Active coaching is a concept that has been the subject of much conversation over the past few years — and for good reasons. Many administrators and managers have realized the power active coaching has to motivate teams and guide them towards success. As the Vice President of Phone Ninjas, a company specializing in comprehensive sales training solutions, Chris Vitale is a proponent of active coaching and speaks to the value that it can bring to all levels of an organization.
Here, Chris explores the concept of active coaching and how individuals can best utilize it as a resource for continued growth and reflection.
Starting Active Coaching by First Identifying the Real Problems
Chris Vitale maintains that one of the main obstacles to proper active coaching is our tendency to lack follow up. Scheduling training courses or mystery shoppers to test employees on key components of their jobs is just one part of the equation. Typically, when tests are the only method used, we revert back to our old habits because we failed to address the root causes of the issues at hand. For best results, active coaching cannot simply point out areas of opportunities, it must fix the breaking points and address them to change performance for the better.
Many within industry know this situation all too well. A Sales Consultant is mystery shopped and, before long, they are in the GM’s office receiving “the talk” about their performance. Chris recognizes that “the talk” is not particularly coaching, as it generally results in a situation where the employee is defending themselves rather than working to address constructive feedback. This is doubly true if the employee is caught off guard and is unprepared to truly learn how to implement best practices.
The glaring issue with this approach to “coaching” is that it does not offer solutions. After all, you can provide “answers” and “tips and tricks” all day long, but they will not have a true impact on performance without a structured plan for improvement that address the root cause.
What is the Real Problem?
Chris Vitale encourages management teams to work towards addressing the real problems to help teams improve through active coaching. In most cases, what is really wrong is that the employee is not doing better consistently. This simply cannot be addressed by “beating the test” or “faking a score” — it must be worked towards by seeking the opportunity to understand and following up with changed behavior, improved scores, and better KPIs. We cannot escape that we are working to make money, and profit in and of itself is not a dirty word. It can and should be covered in follow up conversations.
Chris finds that, in a sales environment, the real problem is often that dreams are not effectively trained, and our methods such as mystery shopping do not qualify as enough training to fully develop the skills that will empower employees to continuously improve and receive constructive criticism.
Quality training that utilizes active coaching sessions are the solution to many woes within the sales space and, while these strategies may use mystery shops as a resource, they are but one piece of the overall strategy. The best active coaching works on the breaking points in a call. Everything from the greeting to the questions asked, overcoming objections, and even offering directions within call need analysis.
For an effective call, each of these core steps must be efficiently accomplished within the average duration of an inbound call (about 3,25 minutes). As discussed, mystery shops can certainly offer valuable insights into how to handle that breakpoint in future interactions, however, without follow up through active coaching people will naturally repeat the patterns that they have already become accustomed to. This negates any opportunity to truly improve and see better results.
Benefits of Active Coaching
Chris Vitale speaks to how one of the primary benefits of active coaching is its overall effectiveness when training staff to make necessary improvements. Another clear benefit is that it can be an extremely convenient way to train teams.
Due to advancements in remote access, active coaching can be performed entirely virtually. Gone are the days where trainers needed to make a potentially long trip to come into a dealership and train staff. Now all a Sales Consultant or agent needs is a computer, a quiet workspace, and a pair of headphones to reap the benefits of an active coaching session.
The checkpoints (active coaching) can also serve to build employees’ confidence, especially if having a training session that is scheduled just for them is not framed as negative. In a non-virtual environment, the trainer may have to pull the employee aside multiple times throughout its duration to ask questions or inquire about sections they’d like them to address. Instead, with a virtual solution, managers can let them complete their active coaching session and follow up with them to track progress afterwards. This helps avoid micromanagement, which can be damaging to overall results and working relationships. You would be surprised to know how many employees sincerely want to be better at their jobs. Many simply do not have the courage to have a light shined on them by proactively asking for more training or do not know that they need it yet.
Identifying Your Role in “The Problem” and “The Solution”
When advising management teams, Chris Vitale encourages them to imagine if the times that they pulled an employee into their office it was instead to detail how they have improved their performance. Where feedback was framed positively and used as an opportunity to connect with a member of the team. We need to acknowledge that most employees would love to have the chance to sit with their managers and ask questions on how to hone their acumen based on what they are learning.
If you were instead using these opportunities to throat punch rather than offer resources and tools to better performance, it is important to recognize your role in ensuring that they left your office feeling small rather than empowered. Learning is the most important part of the battle and being proactive rather than reactive will allow us to see sustainable results that truly put power in the hands of our teams. Work to do better by your teams through active coaching and they will do better by you, guaranteed!
About Chris Vitale
Chris Vitale is the Vice President and Partner of Phone Ninjas, a Charlotte based industry leader in dealership phone training that works to help companies close more leads, improve the quality of their calls, and boost sales as a result. In his current position, Chris is responsible for leading the company’s strategic direction while supporting a team of 55 account managers.