EP54: Where Did All the Coaching Go? (Long Time Passing)
In the last two podcasts, When Operational Excellence Hits a 9-Foot Wall and Myths and Misconceptions of the Cold-Calling World, Chris, Corey, and Valerie Schlitt, CEO and founder of VSA, have been discussing various aspects of striving for operational excellence. In this third and final podcast on the subject, these three sales experts turn to the topic of coaching. Listen to what they have to say about how coaching works best — and the challenge of doing it in today’s work-from-home world.
Valerie explains that what she misses is the way coaching worked before COVID, when she and her team were in the same office, with many of them calling on the same program. And they would sit next to each other, and listen to each other, and hear what went well on each other’s calls, and then copy it. This passive coaching among co-workers isn’t available now. And though active coaching by management isn’t impossible right now, it has to be done in a different way.
In the past, using ConnectAndSell, Valerie’s team at VSA listened to call recordings together and then dissected calls as a team in order to teach and learn what works and what doesn’t when cold calling. Like so many aspects of working from home, coaching is so much more difficult when your team members are scattered across town.
As with most Market Dominance Guys’ podcasts, the conversation often wanders into related areas of sales. Hear what these three have to say about the often-misaligned purposes and practices of two related departments — Sales and Marketing. And then listen while Chris suggests a cure for the misalignment. Yep. You’re going to want to hear this!
About Our Guest Valerie Schlitt is the founder, owner, and CEO of VSA, a B2B call center that helps clients generate leads and produce new business. Valerie also heads up the Philadelphia chapter of AA-ISP.
The complete transcript of this episode is below:
Corey Frank (02:25):
Empathy as Chris and I talked about in many, many episodes of how it could be taught. Could it be beaten out of you? Can I take a pill? But how can you create that or engender that in a conversation with a stranger? And we don't have many tools at our disposal, right? We have our tone, we have our pace, we have our reflection, we have our intonation, or we have our pauses. And the right combination of that, like a good musical selection of notes. You can't just go to the waltz and say, "Give me a G, give me a B flat, give me an E and let me just throw it together." You got to kind of play around with it. And I think as Chris has said with his new keyboard here, sometimes you just going to just play, and then flow and then pretty soon you have a nice harmony and a nice melody and before you know it, "what do you plan?"
"Well, I'm just playing my own thing." But it sounds like it's something. "Who wrote that?" "I did. I'm just meandering on the keyboard." But it sounds like something. And sometimes the trained ear, right? Can hear that more than a newer rep and we need that power of that coaching to say, "Wait right there, that stammer that you incorporated, that's the right level of empathy and aw shucks and toe in the sand and vulnerability. That's what we want. Now do it another 25 times today. And make it sound like it's the first time he ever did it." And that's what's challenging, but that's what's fun if just like a good Broadway actor, knowing their farewell performance in cats has to be just... And hit the marks as they're opening performance of cats on Broadway three years earlier.
Valerie Schlitt (04:02):
Chris Beall (04:03):
Yeah, Valerie how do you guys coach? I just heard somebody who has listened to a webinar this morning. I had to get over a bias that I have. I'm working on this bias, which is the modern way of speaking, especially the way that imitates California speech in which everything is a question and we can't say anything definite.
Corey Frank (04:25):
Chris Beall (04:25):
I'll keep asking one question after another. And we use the word like a lot, because we don't want to say something is, but we can kind of say it's like, and so if we say like seven times in a sentence and then we sound really uncertain, then we're not offending anybody and everything's fine. Well, I'm sure I'm caricaturing a perfectly legitimate way of speaking that I'm just uncomfortable with and then it makes me think that somebody doesn't want to stand behind what they're saying. And so I was listening to this this morning and the substantive part was that only 20% of managers and sales do any coaching whatsoever.
Now I believe the number is above 3%. Actually. I'll be completely Frank. I think almost nobody, coaches almost never so to speak and they think they're coaching, but what they're really doing is just holding a conversation at the end of the week, in order to say how they used to do it back in the day when they were rough and tough. And maybe they'll listen to something or whatever, but how do you do it? Has it changed over time? Or how does your team do it? I mean, I guess drift is everywhere. I listened to Seth Weinstock, who's one of our top reps. He's not an SDR. This guy carries a big quota and makes it stick. And I listened to him today on a call and he opened it like this. "I know I'm a bit of an interruption" whose deaf. May as well put a gun to his head right?
