EPISODE 424: CoachHub’s Michael Mead Says Having a Coach Can Be a Sales Game Changer for These Reasons

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of Optimal Sales Mindset virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on September 19, 2021. It featured CoachHub expert Michael Mead.]

Register for the LIVE IES program featuring Arnold Sanow on November 5, 2021 here.

Find Michael on LinkedIn here.

MICHAEL’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “We talked about the benefits of coaching, that it’s an opportunity, it’s a game-changer for many of us. If you can, I would suggest get a coach. Go to your organization, potentially, and find out if there are options to be coached and they’re receptive. It could even be a game-changer for the organization. Again, I know it’s pretty obvious, but getting a coach is an opportunity to develop yourself and become a better person and a better employee. The only other thing I’ll repeat is learn to collaborate in your organization, don’t forget about selling. It’s bringing the organization to bear on a client and I know for myself, if I did not collaborate with people and bring them into the selling process, I would get nowhere.”


Fred Diamond: Michael Mead, today we’re talking about coaching. It’s a really important topic and I want to thank Jacqui Higgins and our friends at CoachHub for helping us pull together today’s show. We talk about coaching all the time, and we talk about how you can be coached. That’s something that people ask me a lot, not just how can I coach but how can I help my people be coached?

A couple years ago at the Institute for Excellence in Sales we had a mentoring program, and it was something very ambitious. We had a lot of senior members of the Institute for Excellence in Sales and we had a lot of junior members. We created this mentor program, we pulled them together and we were thinking about also launching some type of a coaching program, but we decided not to. We made the decision that for coaching to be successful, you really need to be committed to being coached.

I know we’re going to be talking about that today, the difference between mentoring and coaching and how you can be coached. It’s my honor to have you on the show, Michael. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Then we’ll get into the meat of what we’re going to be talking about.

Michael Mead: Fred, thank you so much for that introduction. I want to thank you for this opportunity, I’m flattered, I’ve learned a lot about your organization and to be a speaker on this platform is a real honor. Hello, everybody else. My name is Michael Mead, I’m very excited about this podcast/webinar, I’m a real believer in coaching. Let me just give you a little history.

I’ve been in sales myself for over 25 years, I was a teacher for several years early in my career. I think for me, becoming a better salesperson, looking back, being a teacher was transformational because it taught me a few things. Number one, to ask good questions. Number two, to motivate people and last but not least, to listen. Those are the skills that I think have been helpful to me in my career and basically, probably what led me to coaching.

Right now I retired from Deloitte last year. I was there 19 years, I was at another professional services firm for a number of years. I was a salesperson or business developer at those organizations, I’m not a technical person. My job, like a lot of salespeople, was to get new business. I’m also on the advisory board of CoachHub, which we’re going to talk about a little bit. That’s a digital platform, I’m not an employee but it’s a great organization. They just raised well over $100 million in funding, so they’re here to stay and it’s a great organization.

Fred Diamond: Coaching for sales performance. Let’s talk a little bit about why it’s so critical from a return on investment. A lot of the companies that we deal with, there are so many challenges and pressures and they have to make decisions all the time. Especially now, as most people are still in some degree of virtual, most people are still working from home. One of the things that we’ve heard, Michael, from a lot of our members is one of the challenges of working virtually – and again, we’ve been working virtually for about 18 months now – is the ability to coach.

You see people on a screen, they’re on this rectangle, you can’t tap them on the shoulder, you can’t say, “Let’s continue this discussion over lunch.” People get fatigued looking at the screen, especially as they’re sitting. Let’s talk about the ROI and why it’s so critical for sales organizations to invest in professional coaching.

Michael Mead: Again, there’s been a lot of research about the return on investment. This is just one illustration of how it could help. The numbers vary depending on what you read, but they’re definitely well into the positive range, but let’s go over these. As salespeople, our goals are probably what makes us work, obviously, is a tremendous increase in goal attainment by coaching. We’re going to talk about why that is and how it works, but I just want all of you, especially the salespeople and the non-salespeople because it’s my belief that we’re all selling, no matter what we do. In professional services, for example, all the partners and managers have to sell but they’re not salespeople.

