May 31, 2018
The Value of Sales Coaching
John: Hello and welcome to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. I'm John Monahan.
Evelyn: And I'm Evelyn Ashley.
John: We are partners at Trusted Counsel.
Evelyn: So here we are, John. We're going to a new format.
John: Yay! Exciting.
Evelyn: Shorter and maybe pithier and I don't know. Maybe better. I don't know.
John: Yeah. We're going to be keeping it to about 30 minutes now, which is a pretty significant change. But hopefully we can make those pretty impactful 30 minutes.
Evelyn: Hopefully. That could be hard for lawyers.
Evelyn: Everyone says we get paid by the words so we like longer.
John: We'll have less breaks too, which is we won't be able to hide our screw ups as well as we could before.
Evelyn: Well, we'll see.
Christie: That's called editing.
John: Right. Exactly. Well, we're really excited about today's show. Today we have Christie Walters. Christie Walters is a sales and business strategist with experience in helping companies and individuals reach their highest level of potential. She the owner of iCore Strategy in Atlanta, Georgia. She is also the host of a podcast show called The Why and the Buy.
Evelyn: Welcome to the show, Christie.
Christie: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It's nice to meet you both.
Evelyn: Great to meet you too.
Christie: I love being in a studio. I do most of these on Zoom and in my home office. So this is quite ... I feel like I'm in the big leagues now.
Evelyn: Well, we'll see. You'll be able to tell us what we do well and what we could improve on.
Christie: Oh, I think you're doing just great.
John: Nice to have a fellow podcaster on the show.
Evelyn: Yeah. I don't think we have ...
Christie: Podcasting, awesome. I really am a little bit of a, not a little bit, I am a raving fan of podcasts. So I think that more small businesses need to do podcasting.
Evelyn: Yeah. I think it's worked well. We've enjoyed it. I think we've learned a lot and we hope our clients and people that do listen in have learned a little bit too because we try to go for variety.
Evelyn: That's always a good thing.
Christie: It's a great excuse just to have fabulous conversations with really cool people.
Christie: That's exactly right.
Evelyn: So, Christie, tell us a little bit about your background and how did you get into sales coaching?
Christie: Sure. So I spent 25 years in the corporate space, primarily working for small tech companies in the physical security environment. I loved working with small companies. I loved working with startups. Any place that was chaotic, I was drawn to.
Evelyn: Christie should come to work with us.
Christie: You think? All right. We'll talk later. So I think I really just loved putting order to chaos. It's a natural talent for me. I loved having impact. I think in small businesses, you can really have such an incredible impact. I parted ways with my last company three years ago, and I have worked with a business coach for years. I think that everyone should have a coach, not because I am a coach but everyone should have a coach. If you look at top performers, they all have someone that holds them accountable and provides a sounding board.
I had been talking with my coach with the possibility of going out on my own. She said, "Well, are you ready to do that?" Of course, in true, I've been working in corporate America for 25 years, fashion, I said, "No, no. Not just yet. Let's wait. Let's make a plan. Let's get things together." So she said, "Make a list of companies you want to go work for." I couldn't come up with that list. I finally said, "You know what, I'm passionate about my customers. I'm passionate about my employees. I'm passionate about seeing people do cool and different things with their lives. I think I just am ready to go out and do this on my own. So no, I'm not ready for it financially, No, I'm not ready for it. I would rather have more planning time, but, you know what, sometimes God gives you what you get, right?" So God's like, "Just go. Just go and make it happen."
Evelyn: Okay. So how did that first client come about? Was that a choice? Was that people that you knew?
Christie: My first client. Yes. So a friend of mine called me up, and she ran education services for a very large consulting firm here in town in Atlanta. They had not met a financial objective for five quarters. It was starting to get a little hairy.
Evelyn: You think?
