You don’t have to be Mom to relate to this article. If you’re a Field Trainer you’ve already got the prerequisite – your role requires the ability to create change. And (no surprise here) engineering long-term, sustained change – not the short bursts that disappear the minute you turn your back – is one of the hardest challenges whether you’re a Mom or a Field Trainer.
I became a Mom when my wife and I adopted Cooper. I knew I was late to motherhood when my infant son arrived in the same month as my AARP card. Surprisingly, some of the behavioral changes I have made as I fumble my way through parenting have had significant impact on my success in training reps in the field. Ironically, these were things I’ve known forever but didn’t intentionally or consistently execute. Why? I hadn’t made an emotional connection to them – until Cooper.
Creating change requires two intertwined components – a rational and an emotional. No matter how powerful the rational argument, until you change the way a person feels, you will not be able to change their behavior in a lasting way. People buy into ideas based on emotion first, and then rationalize based on logic.
In his book, Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, Douglas Van Praet writes about the fallacy of thinking we have “free will.” He says behavioral science tells us that what we actually have is “free won’t.” We can’t choose our emotions because they happen unconsciously. But we can either choose to give in to the impulses that our emotions generate or decide to apply the brakes. Our conscious mind makes a series of “critical reflections and interpretations” about how we are feeling. Once our emotions are triggered to want something, our critical mind looks for evidence to support this desire. The stronger the desire, the greater the tendency to seek out supporting evidence. In other words, according to Van Praet, “We are not rational. We are rationalizers.”
Too often as parents (and trainers), we spend a disproportionate amount of time on our rational arguments. We default to statements that make sense, are based on facts, or can be proven. We see a problem and throw solutions at it. We wonder why behavioral change doesn’t stick without investing enough time and energy to create the emotional impetus for change.
Three behaviors (mastered through Motherhood) have helped me become better at making the emotional connection in training: Presence, Patience, and Perspective.
Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. And nothing says “I don’t care” louder than making someone feel like they’re a distraction. As a Mom, this is about being intentional with my time and energy. It means getting my work done during business hours and being fully present for my son when I get home. When your little boy sighs and says in a soft, sad voice, “Mommy, please put your phone down and look at me when I’m talking to you” – that’s an emotional impetus. The same goes for field trainers. Many are “player coaches” In addition to training duties, they have territories of their own, and families or relationships. Full-time field trainers are responsible for administrative duties and developing and running training workshops. These add up to a lot of things we could be thinking about when we’re working with a sales rep. While few reps will tell us to put our phone down, they’ll be thinking it. It’s on us to block out the competing noise in our heads to be fully present and understand each person at a deep level.
This comes down to listening, not making assumptions, asking the first question “What do you think?” and even more importantly, the second question, “Why is that?” If I want to support sustained change in Cooper, I have to intentionally resist the temptation to tell him what to do and how to do it. Many Field-based Trainers train their peers using a “show and tell” approach: they teach their peers to sell the way they do. The Field Trainer “tells” the rep what he is doing wrong and then “shows” him how they would do it themselves. But sales execution gaps are behavioral in nature and neglecting the behavioral toolbox is a big mistake. We all need reliable go-to behaviors to support sustained change. Most are highly specific to the individual. What works for me may not work for Cooper, and, just like your reps, he’s going to need to rely on his own set of tools for the long haul of lasting behavioral change.
Being my son is just one part of Cooper’s life. He is someone in the world outside of his relationship with me. He brings with him all the rich complexities of who he is and what he experiences in his world when he comes home. I must remain curious and open to understanding and receiving insight from him on how these impact his personal fulfillment. By creating the conditions to uncover what motivates him and why, I build our relationship, increase his confidence, and solidify trust. Our sales reps bring their whole selves to work with them. Their career is just a part their life. Each person is motivated differently and works at a different pace. We have to be adaptive and efficient in understanding what gets them up in the morning if we hope to make an emotional connection to create change. As Field Trainers, we must not only demonstrate our expertise, we must establish a relationship. Being a mother got me out of my own head, and into my son’s – and this behavior has transferred into greater perspective when working with reps in the field.
A recent field ride provided the opportunity for me to measure just how much impact being a Mom has made on my ability to create an emotional connection when training in the field. I was working in the field with Christine (not her real name), a highly successful specialty sales representative who’s considered a top performer by leadership and peers alike. Christine shared with me she that a lot of people from headquarters have ridden with her, but rarely do they provide feedback; they often get pulled away for phone calls during the day. Determined to be fully present for Christine, I began to ask her questions to figure out what made her tick.
Turns out she’s got two main drivers: to keep learning and growing to better serve her customers and their patients and to be seen as one of the best. Last year, she placed eleventh in her division, narrowly missing the top 10 required to win the President’s Club award trip. She really wants to win this year’s trip to Hawaii because she and her husband couldn’t afford to go there for their honeymoon.
After the first couple of calls, I could see that Christine not only had the potential to be in the top 10 but she could probably be in the top 2 if she’d learn to close. As we headed to our third office she asked me for feedback. I shared my observations about the specific best-in-class behaviors I felt were contributing to her success. Then I asked for her opinion on closing. She smiled and said, “Wow, it didn’t take you long to uncover my Achilles heel.” Pre-Mom Jill might have used that as an invitation to tell her all the reasons why she should close and how to do it. Instead, I exercised patience and perspective. When asked what she meant by her Achilles heel, she explained that she knows she should close but hates the way closing makes her feel. Be quiet. Be curious. I asked her to describe how it felt. She said it made her feel “too salesy” and that closing felt forced and artificial.
Rational Christine knew why she needed to close and possessed the skills to do it. I knew what was missing for Christine was the emotional connection she needed to change the way she was closing. I asked, “In your opinion, if you were able to close in a way that didn’t feel too salesy, do you think it would help you move closer to being the best and winning that trip to Hawaii for you and your husband?” She said yes, it would, and then asked me to show her how. We practiced the trial close – asking the customer’s opinion on the thing you wish to test and linking the commitment to something the customer wants. She caught on quickly and said, “like you just did to me!” Guilty as charged, I asked if it felt too salesy. She said not at all, she was impressed that I remembered what was important to her. She intentionally implemented the trial close consistently the rest of the day.
For those who may be wondering what happened to Christine, I heard from her just before Thanksgiving. She emailed to thank me for helping her feel better about closing – she’s on track to be in the top 5 and win that trip to Hawaii. As I typed my response, I smiled and thought about telling her that credit really belongs to my 7-year-old.