Is it coaching?

img_1763I was straightening up my workspace this morning and ran across a sample of a coaching log.  The log had been developed by an experienced and talented store manager working for the company I worked at many years.

It was well produced with 50 pages to record when a manager coached and employee. I really liked the playbook and I hope that it improved coaching for the managers and their employees.  Perhaps it lead to better sales, improved service or more effective and efficient employees.


This was not the only coaching log that I saw while I working  in retail management and training.  In fact, I probably saw 50 different versions over the years.  But this one was a good one.

The reason why I bring this up is that it has been my experience that there is no correlation between good coaching  and the use of a coaching log.

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The Dance


I saw the two of them square off – the salesperson and the customer, the adversary and their opponent.  Even though I have seen this subtle encounter many times before, I never pass up a chance to watch.  For the Dance was about to begin.

What is the Dance?  It is the name that I gave to the movement that salespeople and their customers go through trying to find a comfortable place and distance to interact.

Typically when two people talk,  they stand approximately an arms distance away from one another.  If they are close friends, they may stand closer.  If there is a power differential between them, the person with less power may stand a bit further away.  The distance is never discussed by the talkers but rather it is set as the two talkers position themselves.

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Another way not to coach

by Polylerus

by Polylerus

I stopped in national chain store at the mall the other day, drawn in by the signs in by the many promotional signs in the window.

Standing near the front of the store, an employee was working with a customer as a smiling manager approached.  Without so much as an introduction, the manager asked the customer, “Did he mention the sales going on?”

“Not yet,” responded the somewhat bewildered customer.

Turning to the employee, the manager continued, “I can’t believe you haven’t mentioned the promotions even after our huddle this morning. Jesus!”

At this point, I didn’t want to see any more and left the store.  I think the customer was thinking the same thing.

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It’s the drugs talking

img_1738Several years ago, I saw a fascinating TV show on retailing. If my memory serves me correctly, it was called Buyology.  One of the most interesting segments reported on the stress of shopping and Holiday shopping especially.

When you are under significant stress, the body creates the steroid, cortisol, to help you deal with  the situation.  It is your body’s chemical behind the “fight or flight” mechanism.

Another characteristic of cortisol is that you can test a person’s cortisol level using a simple oral swab, so researchers went out and swabbed people’s mouths during stressful events to measure the stress caused by certain events.

The researchers tested combat pilots; it seems they have high stress levels in when being shot at.  (Only a governmental program would spend a lot of money to find that result.) They also tested Holiday shoppers at a major mall the weekend before Christmas.

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Recommended reading – Hiring Squirrels

hiring-squirrelsPeter Smith shares what he has learned, sometimes the hard way, in Hiring Squirrels 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent.  He offers sound advice on attracting, interviewing and selecting the best possible salespeople for your retail store.

The book opens with his own personal tale of managing at Tiffany’s, yes, that Tiffany’s.  With great bravado, he stepped into an underperforming store with the idea that he knew exactly what to do to turn the store around.  You will have to read the book yourself for the rest of the story, but this simply tale was what hooked me into reading the rest of the book.  (I will be honest, I do not always read every chapter of the business books I buy.)

The key I took away from this opening chapter is that good retail managers recognize the individuality of the salespeople they employ. Just as all customer are unique people, so are our employees.  Successful managers know what characteristics to look for and nurture in potential sales people.

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The Acme Thunderer -The World's Finest Whistle

The Acme Thunderer -The World’s Finest Whistle

One advantage that athletic coaches have over sales managers is their whistle.  When an athletic coach blows the whistle, everything stops and people listen.  More than once I longed for my Acme Thunderer to get the attention of one of my employees when they were messing up on the sales floor.

Ongoing coaching is critical for the development of effective and efficient retail sale people. The ability of managers to effectively communicate with their employees about their performance is often the difference between success and failure of both the employee and the store.

With so many retailers feeling the squeeze on payroll, many store employees receive little or no training before they are set free on the sales floor to see to the needs of the customers.  With limited training, sales people are left to learn, typically through trial and error , on the floor.  With an attentive and observant manager that is willing to coach, the salesperson will develop much quicker.

That is where coaching and SBIA model come in.

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Parade rest at Finn’s Camera

Olympus OM-1 Image 2012 Olympus Corporation

Olympus OM-1
Image 2012 Olympus Corporation

Yes, I was in my high school photography club.  Of course, this was back when being a photographer meant using film cameras and processing and enlarging their own prints.  Early on in high school I recognized the power of the camera.  The power was not so much in the camera’s ability to record a moment in time but rather in its ability to get me out of class and serve as a universal hall pass under the guise of “getting pictures for the yearbook.” I successfully used this ruse for four full years.

I was introduced to the photo club by Steve D, a class mate that I met at new student orientation. He was already an avid photographer and had recently become a member of the photo club.  More importantly, he was the one that taught me about the power of the camera.  With Steve’s guidance, I was soon in the good graces of the faculty advisor for the photo club which gave me access to the school’s aging Rolleicord TLRs and Asahi cameras and the photo darkroom during my study hall.

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