Ben GastonBen Gaston shares his thoughts on the power of situational coaching, Sales Director for Toshiba in the UK, sat with Regional Host, Dr. Jeremy Noad, to explore the power of situational coaching (along with many other sales leadership related topics).

Ben spoke to the fact that, while there is value in generalized training, the recognition that each seller has different needs, is part of the reason why coaching is so important and critical to sales team success.

Give a listen to Ben and Jeremy as they explore these topics.

If you enjoyed listening to Ben and Jeremy discussing the power of situational coaching, read this article discussing sales coaching in more detail.
And let us know, how do you want to help improve the Enablement profession?
Audio Transcript

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Hello, and welcome to this edition of the coffee collaboration and enablement podcast. I’m your host, Jeremy node. And in this episode, we’re talking all things sales leadership, with the multitalented. And Gaston, I, Ben, thank you for coming on.

Unknown Speaker
Thanks for having me. It’s good to go.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Cool. So, for the benefit of our listeners,

Ben Gaston
john, to share a little bit about yourself and the business, you work for all the businesses you work for, yet no travel until first and foremost, dad and husband. Secondly, a sales professional. I’ve been at Toshiba for the best part of 20 years, wow, people will notice shaver as a kind of household consumer name, but I’ve worked in their business services company for all of that time, okay. And around that my sales career has always been linked to the world of technology in some way, shape, or form. And we’re predominately a services company. So print services, IT services, software, automation services, that kind of thing. And I love it. That’s why I’ve been here, so long, a lovely

Unknown Speaker
creative achievement. I’ll never forget,

Ben Gaston
there’s a small gap in a small gap, you know, 18 months out when my daughter was born, where I worked for another fantastic company for that period. But a long part of my life has been

Dr. Jeremy Noad
excellent. So it sort of serves your purpose of mixing life, home and work.

Ben Gaston
Absolutely. You’ve got to love what you do. And yeah, you know, that’s a really hard thing for a lot of people to achieve. So when you find that, I’m quite long. Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Excellent, excellent. We’ve gone through this sort of pandemic, and hopefully, presenting the UK and Ireland, we’re sort of hopefully on the end of our second way, I think it is, depending on how many accounts but you know, we’re coming out of it. But what did you find were the big changes that some firms sort of March last year and how you adapted and what you had to sort of think through?

Ben Gaston
as well, if we kind of set aside the kind of business challenges that I think a lot of organizations have to face, right adapter and come through. One of the things that is really driven is the acceleration of change, in particular, how we deliver sales enablement, how we coach our sales teams, how we talk and meet with our customers. Desperate to avoid that word engage, which everyone uses. Yeah. But how we actually have meaningful conversations with the people we’re trying to help and how that’s all framed has changed massively over the last 12 months. If you you know, think about pre COVID. All of our setting was done face to face with our customers or prospects. Land’s End to john o’Groats, sometimes beyond. And all of a sudden, we’re now having conversations in this little square screen. Yeah, I’m trying to keep those relationships alive. Adapting to that dynamic has been interesting. And actually now a four year old as we come out of this second wave, and well feels more optimistic and more buoyant. And yeah, businesses are recovering. Balancing the two worlds is a new challenge, where we’re going to see a lot of people face to face now. But we’re still also operating in the world of zoom like we are today, or teams and all these other platforms, as well as juggling, the two can be quite hard as well. So it’s been interesting to learn to cope with that.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, cuz we sort of went from sort of face to face to all online and now we’ve got a sort of change, again, to this sort of hybrid. And when we think of the sort of ages zoom and video channels and going forward, how do you think sort of the the coaching aspect is going to go in terms of the situational coaching and how you sort of address that coaching? Yeah, maybe not behavior, but more, it’s more situational deal coaching, that sort of interactions? How do you think

Ben Gaston
situational coaching is we’ve found the most effective way to coach you know, I’ve never say it works for everyone, but I’ve like anything, but it’s healthy to get out of a classroom and into the real world and coach in the moment, I think, and if you think about how we were doing it, presume filter compliment visits, the kind of dreaded filter comfortable with visits if you’re a poor chef, and yet

Dr. Jeremy Noad
are the nicest customers.