Christie: Yeah. Now the beautiful thing was the company itself was soaring. They were really seeing some massive growth numbers. So she was kind of like this bright, shiny object that was not performing in the midst of everything else. She said, "Here's the reality, I'm really good at learning services. I am not good at managing a sales team. So I don't know where we're going wrong. It feels like we're doing all the right things, but I don't know where we're going wrong. Can you come in and just take a look?" So I did that. I worked with them for 18 months. So it was a phenomenal first contract to have. I was incredibly lucky in that respect, and they really ... It was the obvious stuff to someone who has run sales and marketing teams for 25 years. But it wasn't obvious to someone who hadn't been through that experience. They didn't have sales processes. They were telling their story, but not telling a story that resonated with their clients. Not telling it in a way that solved their clients problem. Wasn't that they didn't add value with what they provided, they just couldn't tell the story to get the client to the place where they said, "Okay. This is worth the money. This isn't just worth my attention. This is worth money. This investment is a critic element of what I need to do in order to make sure that my company's successful."
So it was really a mindset change for them, and then there was a little of process and a little bit of kind of pipeline management. Things that, again, you really kind of have to understand a pipeline effectively for the long term, especially if you've got a long sales cycle.
Evelyn: Okay. So that's interesting because I hear sales coaching and I kind of think, "Atta girl. Atta boy. Let's get in there."
Christie: Rah, rah. I can do a little bit of that.
Evelyn: But listening to you, I hear it much more as helping to set a process and utilizing various techniques that you have either developed or learned over the years to actually help kind of grow out that sales force.
Christie: Yeah. That's really a consulting arm, right? So when I look at the coaching side of what I do, it's about helping the individual get out of their own way. Because consulting is huge, and I always say there are three key elements to success in any small businesses or any small business. You have to establish a solid culture because everyone in your organization needs to know what it is you're going after and why you're going after it. The second is that you have to train and cultivate that team so that they have the skills that they need. That's where you're process comes into play. That's where learning how to time lock, how to prospect, how to manage a pipeline, those are kind of the consulting and training services that come into play. Then finally, because training is only as good our time sits in the seat, you've got have some level of accountability on an ongoing basis that keeps people focused on the right things.
So being able to work with someone one on one and say, "Okay. There's a mental block here that forces you to go out and work on this marketing message instead of doing the prospecting time block that you said you were going to do at the beginning of the week." So that accountability is huge, and believe it or not, it's actually a lot more tough love than it is rah, rah love.
Evelyn: Right. I think that makes sense. I mean, I do think that ... I mean, I think we're all in sales when we're in kind of our own businesses, but I also think that many people that kind of are not in that area do focus on, "Well, it's just chat, chat, chat, chat, chat. Chat, chat, chat. Then you close."
Evelyn: Much more than that, it really is understanding the need of the customer.
Christie: Yeah. It is. We just finished on the podcast we do these monthly book club discussions. So we get on Zoom and we get our guests on or anyone who wants to join us can join us on Zoom. We discussed Building A Story Brand, which is a book that Donald Miller wrote. He is a phenomenal structure for helping marketers and salespeople understand the story arc. The fact that you are not the hero of the story. Your customer is the hero of the story. So when we can flip sales conversations and really start understanding what is it you're trying to get accomplished, what is it that you as a customer are struggling with. If I label it, it's going to be something very different than what you're going to call it. Most companies don't take the time to ask those questions. They spend a whole lot of time sitting in marketing meetings with white boards and sometimes consultants to figure out and evaluate data. When sometimes, you just have to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone that's buying from you and saying, "What value are you getting right now?"
Evelyn: Right. What's really going on? I think a lot of people are afraid to ask those questions sometimes.
Christie: Well, it could be, and you have to deal with that. So I'm a big believer you don't leave anything on the table. If you've got something that's holding you back like that, you really need to evaluate it.
Evelyn: Work on it.
Christie: Yes. Exactly, and maybe you're not in the right place. I think that's the other thing. Either you're not in the right type of business. If you're a salesperson that has that perspective, then maybe you're not in the right company. But oftentimes you're not in the right mindset.
Evelyn: So then with coaching, are you typically working with one individual or a group of individuals? How is that happening?
Christie: It can be both. It can be team coaching. A lot of times I will start with a period of one on one coaching with a small team. I work mostly with small teams. I will do one on one coaching with a small team for about six months, and then I will translate that into group coaching because now they've already ... They have the language and they've worked through their stuff because you can't get to the group stuff if you don't work through your stuff first. The team coaching in that next phase is where it really starts to get exciting. That's when you can start to move the needle exponentially as opposed to just kind of by individual.
Evelyn: One person trying to make a change.