Selling is a great skill to have, but like coaching, generally, like Tiger Woods, everybody can use a coach to develop themselves. That’s where we get to coaching behaviors, what makes for a good salesperson, a good listener. At any job, it’s important to have certain of the soft skills to make you more effective. Increase in team performance, some organizations undertake coaching, not just for a few select people but for a big cohort of people in their organization.

An example of that is CoachHub. Every salesperson in CoachHub has a coach, that’s part of the job, part of the perk. Of course, they believe and we all believe that coaching makes you more effective, and it’s usually coaching is the most effective, quite honestly, when someone is performing at a decent level. But like most of us, again, like Tiger Woods who took his golf swing – apparently, I’m not a golfer, but it’s a good analogy – and decided he wanted to make it better, and changed it.

So, what did he do? He had a coach help him and he understood what he had to do. Now, if he said at that point to the coach, “I don’t want your help” he probably wouldn’t have been able to be successful changing his swing. But the coach kept at it with him on a regular basis, watched him, monitored him, made suggestions, gave him feedback and that coaching relationship kept him focused on the changes he wanted to make. That gets us to the other factor, retention. Having a coach and showing that dedication to your employees is something else that’s very important. So, we have coaching behaviors, increase in team performance if there’s a coach culture, and an increase definitely, and that’s a big issue to your question, Fred.

In the pandemic, there’s something called The Great Resignation where a lot of people, because of the environment they’re in, especially those people who have just gotten a job, never met anybody live and suddenly they get a phone call for a better job with more money. There’s nothing invested there, there’s none of that collaboration or teamwork that you have from being live. For those reasons alone, I really look at 63% of retaining employees, I think 4 million people resigned, if I’m not mistaken, last week was the total I saw. That’s why this term, if you haven’t heard “The Great Resignation”, just google it. Everybody is talking about it.

Fred Diamond: A couple things you have here that are striking me. You mentioned in the beginning that people who are high performers are better able to be coached. For a large part of my career, I was a corporate marketing and product marketing professional at companies like Apple Computer, Compaq Computer, Compuware, a large software company.

I came to the realization that my marketing efforts would be better served if I were helping the top performers accelerate. These are the ones who had the big accounts with the biggest potential and I wanted everybody to be successful, but if I was going to devote most of my time to the lower tier, the thought process of help the lower tier get better really didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It made more sense to really optimize the biggest opportunity. It’s a similar type of a thing.

The mission of the Institute for Excellence in Sales is to help sales leaders acquire, retain, motivate, and elevate top-tier sales talent. The reason that’s our mission is when we interview sales VPs for the podcast or in general, I would say, what are the two biggest challenges that you face? And it got to the point where people would say, everybody is challenged with hiring and retaining. I remember one of our guests, Frank Passanante, he runs US Sales for Hilton, he says, “Hiring and retaining is table stakes.” Everybody is challenged with that, and it’s gotten even more challenging over the last 18 months because of the challenges related to The Great Resignation, like you talked about.

I got a question here that comes in from Nick, “Is 63% a good number or is that a low number?” It’s nice that you published it there, but should it be higher? Is coaching something that should be making more people grateful to work for a company?

Michael Mead: That’s a great question, Nick. I think generally, first of all, research. Again, if you read a lot of different studies, some might say 50%, some might say more. I could have brought up many, many charts but if I look at something increasing well over 50%, that’s not a bad thing. Remember, it’s an increase, not just 63%. It’s an increase from where it was at, so that’s significant. The only question I have back at you which I really don’t know the answer, which maybe I shouldn’t ask that question, is when was this done? Because it might be even more today if this was done before the pandemic. I’m going to check that out, but it might even be more. I think it’s significant.