Yet there was no way that that's the same as "I know, I'm an interruption." That was the retreat into comfort and comfort is the enemy of performance in everything that we do. And so here, what one of the best in the world had done that. And I guarantee you, he's totally unaware of it. I guarantee you that this is like a hitch in his back swing. He is totally unaware that that elbow came out and that club crossed the line and there was no way it's going to any way, except dead, dead left into the water after this, right? But he doesn't know it. So how do you guys do it? How do you formalize the continuous tuning that's needed?-
Valerie Schlitt (06:25):
I will say that we don't do it enough. I look at our operation here as... Okay, we've now worked with ConnectAndSell, we have a great list source, we have great hires and now we're a little tilted because I think we can be coaching more. We do coach this way. We have someone who's responsible for listening to taped calls for giving, then setting one-on-ones with our reps and for coaching them. And they're supposed to talk to everyone. So this is one person that does this and we have about 50 people. So they get to everyone once a month. That's not enough. By the way, we are hiring someone right now whose only job is going to be to do that. Because as we look towards operational excellence, that is one of the things we need to bring us all up to the next level.
So the table's not tilted anymore, but we also have team meetings for each client and we play calls for everybody in that team meeting. And we listened to good calls, bad calls and dissected the calls as a team. So there's one group effort, that's the one-on-ones with each individual agent and that is not frequent enough, and then the other one's once a week where there'll be some sample calls that will be either sent out earlier or actually played at the meeting itself. And we dissect those and talk about what went well, what didn't go well.
What I miss is before COVID, we were in the office and since we have a team-based approach, we could sit next to each other and many people were calling on the exact same program and they could listen to each other and see what went well and "How did you do that?" And then copy that. And we don't have that now. So that's one of the deficits of this COVID environment that we need to make up for. And hopefully this new hire will... A lot is riding on him. So we'll see how that goes. But that's basically how we coach.
Chris Beall (08:23):
Yeah. It's fascinating as a challenge, right? Coaching is so interesting because sales is so athletic and top of the funnel sales is the most athletic part of sales, where split-second timing, management of your internal states, of your emotions, I compare it to facing major league pitching that the main trick apparently to being a Major League hitter is to hang in there against that curve ball that looks like it's going to hit you in an uncomfortable place. And it's the management of your emotions and your expectations. And they call it "picking up the spin." What you're really doing is trying to figure out if you've got to bail out, or if this is a great opportunity. And that's a tough one in sales, and we do it all the time. We have to do it really, really quickly, which means we have to have practiced.
So it suggests that coaching is more... A lot of coaching is about what's in the moment. And how do we do that without getting close to the moment? It's like doing it the next day saying to me, "Hey Chris, yesterday in this call, you sounded like this." Like, "Yeah, but what did I feel like then? Why did I feel like that? Is not probably why I did that, it's more about what I feel and maybe even about what I believe? My beliefs might've moved out from under me a little bit." And so I just think it's the most fascinating part.
And you guys are always working out of both of your companies. I see you essentially as this; you get talent, you put talent into the seat and make sure that they're equipped, you get a problem for them to solve, which is "Here, talk to these people and get appointments," and then you deal with the fact that they're human beings. That's kind of like the four-step process. The fourth is dealing with the fact that they're human beings. You're both experts at this, right? Do you feel that that's kind of a fair characterization and the bulk of it is step four? Dealing with the fact that their human beings?
Valerie Schlitt (10:23):
So, yeah. There's only so much you can control with automation and with getting the right lists. And then you have, as you just said, the people, but-
Valerie Schlitt (11:12):
... honestly, in some ways it's beautiful because someone might come up with a wonderful idea and a wonderful way of opening the script that I hadn't thought of, or the program manager hadn't thought of, or even the client, or whoever's putting together that message. And then everyone can incorporate that or even the timing, but you can't control it. You're exactly right. And even the best people have bad days and that's the hard part, but it's also could be the beautiful part.
Corey Frank (11:39):
I think it's more the latter. I think it is the beautiful part because you think about the 10,000 years ago, right? There was a caveman who wrote out a wall somewhere and ink dye and berries, et cetera. And he wrote this picture of reindeer, right? Running in a meadow somewhere. So of all the things that they could write. So even 10,000 years ago, we are wired, right? For beauty, we are wired for reflection. He saw it, he experienced it, it was beautiful enough in his own home to say, "Listen, you know what could go over our fire here is I need a .... His own version of Van Gogh and 9,500 years before Van Gogh. And he, and he created it.
And I think if we can get the reps, our teams, ourselves as sales professionals to come above ourselves and see what we do and how we perform it as an art form, as did I... Chris's example of the pitcher with the curve ball and watching film, "Why did that curve ball just hang a little bit too much over the plate and they took it 405 yards or 405 feet out of the park?" "Well, I think I came a little late on the delivery. I think maybe I didn't hunch my back and get enough spin into it." And so it's about the technique.