John: Is this usually a decision that's made by the person who's actually in sales or who's usually the person who said, "You know what, we need to bring outside help. There's a real problem."
Christie: Usually it's a leader. So you've got a VP of sales, a CEO, a director of sales, depending on the size of the organization that says, "Something isn't clicking here." Or they may say, "Gosh. We are growing so fast our hair's on fire. I'm looking so far in the future, I can't be bothered with what's behind me. I'm really kind of concerned about what's happening. What kind of bad habits are we developing in this process. What are we missing?" A lot of companies will get so focused on that next phase, they'll lose sight of actually the fact that the easiest place to grow can be in your existing client base. So there's typically you got a leader that recognizes that there are some gaps in either skill set, mental mindsets, or process.
Evelyn: So where do you start, Christie? I mean, for example, let's say I've said, "Christie, I need some coaching." Where would you start?
Christie: So if it's just you and I, I have a process that I take clients, individual clients, through that ... I have a fairly extensive discovery questionnaire that helps us frame our first discussion. We do a lot of values mining work. So it sounds very whoa, whoa, but I'm not a very whoa, whoa individual. But it is so important to get to what is it that's driving you on a day to day basis. As salespeople, oftentimes we're very driven focused individuals, and we've developed a lot of bad habits over the years, which means we've suppressed a lot of things that may not seem like they are going to be productive for us. So that purpose and values mining exercises really helpful to uncover something that might hide behind your process questions. Yeah. So I start there. That's the first place, even with clients that have brought me on to work with their team members. I will start with the values mining exercise and say .. A lot of people will look at me with this wide-eyed look the very first time going, "I thought we were going to talk about my pipeline." I'm like, "We are. We're going to get there, I promise. But we're going to just talk about this first"
Evelyn: We have some work to do first.
Christie: Yeah. We have some foundation stuff to do first. Yeah.
John: Can you give us some examples of some surprising things that people find during that process?
Christie: Oh, gosh. I love this work. I love the coaching environment because it is so transformative. Oftentimes, I think the biggest surprises or the biggest a-ha moments that I see with clients are those that are very controlled centered, like they're just like, "No, no. Mine, mine. I need to do this," and especially those that have a bit of a pleaser syndrome happening as well where they're stepping in as the hero all the time. They're frustrated about it as well because it's like, 'Oh, I don't have any time left. I can't get the things done that I need to get done."
John: Have you been reading my diary?
Christie: Uh oh. So let me turn this way. John.
Oftentimes, flipping that script and saying, "Okay. So let's take this particular scenario. What was it about this project that made you jump in when you didn't necessarily have to jump in? You had somebody to take care of that. Name those feelings. Name those emotions," right? Again, the rolling of the eyes happens and I get it. But you go through that process to recognize what is it that's driving you to make that kind of decision. Then I make them flip it. I'm like, "Okay. So let's take this individual that should have done this project for you. What do you think they would've felt if you had walked into their office and said, 'I trust you. Here are the guidelines.' You have to give structure. Structures important. 'Here are the guidelines. Here's when I need this back from you. I trust you. Knock it out of the park.' Assuming that they did, so let's kind of set aside all the things that are going to come up. 'Well, they don't do this on a regular basis,' or, 'They don't do that on a regular basis.'"
John: That's a control freak nature, right?
Christie: That's the control freak nature. Yup. Absolutely. It's amazing to me how often they recognize that they were grabbing power and oftentimes it's not that they were feeling powerful. They were not feeling powerful when they were trying to take control. Yet, they were grabbing power from other people in that process and they never flipped that switch. They never understood that and respect it.
Evelyn: Right. Or even understanding that you're demotivating the person that probably wants to do the project.
Evelyn: But you're not giving them the power to actually run with it.
Christie: Yeah. If you tell me in the very beginning that your objective is that you want more time with your family. You want to see more income coming through your business, and you want to feel less stressed on a day to day basis. Then we uncover these pieces. Then there's a very big disconnect. So it's like either you don't really want these thing you told me you wanted and you want control instead, but what is control give you at the end of the day? So there's so many layers to this process. It's interesting to work with clients, but that's probably been the biggest transformation that I see is that type of shift of recognizing the thing that you want the most, you're stealing from somebody else.
