The Outcome: Generating New Thinking

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JC encourages Bill to embrace ‘outside the box’ thinking opportunities.

“Well”, he said.

Bill set about describing the sales teams reporting procedure, which in summary I noted as:

1. Each Thursday evening all external sales people send in (by fax) a call schedule for the following week. This identifies the day, date and time of the call, the contact and company and the reason.
2. Each day (by fax) the sales people send in a ‘Daily call report’ reporting on the outcome of the call and the required actions from it.
3. Each month they send (by fax) in a monthly report identifying key calls from the month that indicate potential business that will come in within a 30 day period from the date of the report, a copy of which goes to Trudy for collation and generation of the forecasting documents.

Bill then explained that at the end of every month Trudy presents him with documents that show forecasted sales by salesperson and actual sales by sales person. The two are measured against each other, and shown as a results percentage.

“We used to also have an average percentage output against each person on the final report, but I took it off as the results are so erratic it was more confusing than helpful,” he said with some disappointment in his tone.

“Who are the daily and weekly reports sent to?” I asked.

“Their manager,” he said, “And they then collate them to report to me during the week, and/or on specific deals that they or I need to get involved in,” he explained.

“How does the weekly forecast report tie in with the appointment makers?” I asked.

“Well, they are in daily communication with their internal counterpart, and we leave them to organise that as a team. Some work via email, some by phone or both,” Bill said.

“How often does the manager report to you formally from the daily and weekly information?” I asked.

“At the end of the week, so that I can go through it over the weekend,” he said.

“What format do you get that report in?”

“As a word document, with a general overview of activity, any specific client/deal information and a percentage of projected forecast and target,” he explained.

“Does the accuracy of these reports (or lack of it) correlate with the monthly forecasting?” I asked.

He paused for a moment as he considered the question. “Pretty much I think,” he said. “In fairness’ JC, I don’t think I have actually done a statistic type evaluation of that, to be honest.” Bill said, and continued to muse over the question.

I gave Bill some thinking time while I sipped my coffee and made some notes.

“How often and by what method do you have to report to Head Office?” I asked.

“I send written reports in monthly which Shelia puts together for me from information provided from Trudy I then add the director’s report and send it off by email. Although the main report I give is quarterly when I attend the meetings in Germany and provide both written and presented details on the business,” Bill explained.

“How much of the external sales teams business is closed within a 30-day period?” I asked.

I had switched back to a question that I could have asked earlier, but had chosen not too. The reason is when you get people to switch their thinking patterns, they very often answer from their true gut feelings, knowledge and experience, without adding layers of considered complexity, and this is often very revealing as a question technique.

Bill looked at me as I directed the question at him, started to speak, stopped, considered, went to speak again and stopped again, looked away as he was thinking and then looked back at me with a small grin on his lips.

“I knew I was going to get along with you,” he said. “Bloody good point.”
“Not as much as we would like of course, but the nature of the beast is that a decent sized order can take anywhere from one week to four months plus to close”.

“So, by tasking them with a monthly target, and a monthly forecast, we are putting them in a difficult situation for reporting business that won’t closed in the month anyway,” he said. “But we have to forecast monthly for HQ,” he continued, so I don’t see how…” his voice trailed of into thought.

“What would happen if you asked your team to provide you with a three month forecast?” I asked him. I had slipped slightly into a mentoring position based on my own sales experience, but I had still put it as an open-ended question rather than a direct suggestion.

“Interesting,” Bill said, “I need to give it some thought.”

“How would you feel about setting that as the action for you before our next meeting?” I asked him.

“Fine” Bill said, and we arranged our next session for one week’s time.

“Certainly clears the cobwebs doesn’t it,” Bill said, referring to the session.

I smiled, “It can,” I replied.

“It would be worth chatting to Trudy as you get your thoughts into some order, as she had some ideas which might tie in with your thinking,” I suggested to Bill.

“Really”, he said lifting an interested eyebrow, “I’ll do that.”

We closed the session and I went with Bill back to his office to make some notes. Bill chatted (thinking aloud) enthusiastically on the way about looking at the situation; which was a very different tone to the frustrated one he had shown earlier on.

I made my notes and headed back to the coffee machine prior to my next session.

Key Points:

  • Always keep your mind on the coachee’s desired outcomes to avoid getting bogged down in the situation itself.
  • Try to generate a different level of thinking than the one that created the issue or challenge, as the better solutions lie in that paradigm.
  • Encourage ‘outside the box’ thinking opportunities.

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