is responsible for making sure the right players are hired to be on the team and whether they're fired or not is their choice. The coach decides whether to play them or not. That's a different thing. The coach also trains them, teaches them, helps them, gets inside their head, understands when their problem is a psychological problem or physical problem, does all that. But the coach doesn't hire and fire. They have some influence on that, but they don't actually do that.

In sales, which is more athletically demanding than NFL football by far, we make a mistake when we coach out of the leader's position, when we're confusing the person we're coaching with, whether we're coaching them or evaluating them because as soon as we're evaluating them, we're ruining their performance, they tighten up, and in sales, when you tighten up, you're toast. You're just toast when you tighten up. The scarcity mindset, it's something that we tend to say we must address it within the individual by fixing their mindset. We can help with that. We can encourage it. We can provide. Go to Gerhard Gschwandtner's Peak Performance Mindset Retreat and jump out of an airplane, drive that Ferrari. Now, have somebody help you understand where your beliefs come from so someday you might be able to do something about them.

But we can also do it organizationally, and sales is a team game, even when it's played alone. That's something that I think we often forget because sales in history was done like this: "Here's your territory. Go get them, tiger." That's it. That was sales management forever and ever and the salesperson was a business person who owned a territory and they kept that territory. They bought that territory by making their quota and then the territory itself had an increasing value by increasing the quota. It was actually pretty simple, right? Asset must increase in value to be worth the investment. The way it increases in value was we keep raising the quota. The salesperson who wants to keep buying that territory keeps buying it by hitting that quota. That's the old model. That's not the new model.

Software ate the world. There is no inventory anymore to be disposed of, of significance. There are engagements, there's helping, there's this whole new world where there's no inventory, so sales immediately became a team game, and it's hard for folks to recognize that. The most important team relationship is between the player and the coach, but the coach is best, I won't say only, but is best a coach without hiring or firing authority and kind of keeping out of that, kind of keeping out of it. Let the facts speak for themselves, including the performance facts, the recordings, all that kind of stuff, but let the coach just be there to help performance, help you get better.

Susan Finch (14:14):

What about the other players, though? How do they factor in? To the individual performance of one salesperson, you're saying the team is a big thing, it isn't just the coach.

Chris Beall (14:24):

No, I mean, it's a lot. There's a lot of players on the team. There's whoever is the expert on the product. How do they interact with the salesperson so the salesperson is knowledgeable about the things that are worth being knowledgeable about and confident in the product's ability to carry those out for the right prospect?

Chris Beall (15:30):

How does that happen? Product knowledge is inferior to product confidence, so how does that happen? That needs to happen in the relationship between the product team and the salespeople, so if the product team is very engineering-focused/oriented, they're engineers, they tend to see salespeople as these inferior beings who aren't smart enough to build products, and therefore, they talk down to them. Well, when you talk down to a salesperson about a product, you actually reduce their confidence in their ability to represent the product correctly, so you're actually hurting yourself when you do this. Those are key members of the team.

Support is key members of the team. Things go bad. Things are going to go bad. In the modern world, everything is support-oriented and having a relationship between support and sales that is supportive and where sales is not using support as an excuse for future failure. That's a two-way street because sales really owes support their support and support needs to be thinking, "Hmm. Instead of just running the regular book here, is this a case where I could take the extra minute and inform the salesperson responsible for this account what I'm doing and get a little guidance about the business context?" Maybe there is no renewal immediately coming up, but there might be a renewal discussion that's happening because of an upsell opportunity. You wouldn't know that as the support person. You'll find it out if you ask the salesperson, "Is there some nice to be thinking about before I do this?" Because I could support like this the regular way, or I could do the extra effort and get in a screen-share and actually help them. It'll take a little bit more time. Is this person really important to you, o salesperson?

It's a team game on the support dimension. It's certainly a team game on the information dimension. You're getting information about who to go and call on. But by the way, I highly recommend that the information team, the data team be separate. Why? That's actually for a different reason. It feels bad to do work you can't do very well and it reduces your confidence and most don't do data work very well because their brains are not organized for data work, so they don't see it. They don't see the data at all, or it's hard for them to see. The same thing with writing. Most salespeople were not the person who in the English class raised their hand and was the best writer in class, so support in these areas for different elements of the job let the salesperson be free to execute.