John: That's interesting, and I think that's an important process because it's hard to see ... It's hard to know your own faults sometimes, especially when you're in the midst of it.
Christie: It's impossible. Yeah. We all have blinders. Yeah. You don't know what you don't know. You need someone who's a trusted advisor or a trusted source to be able to show you that.
Evelyn: Right. To be brave too. I mean, I've worked with ... So I have worked with a number of executive coaches over the years, and I've had some great mentorship. You really do need someone who's willing to actually tell you the things that many other people would be afraid to tell you.
Evelyn: So you need to be able to connect yourself to that person where you trust them enough to know that the feedback that they're giving you is not going to be given as a slap across the face but a, "Hey, how do you turn this into something positive for everyone involved."
Christie: Right. Absolutely. I think the nice thing about working with coaches too is one, this is the reason you brought them in to begin with. So there's a bit of an expectation and a mental shift for you to be able to accept that feedback. The other is I have no ulterior motives. I am not looking to get something from you. There's no value to me in you having a particular answer.
Christie: So you get to be right and wrong at the same time, right? So there's no judgment there. You've got the answers. It's just getting somebody to help you through that process.
Evelyn: Pulling it out.
Evelyn: Then use it to your own advantage too.
Evelyn: I think the idea of being held accountable is also very interesting. So I'm going to go off on a limb here because you haven't actually told me this, but I'm going to assume that you go down the road. Once you've kind of identified some challenges there, then that person needs to make certain commitments to you for implementation kind of in their daily work life and maybe their entire life I guess. Then they have to come back and tell you how it's gone and how do you actually hold them accountable?
Christie: Sure. So one of the things that I do with my clients in the very beginning, regardless of why you hired me, because even if I came in as a consultant, I often end up as a coach. So we do what's in coaching called a designed alliance. It is me telling you this is what my job is, and this is how I'm here to serve you. This is what I need from you as part of this process. I always tell all my clients that homework is a necessity. It is negotiable, but it is not negotiable to the point where you just don't do it. Right? So what I'm asking from you is that you have a commitment enough to this process that you're going to do the homework that I ask you to do or you're going to come back to me and say, "Christie, I can't do that, but here's what I am willing to do." Because sometimes I might challenge you with something I don't expect you to say yes to because it pushes you out of your comfort zone. So it really does open up a whole new thought process for you. But recognizing that. I will walk away from a client if they are not doing their homework. That's the other piece of it.
Evelyn: Well, I think that that's got to be incredibly important in the process. If they're not really willing to do the work.
Christie: Well, you're just not ready yet.
Christie: We'll have the conversation. I won't just disappear. We have the conversation. It's like are you ready? Do we need to redesign. So do we need to kind of rediscuss what our alliance is.
Evelyn: What our goals are.
Christie: Yeah. What our goals are. That's perfectly fine. It's totally common for a client to come in about halfway through go, "You know, I told you I thought this was my goal, but I think I'm going to go off and become a yoky somewhere. Working on the beach." I'm like, "Okay. Let's just figure out how do we make that happen."
Evelyn: Let's hope you haven't been hired by their employer in that process.
Christie: Right. Right. Yeah. As an employer, wouldn't you rather them know?
Christie: Rather than having someone whose ...
Evelyn: They have other passions.
Christie: Yeah, their dreams are somewhere else, and you're thinking they're all in for you. I'd rather have somebody who's all in for the business and really passionate about what we do because you want a team of people. You want a wave of people that are going out to the marketplace with the same message and with the same enthusiasm. If you have someone in your organization that is kind of floating around out there, there's a reason for it
John: I think it's interesting in the type companies that you serve because you deal with small businesses, medium sized businesses. You've been with large corporations. I think about trust in the sales process.
John: And how that can be formed. I think it's sometimes harder for small to medium sized businesses because the easy thing to do for your customer is to say, "Well, I'll just go with the big brand or the big company. There's not much risk there." What's some keys for building trust in the process when people aren't familiar with your company?
Christie: Or familiar with me. Yeah.
John: Or with the person. Yeah.
