The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) San Diego Chapter has asked me to speak to their members next month on how we’re using Coaching to drive the new Help-U-Sell University, Pro-Coach U. It’s a very prestigious group full of big names from the fields of Instructional Design, Educational Technology, Performance Improvement and Organizational Development. What we’re doing is a little cutting edge and there is lots of interest in how our point-of-view might make similar programs in other industries more effective.
What is that point-of-view, you ask? Well, it’s simply this: When we train adults in a business setting what we’re usually trying to accomplish is a change in behavior. We want them to act differently then they normally have in the past. It’s applicable to all kinds of training, but think for a moment about sales skills. If you’re like most people, you came to real estate sales thinking you couldn’t sell anything to anybody. You went through a learning period where you discovered that you actually DID have sales skills and you worked to polish them. You began to behave differently than you did before you jumped into the selling pool. If you’ve ever trained to be a manager of salespeople, you studied and practiced until you became adept at asking the right questions at the right time (rather than impressing your team by telling them everything you know). These are new behaviors that you learn by first recognizing their importance and effectiveness, then by seeing someone else do it correctly, then by practicing in a safe environment and getting feedback from a knowledgeable Coach. That’s what we do in Pro-Coach U.
Most sales and management training occurs in a classroom in a compressed period of time with usually just a head nod toward role playing or any kind of meaningful practice. Even worse are the purely online programs that merely dump the information out of the screen an onto your desk where it rarely gets put into action and is quickly forgotten. With Pro-Coach U, we use the Internet to deliver information. That’s where the book learning takes place. It comes in the form of brief video Lessons where the hard core information we are working with is presented in a compelling fashion. The new Information is then explored in a series of real world Exercises and Activities, supervised by the Coach. As the participant practices, the Coach provides feedback. The Coach watches and listens and decides when the new Broker is ready for the next infusion of Information.
Here’s a little secret about training adults: it’s a selling situation. The job is to convince people that what you want them to do is going to make them happier, more productive, richer, better looking, healthier, and wiser than they currently are. If you can accomplish that, the actual learning and behavior change is easy. It’s awfully hard to do that kind of benefits selling over the phone or over the Internet or even in a classroom. It usually takes the trusted guidance of someone who’s been there, done that and understands the benefits from a personal standpoint: a Coach. And that’s why Pro-Coach U is, from beginning to end, a Coaching driven experience.
Jeanne Strayer and I started working on Coaching back in 1987 when we developed a Coaching driven in-office training program for Century21, the Sales Performance System(SPS). It was a magnificent program that came with almost three hours of video – used to role model the new behaviors – comprehensive Participant and Coaching Guides. The Agent went away, did their work and exercises, then came back to see the Coach, who only had to turn to the appropriate page in the guide to know what to ask, what to inspect, and what came next. The big surprise came to me in 2003 when, new to Help-U-Sell, I came across Science to Sales: Don Taylor’s way of training high performing Buyers Agents. It was created several years before SPS and followed the same basic coaching methodology. I maintain to this day that Science to Sales is the best agent development training program I’ve ever seen – even better than SPS, which was left in the dust as Century 21 was sold and sold again.
Jeanne and I went on to weave Coaching into most every project we touched after Century 21 and even brought it to bear in the last iteration of Help-U-Sell (the pre-2006 version). Now, in the new Millennium, technology has finally caught up with us and we’re creating Pro-Coach U as a blended learning solution, involving video, the internet, audio, print and Coaching to produce solid Help-U-Sell Citizens. It makes perfect sense to us . . . but the rest of the world sees it as cutting edge. That’s ok: we Help-U-Sell folks always like being first anyway.