"Why did I get the bad review in variety because of my play on Broadway?" "Well, the song that I just... I was a little flat, maybe the orchestra overpowered my vocals." And I think as a sales rep, and you'd say it's really about the performance. And once the rep feels comfortable that it's not about Valerie Schlitt or Chris Beall or Corey Frank, it's about the performance. "And don't worry, I'm going to get another audience in tonight and you have another shot and don't worry if you screw that up, because I got another audience coming in. I can keep bringing people in front of you. Don't worry about that." And by the sixth week, the 10th week, we're going to be ready for the Tonys."
So I think if folks can get beyond themselves, this bias that we have, get this mental toughness, this grit to realize that it really is... I'm not going to law school, I'm not going to medical school. What I do is I am a professional salesperson and these are nuances that I want to learn. And so help me, Valerie, help me, Chris, as my coaches helped me learn these, so I get better and better. And I think when you can kind of move beyond that, where it's an art form, I think reps seem to perform to those standards.
Valerie Schlitt (14:09):
Yeah, I agree. I think also it goes to the part that we need to be with other people to make things work. And when success starts coming and that sense of accomplishment, and enthusiasm, and even the adrenaline, that's contagious to other people, it infuses an entire organization to go up another level. I do want to give a little story about myself here. I come from a family of professionals. My father and three siblings are all pediatricians. So being in sales was really shunned. And I remember when I started my job and I realized I was going to have to sell. I think I went through a depression. So I thought, "Oh my God, you don't just open up the door and then people come to you, you actually have to sell." So I have really become a convert. It shells. If there was no one selling, we would not have this economy. We would not have any work for doctors to do. I think what we do is the most important thing ever.
Chris Beall (15:15):
I agree. This is actually, if somebody will ask me, given my background, what are you doing running ConnectAndAell? Like what's that? And run innovation at companies and built products and a ton of all this kind of stuff? And my answer is that we live in a world that has an ROI in a funny place. It's rely on innovation. We literally, as a society, we rely on a pace of innovation to deliver what it is that's going to allow us to continue to live together and thrive in the challenging conditions that earth always provides for us, regardless of whether we think it's easier or not. All you have to do to see all hard it is, go watch that show Naked and Afraid sometime and see what people are like without their technology, which includes their clothing by the way, and just see what it's like because that's only 21 days and it ain't good most of the time. It's really not good.
They were highly dependent and reliant on innovation and innovation generally doesn't make it to market. And it is the point at which it founders is sales. I was talking to somebody today who has a company that they have a great innovation, but he said, it's kind of a crowded space and they're just getting going. They have the product, but they're just getting going. They're building their sales machine. And he recognizes as the founder that the sales machine is going to make or break the company. And so he's out talking to people like me about how do I build that great sales machine? And of course my advice to him was, "Well, before you build the sales machine, it's good to have one set of facts, which are what happens when you actually talk to people in your hypothetical target market?"
And I'm hoping that he'll go ahead and do that because I think it's a tragedy to take something as great as what they're doing at this company and not be able to take it to market in a way that allows that to happen before they starve. It's like Naked and Afraid, right? They got 21 days before they run out of money. It's not 21 days in this case, it may be a little longer, but it's not very long before as a company... I'll go back to the COVID thing. We ask our CFO. "CFO, how long before we run out of money?" That's a big question in business and it's sales that saves us from becoming irrelevant. And I think you guys, you two and your organizations and the others that do similar kinds of work essentially are bringing lifeblood to innovations, which are of great value ultimately to the people who buy them.
And I think it is the most important job. What we call the SDR BDR job or whatever it does certainly defeats the CEO's job I can tell you, in terms of importance. You could probably replace the CEO of the cardboard cutout for about six weeks and you're not going to notice, right? But if you replace your top of funnel outreach people with cardboard cutouts, well, it's not good. We had one of our customers sort of do that once. And so they fell 11% behind plan and [inaudible 00:18:31] 12 weeks, and they decided to go back and do it the other way.
Corey Frank (18:36):
Well, weasels in essence are made of cardboard. We could agree on that.
Chris Beall (18:42):
[crosstalk 00:18:42] When I get done with ConnectAndSell, I'm going to start a band and it's going to be all keyboards and they're not going to be hooked up to anything. And we're going to call ourselves the Cardboard Weasels.