Fred Diamond: It seems like a pretty good number. Thank you, Nick, for the question. Now let’s talk about some of the critical things. The first bullet point here you have is, “The difference between coaching and mentoring.” For a long time, I used to think they were the same thing. You’re a coach, you’re a mentor, and I’ve come to the termination that you have to want to me coached, there’s much more of a commitment.

You mentioned Tiger Woods before, and all the professional athletes. We had the great Alan Stein Jr. on our show before who was a basketball high performance coach and he told us about his experiences working with the late Kobe Bryant at 3 o’clock in the morning. Kobe had a coach at 3 in the morning to help him with some of his simple skills, just moving your hands to get better at the game. So, what is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

Michael Mead: I think you’re right in bringing that question up, I’m glad you asked me. I’ll tell you a very quick story. A good former colleague of mine, when he retired from Deloitte decided as well to be a coach. He asked me for some guidance and in fact, I recommended where he should get the training. He called me the other day and I invited him to this webinar, he was reading what it was about and he said, “Michael, until I was certified as a coach, I didn’t know the difference.” There’s nothing wrong with not knowing the difference, I was confused until I became a coach.

Basically, instead of going into too much detail, coaching is very process-driven, it’s very intentional. A coach is certified, they build and collaborate with the coachee, the person, the client on what they want to work and they come up with two or three development goals, like Tiger Woods came up with his swing. You focus on one or two things, you figure out what their strengths are and where they want to develop. Maybe one of the issues for them is they have certain strengths they’re not even aware of that they could use. Part of the process of building this development plan is really getting the person to open up, talk about their fears, their challenges and how they want to improve. It’s based on their needs.

Mentoring is much more informal. It’s usually someone who’s more experienced, generally someone maybe from the same industry. It changes from time to time, the mentee might call the mentor to ask a question and generally, it focuses on one’s career development. It could go for a long time, people talk about mentors that they’ve had for 30 years. Coaching is basically short-term, it’s anywhere generally – unless you’re a very senior executive – from three months to a year. CFOs and CEOs, it’s basically in corporate America very often when they transition to these roles that to help them develop, they get a coach.

Fred Diamond: I want to tackle the next question you have here about the ability to be coachable. Like I mentioned, at the IES we had a mentor program a long time ago and we thought about doing a coaching program. We approached some of the sales coaches who I know, I approached one and I said, “What do you think?” He said, “Fred, the problem is most people are not coachable. They’re not going to listen to what we tell them, and to be coachable, you need to listen to the coach.”

It’s interesting you talked about Tiger Woods, we think about elite athletes like the Kobes, the Steve Nashes, the LeBron James of the world, they listen to their coaches. It’s like they’re hiring these people who are fantastic.

Michael Mead: They sometimes get them fired because they don’t like the way they coach [laughs].

Fred Diamond: Yeah, but slightly different. If you want to take it to the next level, you gave some great answers before. The coach is going to help you see things that you don’t see, and maybe you’ll get angry at something if the coach hits you on and on, but you’re hiring people who are really committed to your success. Talk about that a little bit. What does it mean to be coachable?

Michael Mead: I think you’re on the right track, Fred. One of the issues with coaching that’s been something that prevented people from doing it more is I think there was a bias years ago when coaching was in its infancy. And it still happens, where it’s looked at not for the top performers, it’s looked at for those people who are struggling. I’ve had a situation as a coach where they’ve reached out to me and said, “Look, we’re not sure if this person’s going to make it, we’d like you to coach them, see if we should keep them in the firm.” I say, that’s not what I do.

I’m not working for your organization, I don’t know the full picture, I can’t opine on whether or not that person should stay. What I do is development coach, I look to help people get better, not to get them fired. I agree with you. That bias has happened to me recently. I’ve been asked to coach somebody, we have initial conversations, I like to see if there’s chemistry there. One of the things was he didn’t want anyone to know he was getting coached and we wanted to do 360s, he didn’t want me to do 360s because he felt as a leader he would be looked upon negatively.