Ben Gaston
Yeah, exactly that and you know, you’re you’re ever going out with your, you know, head of sales and I know your coach or, you know, worse your line manager or something like that. And, you know, the idea is that it’s providing that situational coaching but actually entirely screws up the entire dynamic, because the salesperson is out there most nervous. The customer feels like it’s two against one all of a sudden, yeah, probably the manager can’t sit on their hands for the whole meeting and takes over and starts talking. Yeah, and say the coaching goes out the window. And what the online sales world has enabled us to do is remove that the falseness that that situation creates. And you’ve got a couple of options, yes, the coach can join the meetings and dial in. And it’s much less threatening for the customer and the salesperson, but also, you just got this lovely little record button. And, yes, these platforms, and we’ve learned with the permission of the customer each time to just ask it to start, if we can record the session for our own notes, and to make sure we don’t miss any aspects of the conversation. And sometimes the salesperson would do that on their own, sometimes with the coach, and then immediately afterwards, it’s easy to then watch yourself back. And you could do a much more meaningful, more detail coaching, apart from the dynamic, and that’s something we’re doing more and more to great benefit, and people can see themselves and then go get it now, you know, some basic things like I missed a buying signal there to, you know, things which are much more important to us, like I didn’t display enough curiosity spoke too much. And those sorts of things,

Dr. Jeremy Noad
is a really fabulous idea. I mean, the idea of recording things, and you know, what, I’ve gone through to recording more things. But my mindset has always been about this sort of our ease for future reference. It’s saving writing notes or so I can sort of cascade the information later on. But actually sort of saying, Okay, now we’ve got a great bit of data to coach against, is kind of really, really good, good way of using Zoom’s. I never thought of that. So how are people sort of taking that out how the sales rep sort of taking this idea of recording and debriefing in real life because it can’t really hide from what’s happened on the video, they’re open to it?

Ben Gaston
It was obviously maybe an idea initially, yeah. But we really try and create an environment of individual support. So they know the place we’re coming from is just we want to help them. And there’s no right or wrong, there’s just how can we deliver some kind of incremental improvement? So if there’s no consequences, there’s no downside. And that’s about making them feel comfortable? Yes, then, you know, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve found they’re quite open to it. And the other thing is, they then starting to get creative on how they use online selling to kind of make the sales process more efficient. So like all companies, we’ve all or credible sales companies, we have a sales process that we can’t, yeah, and but a big step of part of that is understanding whether or not it’s going to be in the customer’s interest or our interest early on to even embark on that sales process. You know, we want to avoid a square peg in a round hole, we want to make sure we’ve actually got a chance of delivering help. So in the old dynamic, you know, you could potentially jump on a train for three hours to go meet a significant prospect in Manchester from London, get there, realize very quickly that actually, you’re not going to be able to help but both parties feel this duty to have some kind of worthwhile meeting because you’ve traveled too far. Yeah, what we’ve done now as we’ve introduced an almost common kind of pre qualifying meeting into our process, so that you have an initial chat in this forum. Yeah. And then if both parties think yeah, we should explore we then go and meet them. So it’s made us more efficient overall, as well.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, much more productive that way, isn’t it? Sort of early stages of the sales process online, so you need to be brutal, you can run through many more of those sorts of conversations without sort of burning that time for travel. Okay.

Unknown Speaker
Absolutely.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
So, yes, your sales leader, while in the sales enablement leader, What kinds of things do you look for from your sort of your sales support your sales enablement teams to help you deliver

Ben Gaston
the main thing is fundamental recognition that every salesperson is different. That is really important. Because we are all different and a lot of historic sales enablement has been workshop based which is healthy, yeah, but it can be broad brush and it can lead to big gaps between coaching which then kind of slows down the adoption of improvement. And what we try to encourage everyone to do is to spend much more time one to one as part of their enablement and coaching than in group structure. And but then when we have group structure have a very much driven by experiences of the room rather than, you know, bringing up Maslow’s hierarchy of need and going through

Unknown Speaker
Yeah.

Ben Gaston
And that’s that has its place really does have its place. But it can make people operate in a non authentic way in the field, they try and take someone else’s words and put them in their mouth or trying to adopt a technique which works for someone else that doesn’t work for them. So, so one of the things we’ve done is we’ve created a kind of sales leadership matrix, where everyone in our direct sales operation has access to kind of two routes of leadership, one would be their day to day line management, yet leader is responsible for the pipeline, and the budget and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, the other one is more of a local coach. They’re much more available for them for situational coaching, like we’ve discussed that I just need a bit of help with this, just to get to understand them a bit more human level. So sales manager’s job and the sales enablement job to the hardest jobs in sales, because we expect all of our sales managers to be everything to you no at all. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker
for me, it’s