Corey Frank (18:58):
No.I like it. So last question, Valerie. And then the hostage is officially released from the Market Dominance Guys' holding cell here. But you've been a leader in the AISP for so long. You got to lead the chapter there and Philadelphia, which is no easy task. A lot of folks will say to participate in a chapter is one thing, to actually lead it a chapter, be an officer chapter that is a job in and of itself. So I'm curious, just for kind of our folks who are listening today is what are you seeing across the chapter that maybe the rest of the country as a leading indicator, maybe either some nice technologies, some new techniques, some common issues, some common shared wisdom, kind of as the chapter head there. What are you seeing that the rest of us should be aware of from your purview as an inside sales professional?
Valerie Schlitt (19:50):
I will say, I'll just contribute this. We are having our third annual conversation on the alignment of sales and marketing. And we've had this obviously for two prior years, and now this year. This year, we're actually getting professionals from within corporations, not coaches, not consultants or trainers, but people who are actually within the organization who have a responsibility to marketing or to sales, talk about how there's alignment, because there's often that conflict, that tension. And I think especially even in the field that I'm in which overlaps, sometimes sales and sometimes marketing, having that alignment is really, really important. So that's just been a theme that's been really, really interested, gotten a lot of interest from the Philadelphia membership, so. And I think the whole automation of marketing and whether that helps or doesn't help in providing leads is a great topic. And everyone has a different perspective. So anyway, that is what I will leave you with.
Corey Frank (20:56):
Chris Beall (20:56):
Wow. Can I jump in on this? Because this is my favorite topic of all.
Valerie Schlitt (21:01):
Chris Beall (21:01):
Sales and marketing alignment. I think I've probably told the story on Market Dominance Guys. I'll tell it again. I once asked John Neeson, SiriusDecisions founder, what percentage of leads that are generated by marketing ever get a conversation? What's the highest number he's ever seen? And he said 9%. My comeback was, "Well, I don't think we have a sales and marketing alignment problem, I think we have a leakage problem." And my analogy was this, if I'm at the Talisker Distillery and the Isle of Skye and I'm visiting and I'm taking a look and say I'm a whiskey distilling consultant, and they're showing me their operation. And over here in one building, they're making the mother liquor, which is essentially beer. And it goes up through a pipe that goes along the ceiling and goes over to another building, because distillers sometimes blow up.
And when they do, you want them far away, right? So it's going over there. And I witnessed that there was like a flood of the mother liquor coming out of the pipe and 91% of it it's on the floor, would I say we have an alignment problem, or would I say we have a leakage problem? And I'm pretty sure we have a leakage problem until we're talking to a majority of the leads, probably 50, 60% of them, rather than talking to 9% that are cherry picked by somebody, according to their tastes. Really it's what it amounts to. In fact, we tend to talk to the 9% that are the easy ones to get ahold of, whereas the best ones are the hard ones to get ahold of because they're busy people. So I'm fascinated by that topic. And I have a cure for it that your companies can both provide that I'm going to suggest that you field as a potential product.
It's called the VSA young blood work sales and marketing alignment workshop. Guaranteed to produce results. And here's what you do. Take the marketing folks and train them to be cold callers and have them do it for a week. You'll be done. It'll be the most brilliant product on earth. And I guarantee you that all of the sales and marketing alignment issues will go away immediately. And it's not because they'll fail, it's because you'll make them succeed. They'll realize that the language of sales is fundamentally psychological. And the language of marketing is fundamentally about where products fit within an evolving markets. And there are two completely different worlds. And once a marketing person experiences being a sales person at the top of the funnel, they'll be able to make that distinction and alignment will be easy. So I'm going to beg you guys, please go come up with this product and save the world.
Corey Frank (23:46):
I don't know if there's enough... 91% of the market, I don't know if there's enough leakage yet. Let's wait for there's a little bit more pain, right?
Chris Beall (23:52):
Well, that was the best case.
Corey Frank (23:55):
That's awesome. Well, Valerie, Hey, it's been a pleasure. You're at vsaprospecting.com. One of the pioneers in the space and one of the true experts in the field of top of funnel. So really appreciate your time. And again, I think next time we have Valerie on we'll change it from Market Dominance Guys, to something more Market Dominance Legends. How about that with Valerie and Chris and [inaudible 00:24:19].
Valerie Schlitt (24:18):
Corey Frank (24:19):
Yes. We appreciate it.
Valerie Schlitt (24:20):
This has been delightful guys. Thank you.
Corey Frank (24:20):
Thank you, Valerie.
Chris Beall (24:23):
Thank you so much, Valerie. This is just, I know we were long in planning this. It was yesterday and then you came today, but hey, all of our planning has paid off.
Valerie Schlitt (24:36):
Thank you very much. I've really enjoyed it. I've liked meeting you Corey, and this was delightful.
Chris Beall (24:42):
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