Jennifer was in her mid-30s and had a lot going for her. She was smart, with a good education and with what she thought was a promising future as a midlevel manager with her company. Then everything started to go wrong. Despite 10 years of hard work, long hours and lost weekends working at her firm, she was unceremoniously let go when the economic downturn began a year ago.
After getting past the initial shock, Jennifer made herself a promise to take things into her own hands and never again leave her future to the whim of others. As a result, after looking at various options, she joined the direct selling industry as an independent contractor, selling products she both liked and had used for years. Her intention was to build a strong team and a solid future. Even though Jennifer got off to a rapid start, in six months she was out of the industry, never to return. Sound familiar?
Jennifer’s story is not unusual. She came into our industry full of enthusiasm and left a short time later, her enthusiasm exhausted. Sponsoring and adding new independent representatives are the lifeblood of our industry. Jennifer’s “failure” is not unusual; it happens all the time. Despite our best efforts, the retention of these enthusiastic, newly introduced people continues to be a major hurdle to growth.
There are, of course, numerous factors that contribute to people leaving the industry, and some of those factors are totally out of our control. But there are other factors where the influence of the company—especially the influence of our field leaders—can positively impact sponsoring, productivity and retention. And one of the most important of these factors is effective coaching.
Whether starting out in direct sales or learning to play an instrument, a sport or in any other endeavor, proper coaching is the “success factor,” and the lack of proper coaching is the “failure factor” in the growth and development of an individual. Good coaching emphasizes strengths while overcoming weaknesses. So often, something as important as a “good start” is compromised simply because of lack of coaching and training. Let’s suppose Jennifer was just hired for a newly created office position, and on her first day she was welcomed, shown her desk and wished good luck. How likely is it that she will be successful? The opportunity for success increases significantly with proper training, coaching and mentoring.
With so much of today’s business conducted online, there is less face-to-face sponsoring and selling taking place than in the past. The regular meetings between sponsor and recruit, upline and team, have moved from the personal and into the virtual. Of itself, this is not a bad thing, but changing circumstances should lead to changing methods. Personal contact is no less important than in the past, and in today’s economy, understanding the critical elements of the business is more important than ever.
The fundamentals are a constant—possessing a working knowledge of one’s products or service, effectively booking customer appointments, overcoming objections or grasping sales techniques that close the sale and allow the representative to effectively develop an ongoing business. For each of these, good coaching is essential. And good coaching doesn’t stop there.
Good coaching allows a salesperson to not only be more effective in her selling efforts, but also in her sponsoring efforts. So whether it is online, or a three-way phone conversation, or three-person meeting over coffee, whether it is role-playing, practical field coaching or taking advantage of a DVD or training module, field leaders have a responsibility to ensure their team members are thoroughly trained and in the best position to be successful. Nothing is more disheartening than to hear a leader say something like, “Well, you now have all the materials and you should be ready to go… Give me a call if you need me.”
Most salespeople will admit that the hardest part of their job is sponsoring. Yet many perform that role very effectively, only to bring people in one door and lose them out the other… too quickly. Sponsoring is meant to be a tool to grow one’s business, not a replenishment activity in hopes of staying even!
Leaders have a responsibility to their teams. They earn overrides and other bonuses exercising this responsibility. Field leaders need to be proactive coaches and not just reactive problem-solvers. In fact, it is in their own financial and leadership interests to be so. Leaders need to prepare their team members to properly conduct the business and assist them in achieving their goals. The leader’s interest—through regular contact, mentoring and recognition of the performance of team members—will minimize setbacks and provide consultants with the ability to “stretch” beyond their comfort zone. Good coaching generates a high degree of confidence. People join our industry based on their expectations of what they will experience. They leave or stay based on that experience. The better the coaching, the better the experience; the better the experience, the higher the level of productivity and retention.
Good coachingbuilds confidence, and with confidence, performance and results are always better. Confident salespeople are more comfortable in telling their product’s story; they are more enthusiastic in sharing their opportunity and are much better equipped to face and overcome any negativity they encounter in their day-to-day activities. Confidence built on a strong foundation of good coaching cements belief in the product and in the opportunity. Whether derived through role-playing, repetition or just plain practice, confidence will generate increased success, and increased success will generate continuous activity.
A well-coached, confident salesforce is a successful salesforce. This is a group that will look for the opportunities to grow. This is a group that will embrace growth challenges, inspire their teams and duplicate their performance within those teams. These are the folks upon whom the future of the business will be built in solid partnership. It’s a win-win situation!
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
Armed with confidence, salespeople will be considerably more positive about their roles, and with that confidence comes consistency of action. A confident person attracts others and will typically generate a consistently high level of activity and performance each month. These are the true “ambassadors” of our businesses. These are the people who epitomize the company’s opportunity and whose consistent month-after-month performance ensures them the benefits of our industry.
These are the people who are consistently growing upwardly through the field organization and enjoying the rewards of increased earnings, quality family time and personal freedom. These are the people we point to as our companies’ examples of success.
We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect.” Although a combination of good coaching, confidence and the consistent application of talents may not lead to perfection, it will certainly lead to sales teams that are exceptionally competent in their roles.
Competent salesforces are successful. Retention is greatly improved. People who feel good about what they are doing are good at what they do and “duplicate” what they do. And isn’t individual success and its duplication what it’s all about?
People will always be entering and leaving direct selling. The challenge is to keep them and to keep more of them longer. The greater success they find, the longer their active involvement will be. It is also important to convey to our field leadership that with the solid coaching of new people, leaders have an exceptional opportunity to not only provide a wonderful growth-oriented environment for these new folks, but also to greatly enhance their own personal and business growth as their teams become stronger and perform at a higher level.
Coaching and the positive results derived from it should be viewed as an investment in everyone’s success. When a new salesperson is sponsored, the recruiter’s role is not over; in fact, it is just beginning. That is when enthusiasm and excitement are at their highest levels. That is when it is time to nurture and develop that enthusiasm and excitement and channel it into something productive and rewarding.
It has been said that the longest journey begins with the first step. The first step in developing a solid independent business in our industry should begin with a focus on solid coaching. With a strong foundation in place, new starts will have a much better chance of success. Our companies will enjoy increased activity, productivity and retention. With those results, everyone is a winner.
Good coaching generates confidence. Confidence generates consistency. Consistency generates competence. It’s just good business!
Jack Crowley is principal of the Crowley Collaborative Group. CCG works with direct selling companies in the areas of strategic development, turnaround programs, and international expansion and development. For more information, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.