Field Coaching Visits and The Intrusion of Technology

Technology has changed the face of communication on a global scale. At the beginning of the last century it might have taken months for news to travel from one end of the world to the other. Now it takes a split second. Many people even find it necessary to update everyone else – not just friends – on every single aspect of their lives, as it happens, on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and via text. It has become an obsession to be in touch – instantly.

The same practice of being in touch has had a dramatic effect on the world of business. Sites such as LinkedIn absorb more and more personal information, with the appetite for disclosure seemingly voracious.

When I am running management training workshops, one of the most difficult things I have to cope with, is the constant distraction of attendees as they insist on receiving and sending texts and emails during the training event, and making and receiving calls at every single break during the day.

And yet the question we should ask ourselves is – ‘is it necessary?’ And despite your possible protests, the answer is – ‘no’.

In regard to field sales coaching sessions, I pose the question -‘Will the individual be a more effective, better-motivated, and more professional salesperson as a result of the time invested with me’? This leads me to the conclusion that the sole purpose of field sales coaching is to improve sales performance in the short term, and ensure continuous improvement in the long term. This conclusion is supported by a 2006 benchmarking exercise conducted by the Chally Group where it was reported that -‘the most important skill is that of the sales manager who coaches and develops the salesperson. Salespeople who get at least one half day a week, one to one, with their managers are twice as productive as other salespeople’.

Returning the problems I have with managers especially turning off their laptops, mobile telephones, and Blackberrys during training sessions, when I ask why they are obsessive about the need to be in touch constantly, the usual responses include: ‘I need to be able to provide solutions to problems; customers need to speak to me; it’s the end of the month and I need to make sure we hit target’; and so on. Then when I ask – ‘so what’s going to happen to the business if you get hit by a bus’? The reaction is often one of incomprehension that this is something which needs consideration.

The same rules which apply to the sales process – in that it has to be written down and it should be able to be taught to others – apply to the sales management process – it should be written down, and others should be trained in implementing it. Too many managers hang onto elements of their job that could just as effectively be done by someone else, leaving the really important role of coaching their sales teams as the almost exclusive activity they should be engaged in.

Lastly, there are the issues of trust and common manners. Would you trust a manager who says to you that he/ she is focussed only on helping you to improve your performance when they spend most of the day answering and making calls; sending texts; reading emails?

When you are on a field sales coaching visit, switch your phone/ laptop/ blackberry off. There is never anything that is important enough to distract you from concentrating 100% on the salesperson you are with, and the customers you are both meeting. It is the height of bad manners to be communicating with other people whilst you are on a field sales coaching visit with one of your salespeople. If you can come up with a reason why you need to keep your phone, iPad, Blackberry or whatever else switched on – then you are wrong. There is no reason other than you may be extremely badly organised.

Have you managed to get to the end of this text without making or receiving a call?

Frank is an expert in the field of sales process design, sales coaching, and sales leadership. He can be contacted via

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