Susan Finch (18:17):

I agree. I can tell a difference within a minute when I call a support team that is in the position of being the punching bag and when you call the support team that you know they have this level of confidence that, "No, we're the ones that keep everybody happy. We're the ones that bring back more business. We're the ones that hold this all together," and whether it's true or not, they feel it, and it comes through to where I know I can relax because they're handling this for me, they'll solve my problem, which builds my confidence in the company overall to trust the salesperson the next time they suggest something to me.

Chris Beall (18:52):

Yes, and as management, we need to be careful about what we celebrate. Corey wrote a brilliant piece recently about trying to train himself away from celebrating luck, because after all, if something happens by luck, you're not really looking to repeat the run-up to that. That's just depending on luck, right? If hope is not a strategy, luck really sucks as a strategy, right? Rely on luck, ROL. I don't think so, so let's keep it more in the ROI, a little bit earlier in the alphabet, right?

It's an issue there, but there's another issue, which is the issue of celebration, so when a deal gets done and everybody can see it, at our company, everybody can see it because it's a DocuSign that goes around and it's been signed and then it gets posted and everybody can see it. We're virtual, so we don't have a bell to ring, and it could be in the middle of the night somewhere, right? We could do a deal in the evening here and in the UK, it's middle of the night. I'm not going to have Jerry Hill wake up to some idiot bell that wakes him up, right?

But we even have a tendency as a company, which I try to work against every day, to celebrate the salesperson: "Wow! Great deal, Jerry. Fabulous that you brought that one across the line." Well, what about customer success who ran the test drive? What about my research team, Jaidev Anand, who put together the fabulous list that was used in that test drive, because that was one where they needed data? What about the support staff that took a situation where four people showed up late for the test drive that we didn't even know about and within five minutes they were administered into the system, blowing the minds of whoever it is?

I can think of a case where actually the team from the big OEM showed up not intending to use ConnectAndSell at a test drive of their biggest reseller and they showed up and they watched what was going on, and this is a big OEM. We would all recognize this company. Very, very big. The leader of that group said, "What is this?" and the leader of the reseller said, "Well, this is ConnectAndSell. We're testing it today. It's called an 'intensive test drive.'" There was some listening that went on for three or four minutes and then the question, "Can we join in?"

Well, gosh, it was seven people and we didn't know who they were and the lists had already been divided up among everybody so there was no extra data. All the ice cream was gone. You'd scoop all you want, but there was none left in there. I asked our head of customer success to see if we could accommodate and he never says no to anything that's doable, but even he hesitated just for a moment, and then jumped in and I put it on the clock. Within seven minutes, everybody on that team was administered into the system, they had data to call on, and they were trained. That was better than the test drive, even though it was a different team and they weren't going to buy in the whole bit, that was better than it going well.

Who deserves that deal, which has turned into a fabulous relationship for both ConnectAndSell and for that customer? Well, it's not the rep. I'm the rep, I think. No, I think Jonti McLaren is officially the rep, but I was the one on the ground there that day. The tendency to celebrate the hero who was in the front without extending that celebration by name, not in some general way, but this person, this person, this person, if possible, that's a bad tendency, and it causes a feeling of less abundance among the people who are behind the scenes. Then it's harder for them to execute because they have to overcome the emotional barrier of being behind the scenes, even though by personality, they probably prefer to be behind the scenes, right, they still want recognition. Everybody wants recognition.

Susan Finch (23:09):

It's a little different than the embarrassment thing that we talked about in the previous episode. You don't forget those feelings, but you also don't forget the feeling of being invisible.

Chris Beall (23:20):

Yeah. Yeah.

Susan Finch (23:22):

Nobody wants to be invisible. Even if you want to be subtle behind the scenes, you still want to be seen a little bit.

Chris Beall (23:29):

Yeah. This is one of the main reasons that I suggest that CEOs sell, but also that they get involved in product at a detailed level. Not so much that they're going to make a great contribution. Maybe they are a product person. I mean, that's my background. I'm a product person, engineer, and all that kind of stuff, so it's kind of legit when I do it, but that's not the only reason I do it. The other reason is the people on the front lines on product have a scary job, the scariest job, which is they do work that nobody knows it can be done or not and they're treated as though they're doing work that's simply a matter of doing the work.