Ben Gaston
very, very hard job indeed. And we expect our enablers to be across everybody, and bringing everyone on in the right way. But we’ve found by splitting the functions, so that everyone’s got a couple of routes to go to, we’re much more effective. And it’s encouraging collaboration. So everyone’s much more open and sharing. And as a leadership team, as a collection of coaches and managers, we’re talking much more about individuals and how we help them and there’s different perspectives feed in that discussion. So that’s, that’s really important. And if we think that, you know, all professional sales is about helping organizations achieve outcomes, rather than selling organizations things, yeah, to do that, we need to make sure that our sales people can feel professionally comfortable with their own style, their own brand, very settled in their own skin, so that they are much more relaxed in a one to one discussion rather than age all the time. And then they can focus on the things which are important, displaying curiosity, asking big questions, you know, really putting ourselves in the customers mindset, rather than talking about what’s in their file in these kinds of things. And I don’t think someone can relax enough to get to that level of conversation that you need to be able to provide help, if you’re always trying to be something or not, or adopt someone else’s technique, or deploy a gimmick to get quick success.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
So this sort of idea, I mean, going back to the southern star, I yeah, I think that we, we sometimes have this overwhelming desire to make sure that everybody understands why we’re talking about a certain topic, and you go heavy on the theory. And then it’s sometimes difficult to join the dots into so what do I need to do what what behavior Do I need to now adopt? Or how do I approach it? And because you, because you’ve kind of switched me off by giving me all the theory. I mean, that’s quite, that’s quite a common one. But this idea that you have about joining these, the sort of the champions, the enablement people together, that sounds quite effective. How long have you been doing that? And, and

Ben Gaston
we’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. And so there’s not a byproduct of change this year. It’s something we’ve been doing for more than a year before that. It was actually it was driven, we had a fantastic sales enablement coach, to Shiva, and to move on to other things. Still very good friend, and one of the best coaches. I know, yeah, that we had a very high dependency on that individual. Yeah. And it forced us to look at ourselves and go, how can we remove that kind of single point of failure going forwards, but also do this whole coaching thing, lots better, and, you know, talk a lot, don’t worry about, you know, confusing the idea of being a manager and confusing the idea of being a coach and people thinking that is same, and sometimes they are, but mostly, they’re very different skills. And, you know, and it’s, that moment forced us to transform it. And now what’s happened is, it was very awkward and stilted in the first kind of 68.

Unknown Speaker
They wanted to get on toes and things like that.

Ben Gaston
And now, you know, and also the sales force themselves. Were Okay, where do I go from this? Where do I go? And yeah, those moments of uncertainty, but now it’s just very open. It’s, there’s, there’s been an absolute removal of any sense of hierarchy, and we’re very flat structured company anyway. And, you know, we will consider ourselves to be part of one team, but if it’s really if you look at our Well, I don’t describe it as a culture that’s like a label. If you look at the kind of working mood in the room now, yeah, a couple of years ago, people are much faster and coming forward to take a bit of help with this, or Can I have another set of eyes on this, or I’ve had this conversation, but I don’t feel I’m, you know, either understanding the customer’s need in the right way or, you know, progress in the sales process in the right way. And, and everyone is very honest. And people, there’s no fear of failure, it was just a recognition that sometimes you get it wrong. And sometimes you get it right. And we can all learn from both, you know,

Dr. Jeremy Noad
yeah. Excellent. Yeah. And the cultural side of it. So important, typically, when you sort of take this sort of one team approach, but then split individual roles. So you know, you kind of don’t want to sort of set off any sort of bad behaviors. So where do you sort of find these these champions? COACH people from? Are they coming from the sales organization? Are they coming from externally or

Ben Gaston
internal, and we were believers in promoting from within where we can, we’ve always adopted that unless you’ve got a skills gap, which is different. Yeah. But we had, you know, quite large management team anyway, which we have rationalized some of that, as a result of it. Within that team, there were people who were more naturally lean towards them, you know, the kind of pipeline management side of things or the management side of things. And we just found that people naturally moved into different roles with different styles. And suddenly, we’re starting to label them now we’ve got one of my friends and colleagues at work, it’s become very direct, kind of, yeah, she knows it is it is. One of my other colleagues, we’ve labeled as the casual coach, it’s very disarming, and, you know, very good at getting to the right question and putting you at ease and not, you know, if I want a bit of mentoring myself, I tend to go now, my days around, and, you know, we’re all benefiting, we’re all benefiting from the structure here, myself, personally, none of us know everything, all you can do is try and expose yourself to loads of different perspective, you know,

Dr. Jeremy Noad
okay, cool. Where do you think the year is gonna sort of play out in terms of ownership, not not talking about financials, but in terms of, we’re coming through this change? I think we’re facing this sort of not only the work from home, and, you know, from a seller’s perspective and a name perspective, we’re sort of remote and that we’re slowly coming back out of that. But where our customers are possibly still at home, as it were, in the future? Do you still see this sort of hybrid approach continuing? Or do you think that, you know, customer and practice will force back to normal as it were, over the year?