It took a long time, because I was ready to give up. If someone’s not coachable, I’ll tell leadership. But eventually, in developing the relationship, letting him make decisions, going through the process, he began to realize that coaching could help him. There’s nothing wrong with it. In the end, he was a tremendous client because he became more self-aware about himself and the importance of what he needs to do. He was a manager, a leader and he saw what was happening as a leader and realized that this was only going to make him a better leader.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here which leads to the next thing we’re going to be talking about, we have a question that comes in from Jodie. “What really is the impact? What can we expect?” There’s five impacts that you like to talk about, let’s get deep into all of these so that people can understand the real value that will come from their investment in training. The first one, sales excellence.

Again, I run the Institute for Excellence in Sales. Let’s talk about from your perspective, what does that mean and how will coaching get you there?

Michael Mead: Again, to go back, basically this is a soft skill focused process. There’s training that we all have and there’s behavior. You can have all the skills in the world, and I’m going to make an example. Working with accountants, they are very technical, they could do certain things with taxes that no one even understands, but some of them have a difficult time with the soft skills. How to deal with people, how to answer questions, how to be in the moment, how to listen. That’s what sales excellence means, it means developing the soft skills that make your use of the skills and the technical stuff more effective.

I like to say even for myself, I don’t have the technical skill of when I worked for Deloitte, I knew the organization, but my value was collaborating internally with other people who could help me sell stuff. And developing the relationship with the client, so that they’re going to listen to you and trust you and want to eventually buy something from you. One other thing that I think is important in terms of selling and soft skills is when you’re going through this process – and that’s where a lot of people get stuck – sometimes when someone’s selling, they’re so concerned about the sale, it’s distracting, it turns people off.

One of the things I learned at Deloitte as I did go through some really good training there, was how to do customer service and selling. There were a lot of buzz words, but one of the terms that really resonated with me was suspend self-interest. As a salesperson improving sales, suspending self-interest is exactly what it says. In the early stages of developing a relationship and credibility, you have to not think about yourself. You have to walk in the client’s shoes and build that relationship so it solidifies going forward.

Fred Diamond: Michael, you have another point here which is focused on employee wellbeing. That is so critical right now. We had a seminal moment on the Sales Game Changers webcast about three months ago, interviewed the guy who’s the Senior VP of Sales for Dun & Bradstreet’s Public Sector. His name is Tim Solms and the first question I asked him was, “What is your biggest priority right now?” and he said, “Monitoring our employees’ fatigue.”

We’ve heard other words like languish and that had such an impact on me, the word fatigue. That is his #1 priority and we’ve started focusing a lot on wellbeing, personal self-care. We’ve done a couple of shows recently just on self-care, we did a show on meditation. Imagine in 1985, Zig Ziglar comes on and says, “We’re going to do a three-hour show on meditation” [laughs]. But seriously, the feedback that I got from those shows were so powerful and people responding.

We do a Women in Sales Leadership Development Program that Gina Stracuzzi runs, and one of the sessions is just on self-care. Talk about that, that’s such a critical topic right now. You mentioned The Great Resignation, people are moving, people don’t want to go back to the office, people have been thinking for the last year and a half, “What should my life look like moving forward?” Talk about the impact on sales coaching for that.

Michael Mead: A significant part of self-care is even the organization doing what we talked about in terms of training and development, but there’s more to it than that. People are isolated and we’re all social beings. I went to my first big gathering last night and it was very uncomfortable. People are struggling to just get back into their mojo, and a lot of organizations, like you said, are bringing up all kinds of things. I think self-care is the key.

An example. As a coach, this came up recently with one of my coachees. He was struggling, he was working, again, because it was remotely, six and seven days and he was so stressed, he had a hard time even talking to me. Somehow, I asked him, “What do you do for a break?” and he said, “I’m a classical pianist. I’ve been playing for a long time. I’ve loved playing the piano and I play somewhat.” I said, “When was the last time you played the piano?” “Weeks ago.” “Really? Have you thought about taking time out to take a break in the middle of the day and play the piano?”

