When I was a sales coach for This End Up Furniture Company, I was working with a store manager one-on-one during a two day visit to her store. She was a very bubbly, enthusiastic manager who loved the company, the product, the people, the customers….everything. As a matter of fact, she had been a very enthusiastic customer who was recruited. Her name was Diane.
Much of the first half of our day was spent in observation mode….meaning I observed Diane with with her customers. What I saw/heard was non stop bubbly and up-beat talking….90% from Diane. Every encounter ended with the customer walking out with a brochure and price list and ALL of the information about the company, the furniture they were standing near, the fabric, the accessories, etc. that Diane graciously shared like a hostess with a tray of appetizers.
To put it mildly,
she had “the gift of gab”
which needed a bit of tweaking.
As a coach, it is my job to keep the learning atmosphere as open and positive as possible.
Integrity is a value I honor.
What might have happened if I said to Diane: “You talk too much!…That customer couldn’t get a word in edgewise!” Most likely it would shut her down which would essentially slow or stop the learning process.
To keep the learning atmosphere healthy,
a good coach keeps the conversation in
a place of discovery.
What I didn’t mention at the top of this post is that Diane and I began our day talking about what we both wanted out of our two days together. From the beginning, expectations were in place….from all parties involved.
This vital step is what set us up for success.
One of the ten Shared Values at This End Up was Individual Growth. We attracted people who appreciated this unique value in a retail setting. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy….this stretching and growing business, however, everyone was in it together, by choice. We all coached each other…up the line and down the line. What a great culture!
Diane asked me to let her know what I observed and pick
to help her grow that would impact increasing her personal sales.
My coaching began:
Me: Tell me about that customer.
Diane’s responses were all based on everything she told the customers about the product and services.
Me: What did the customer tell you about their home? or What room were they working on?
Diane: They didn’t. I think they were just looking.
Me: What do you know about them as a person?
Diane: They had on a real cute dress and they were on their way to the movies in the mall.
Me: What do they know about us? (the company, furniture, etc…)
Diane: A lot! I told them how we started as a company, how the furniture is constructed, what fabrics are available, how long it takes to receive from the date the order is placed, what our hours are….
Diane stopped mid sentence and looked up at me with that unmistakable look in her eyes that indicated the A-HA! moment!
Diane: I talked too much. I didn’t give anyone a chance to talk. I don’t really know anything about the people who came in to the store this morning.
Continuing to keep the learning atmosphere open during this very important moment, I asked:
What would you have liked to have known about them?
Diane was able to list a number of productive responses. I followed up with:
What questions will lead you to all of those wonderful responses?
Again, Diane came up with some stellar questions.
It was all making sense.
A shift had begun.
Before we continued with the second part of our day, we took a break for lunch and I gently and causally asked:
What percentage of the time do you think the customers talked this morning?
She smiled and said: Hardly at all. I must have talked 100% of the time., just like I do at home. My husband and daughter can’t get a word in edgewise.
Diane looked at me again with that “A-Ha” look in her eyes and said….
“Oh my gosh. My poor family!” She laughed. I laughed. And then I asked:
Would you be up for a little assignment tonight? She agreed. I asked Diane to practice the 80/20 ratio of listening to talking with her family over dinner that evening and come back to our second day with a full report.
That means allowing her family to talk 80% while she listens. Her 20% of talking was to include as many open ended questions as was logical while she commented on whatever her family was talking about over dinner.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon practicing open ended questions to allow the customers to do a bit more of the talking. It worked and she went home energized and exhausted all at once.
The next day, I got the full report on dinner. As you might imagine, her family thought something must have been wrong with her. Was she okay? Did she feel well? Was she coming down with something? Honestly, she said her husband was delighted and asked her to thank me. While he didn’t want Diane to change from who she was, he was grateful for the shift.
And Diane was grateful for the shift in her sales.
She increased her sales that month by 40%.
blabber – blabber – blabber
chatter – chatter – chatter
If you substituted the customer in this scenario for one of the people you manage, would the same philosophy apply? (80/20?)