The results that you achieved thus far are directly related to your behaviors and/or the behaviors of your sales team. All too often the power to “change the news” in sales is given away in the form of uncontrollable outside influences. We attribute our lack of success to slow traffic, lack of product availability or the merchandise assortment. The imagined and temporary relief from pinning lackluster performance to outside factors will eventually erode the culture and overall performance of the team. There are always unforeseen and uncontrollable inputs to the sales system, however our job as leaders and coaches is to expect that these things will happen and hone our skills to maximize every opportunity in spite of the headwinds. The decision to exercise coaching excellence, and change the news in your sales performance is indeed a decision. It is the realization that taking back your control necessitates letting go of the perceived barriers. So what can you do today to take back your control and responsibility for the performance of your team?
Be in the Now: In retail, most of our days are unpredictable and flexible. We are customer facing, and sometimes that may entail many guests or a few with a variety of needs. It is easy to be blown off course when you cannot predict nor control the day in front of you. However, in reality the time that it takes to address these unpredictable situations is a small portion of our time. The real game changer is your control and planning of the rest of the time. “Being in the Now” entails asking yourself repeatedly over the course of the day if your action at that very moment is driving sales. You should also ask yourself if this activity involves a member of the sales team, as coaching is not “solo” work. Think about a coach of any kind of team, and come up with even one or two things that they can effectively do without their team. By definition, a coach has to have a team and that is where the majority of our time must be spent. On the floor, watching the interactions, engaging with customers and providing feedback to our teams. We may find that we trick ourselves into thinking that we can check email, answer the phone and be a sales coach, however we are not in the “Now” and effectively reducing our productivity. CNN did a piece in December 2015 about this very subject, (http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/09/health/your-brain-multitasking), and despite what we think we are doing, multi-tasking is not effective and erodes productivity. Be conscious of what you are doing, and ask yourself if this is the most important thing you need to be doing now. Recognize that we naturally may migrate to less important (or not important) tasks that feel good, but aren’t going to give the kind of traction that you need. At the end of each day, write down what you accomplished that you controlled, that was intentional and impacted your success.
Coach Behaviors Not Results: There is merit in reviewing performance much like a sports coach would review playback tapes. The goal here is to identify performance gaps, and presumably to correct the those deficiencies. The problem is that all too often, our coaching interaction is restricted to simply reviewing the weekly/monthly performance with an associate by restating the obvious and asking them to do better the next time. Take a look at your monthly performance reviews if you do them, and see if you have identified the behaviors that are driving the result. I have seen hundreds of performance evaluations that read something like, “missed goal in March, needs to work on closing and will partner with management if they can’t close a sale”. This does nothing to identify what behaviors or skills need to be sharpened, and improvement is unlikely. In this scenario, did we notice that this associate seldom smiles, has a low percentage of bedroom sales, cannot properly ask closing questions in a role play, has a low percentage of return guests? When we observe this associate on the floor, do we seen that he seldom asks good open ended questions, and rarely understands why the guest is shopping? The behaviors of the Sales Associate, and you as a Coach are driving the level of performance. Changing behavior requires that identify and respond to behaviors. We cannot know this information unless 1) we are on the floor “in the now” understanding the interactions and 2) we have the guts as a coach to provide immediate feedback. A Store Manager once shared with me, “you can’t watch the movie if you are inside the picture frame”. This was a great point related to sales, as when in a sales interaction we need for the Coach to be watching the film as the Sales Associate is inside the frame. As a Coach, our goal isn’t to explain what was wrong…even if it is clear as day. Our job is to provide a space for the Sales Consultant to consider other ways to behave in certain circumstances. This needs to be immediate, and it needs to be in the spirit of improvement. Asking questions such as “Tell me about that guest”, “How do you think you could have done that differently to get a different result”, “Tell me some things that you may have forgotten, or didn’t work”. This approach reduces defensively significantly, and adults are much more likely to change behavior through reflection rather than direction.
Celebrate the Wins: What we notice about our life, our store or an associate is a direct reflection of our opinion of that particular person or situation. If we dislike our next door neighbor, we are keyed into everything that they do that annoys us to the exclusion of anything good. We need to recognize that good and bad exists in all things, and we are the ones that determine what we are paying attention to. If our opinion of an employee is poor, we naturally seem to notice things about that person that support our opinion simply to serve our personal desire to be right. Although there very well may be reasons to be concerned, there are also a myriad of other behaviors to celebrate. In every situation and person there is both good and bad, and they are not mutually exclusive. If we want more winning, we need to celebrate wins…no matter how small. In my career, I have often encountered overflowing trays, mailboxes or inboxes with an accumulation of messages and such. I find it curious (and concerning) that these messages sit untouched for long periods of time. If you think about it however, these inboxes rarely have anything good in them. For the most part, messages have to do with errors, cancellations or other problems, and it is no wonder that humans don’t care to touch that hot stove. As a coach, when was the last time that you messaged a win, a customer compliment or simply an positive observation? What you notice and pay attention to is amplified, and all too often we amplify the wrong things. In order to earn the respect and outstanding performance from our teams, as Coaches we need to develop the whole person and not just what needs improvement. It is also far more productive and easier, to amplify a strength than to correct a deficiency. This is not to say that we need to ignore performance issues, but rather that we need to provide feedback to all performance and in proportionate measure.
Take back your control, and change the news in your life and business! I would love to help and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.