Christie: That's a wonderful question and something that plagued me very early on in my career, not in my career but in my business, because I knew I wanted to work with people I had worked with before, but I also knew to build a viable business, I had to build a whole new network. I had been on the road for 75%, 90% of the time the last 15 years. So I didn't have a huge network here in Atlanta. My network's everywhere else, right? So I was really concerned about how do I build that trust? It's part of the reason why I started the podcast.
So my partner, Jeff Bejorek and I started a podcast The Why and the Buy, you guys mentioned it in the very beginning, and we started it because he and I were having these fabulous conversations and I was talking about some of the challenges I was having in my business and some of the things I had experienced in my sales career. But I didn't love to write, and I felt like people needed to get to know me somehow. Writings a great way for people to get to know you. It's just not a natural place for me to reside, and I didn't want to create a cornerstone in my business that didn't fit, didn't fuel me, right? So it wasn't me. He said, "Gosh. We have the most amazing phone conversations. Why don't we just record these?" So we started the podcast.
I was telling you guys earlier in the green room that just the process of watching it grow and seeing how people were reacting to the podcast and some of the things that we were talking about. We're very real. Your phone rang earlier, we might not cut that out, right? So those kinds of things, we're just very open about it. We'll cut out some obvious things, but we just wanted to make it as authentic as we possibly could. I think that's the easiest way for people to get to know me is to go through and listen to ...
I almost always will say, "Hey, here are two or three of my favorite podcast episodes." It'll give you a sense of how I interact. It'll give you a sense of some of the things that are important to me. Then I usually, with coaching, I will do a sample session with someone. I'll sit down and just kind of talk about what are our goals and what are you looking to get out of a coaching relationship. Most of my clients, even though I've worked with some larger companies, most of my clients are small businesses or small teams within that company. The learning services group was a group of five. So it's usually smaller teams that I work with because I like to work one on one and I like to tailor what I do to what your needs are. So it's not something that's kind of custom built or program.
Evelyn: I also think that that whole you call it authentic and I kind of just would call it human. I think you build trust in any kind of human relationship by being yourself. If you bring yourself to the table and you can speak passionately what it is that you're selling, regardless of whether that's a product or a service, that it does resonate with the prospect and they connect to that.
Christie: You are so spot on. What I love about what you just said is that there are so many executives and high-powered sales people out there who have no sounding board. I've been called a work therapist more than once, and they said, "It's any time I'm ready to just explode or things are just getting too much, you come in and there's just this ... It's like this matter of fact question that makes me stop and say, 'Okay.'" So it really is about people are desperate for a sounding board, for an accountability partner, for someone.
Evelyn: Something confidential.
Evelyn: That you don't want to tell your fellow team members or your boss.
Christie: Yeah. That's exactly right.
Evelyn: I think that makes perfect sense.
Evelyn: Christie, what else should we know?
Christie: Oh my goodness. So let's see, what else should we know? I think we covered the big ones. So I do sales training as well. So I do some work with Jeffrey Gitomer and couple of others. Also having some conversations with Anthony Iannarino. So there's a lot of times we're training is something custom is necessary for a sales team. So I've spent a lot of time trying to find who those partners would be when I do that. I'd love to connect with people. So people can find me at ChristieWalters.com. C-H-R-I-S-T-I-E W-A-L-T-E-R-S. Or TheWhyandtheBuy.com, if you want to look at the podcast.
Christie: Yeah. Connect with me, email me, set up a session. Let's have a conversation. That's where it all happens.
John: Perfect. Well, thank you for joining the show. I love the title of the podcast.
Christie: The Why and the Buy. Isn't that awesome? I can't believe that it was available. It's just like when we came up with it, I'm like, "No way that's available."
John: It's so catchy.
John: Well, thank you, Christie. If you'd like to learn more about Christie and her services, please visit iCoreStrategy.com. In addition, she is offering a free 30 minute consultation if you mention the In Process podcast. Thank you for that.
Christie: Yes, you bet.
John: So reach out to her if you have any questions. We hope you enjoyed In Process today. If you'd like to download an episode, you can find us on iTunes at In Process podcast. If you'd like to be a featured guest on our show, please email us at inprocess@trusted-Counsel.com. Thanks for joining us.
Evelyn: Thanks, Christie.
Christie: All right. Thanks, guys.
Evelyn: See you next time.
Speaker 1: This has been In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahan. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information, visit Trusted-Counsel.com.