And guess what? Probably that’s the best thing he got out of coaching, was because he was so stressed out, he started to play the piano every day. You could see he started to take off Saturdays and Sundays, he started to really look at his lifestyle. I think that’s the kind of thing that corporations have to do. They have to encourage people not to talk or think about work.

Give them opportunities like you said, meditation, I know Deloitte has all kinds of things about meditation, yoga and all kinds of things and they’re focusing on people taking care of themselves. I think the messaging is important, but it’s got to be genuine. It can’t just be check box.

Fred Diamond: It’s such a critical topic and we talk about it almost every single show. Again, most people are virtual right now and CoachHub has created this amazing platform for digital coaching. It’s interesting, because some of the companies that we deal with at the Institute for Excellence in Sales, I remember the CEO of a very, very successful company said, “People need to come back to the office so that we have that high touch” like we talked about before.

The ability again, like, let’s go into the conference room, let’s get in front of a white board, let’s continue this conversation over lunch. Even with the DV and the possible new variants, people are still wanting to go back for that social contact even though it is a challenge. Let’s talk about digital coaching as we begin to wrap up here. Give us why it’s such a good way to do it, why it’s so powerful.

Michael Mead: Again, it’s a great question, that’s why first I said what’s digital coaching? And I wanted nothing to do with it because I was trained classically. But once I spoke to the founders, their catch phrase really resonated with me, democratize coaching. At Deloitte, I mentored a lot of people and coached. Training very often focused only on the senior people, and I didn’t think that was the right way to do it and it’s starting to change. You should begin whether it’s coaching or training, the first day they’re in.

I think what CoachHub is doing is allowing an efficient way which saves money so that coaching can be offered to the mid-level and lower-level people. And they’re very receptive to coaching, they don’t have the same biases the older people have. That’s what CoachHub does with this digital platform. Things could be done on your iPhone and most of the work is done digitally, assessments, all kinds of tests can be done on there. The price structure is much less, it’s just as effective and it’s available to a lot of people.

Fred Diamond: Michael, one moment in my career I had that shift and I was one of these people, like a lot of people in sales who thought I knew everything – I’m a very generous person, but at the same time I thought I knew everything about everything. I had a master’s in business, I worked for Apple Computer and Compaq. It occurred to me one day, believe it or not, deep into my career when I was offered the ability to be coached in a particular position that I had and I was resistant to it. I wasn’t sure there was going to be a whole lot of benefit.

Then I realized, I had this epiphany that this was a gift, that the company was giving me this gift of someone who understood things who has been there and done that, was willing to give me his time not just to give some tips but to really take a deep interest in my success. If you surrender to what the coach is trying to do – and surrender is a word we hear a lot of as well. Surrender to leadership, surrender to coaching. That can really take your career and it really is a gift.

Michael, I want to thank you, I want to thank Jacqui at CoachHub, I want to thank CoachHub for the great work they’re doing. Jacqui introduced us to you, did some research, I want to acknowledge you for the great work that you’ve done helping thousands of not just sales professionals, but business professionals and business leaders take their career to the next level. As we like to say, if you’re taking your career to the next level, you’re taking your life to the next level.

As we like to end every Sales Game Changers podcast, Michael, give us one action step. You’ve given us a lot of great ideas, give us one specific action step that the sales professionals watching today can do to take their sales career to the next level.

Michael Mead: I don’t want to be too cute here, but we talked about the benefits of coaching, that it’s an opportunity, it’s a game-changer for many of us. If you can, I would suggest get a coach. Go to your organization, potentially, and find out if there are options to be coached and they’re receptive. Maybe you could even be a game-changer for the organization. Again, I know it’s pretty obvious, but getting a coach is an opportunity to develop yourself and become a better person and a better employee.

The only other thing I’ll repeat is learn to collaborate in your organization, don’t forget about selling. It’s bringing the organization to bear on a client and I know for myself, if I did not collaborate with people and bring them into the selling process, I would get nowhere.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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