Ben Gaston
I suspect we’ll have a hybrid for longer than we think. Yeah. I think a lot of it’s going to come down to people’s comfort factors, aren’t they? If I think about, you know, I think about myself, and, you know, I felt naturally anxious about returning to an office environment. Yeah. But wanted to promote that to the good of our business, and have now a few weeks of going in a few days a week, and we will teams and team meetings and customer meetings and actually realize how much you’ve missed it. And I think as people start to taste what they’ve missed more and more, yeah, I think we’ll open up much faster. But you know, there’s no reason why we should force anything, I think everything should naturally happen. You know, it’s been some lovely dynamics in the last couple of weeks, and one of our channel sales people, when I met a customer and had a custom meeting on a dog walk the other day, and how cool Yeah, you know, people are changing the setting much more. So you know, just because we’re getting together doesn’t mean we need to go back in a little kind of, you know, 10 by 12 stuffing,

Unknown Speaker
yeah, we don’t need to go back to the cubes now.

Ben Gaston
So, you know, there’s actually a good opportunity to have a much more pleasant experience in business as the year progresses. So

Dr. Jeremy Noad
that’s really I like that. You get a bit of exercise you out in the open air, you’re socially distanced, and you’re working at the same time. I mean, that’s got to be a winner, whatever it is.

Ben Gaston
All of our relationships if somehow got stronger in this last year, you know, you know who you want to talk to, you know, who you want to spend time with. You’re talking business, but you’re talking from your own home so they can see you. I’m amazed the dog hasn’t barked or something, you know, happened in this last 20 minutes and

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, I had a teenager go past me. Yeah. And then one drop john sort of rattling the the dishwasher and things like that since we’ve been on. So that’s the normal sounds of working life nowadays, I

Unknown Speaker
think, isn’t it? Absolutely. But it also, you know, there’s nothing wrong with that

Ben Gaston
there’s nothing wrong with someone’s toddler coming and taking over your teenager count in the room? Yeah, only that kind of stuff. That’s, I think that’s quite nice. And it breaks down barriers. And he stops this.

Unknown Speaker
You know how,

Ben Gaston
I don’t know if you’ve ever talked about this. But you know, that kind of meeting dynamic where you get, you know, the salesperson and the buyer, one of the bed frames in the room, and everyone’s got their professional veneer on. But you never really get to a truly vulnerable or brave or deep or courageous conversation, because you never get past that outer layer. Yeah, yeah. You know, I think we’re getting much closer into the yoke. We actually weave as a result of this, because you can’t help but be more yourself.

Dr. Jeremy Noad
Yeah, much more human interactions, less jargon, less sort of art. Yeah, I am the whatever I am. Because I think we’ve all realized we’re all sort of kind of human, and we’re doing a job, whatever the job may be. But that’s really good. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker
So

Dr. Jeremy Noad
that’s really good. If people want to know more about you, of what you do, and how to get in contact with you, if you want to find out some more. And other things, what else? What else is in your life related to sales or other people find? You

Ben Gaston
know, several? Well, obviously, it’s a shame is that my day job, and I’m very proud of, but no one’s fired me, obviously, LinkedIn. I’m on the advisory board for the Association of Professional sales,

Ben Gaston
which is part of my passion project, and also just been co opted onto their parliamentary advisory committee as we try and affect change for the sales profession. So there’s loads of stuff in the internet around that. But probably the one thing I would want to mention is my passion project, which is the humble sale,

Dr. Jeremy Noad
the humble sale, that sounds really good.

Ben Gaston
This is my, this is my lockdown byproduct. You know, in those long days last year, I was thinking about what I can give back to my profession, those who know me know, I’m very passionate about progressing in sales profession as a whole. So I created a website called the humble sale, the humble sale.com. Really easy to remember. Yeah, and

Unknown Speaker
all one word, one word

Ben Gaston
for sale.com. And it’s, the idea is it’s real, heartfelt advice for the sales community. You know, the choice of phrasing was that the act of a sale is a very small thing in itself, the actual transaction is a moment in time. So it’s very humble. But there’s a lot of connotations off the back of it, whether you’re, you know, whether it’s skills, mindset, leadership approach, anything like that. But also, in my view, the best way to sell is to be humble. And listen, display ethics, be very curious focus on the customer. And, you know, be very hot and steamy in your approach. So, you know, so that was the reason for the name. And the thinking was, if you’re at any stage in your sales career, where do you turn to for some really meaningful sales advice? Yeah, there’s a lot out there. But a lot of it comes with an agenda. It’s either trying to promote a company, sell a book, sell at all, yeah, monetize something in some way or other. And you know, I’m very happy in my career. And so this is about just sharing. And it’s gaining momentum. We’ve got small group of subscribers, which is growing and recommending, and, you know, it’s not just my voice to there are no trusted coaches on there that I’ve stumbled across over the years. So people like last gen. Justin Lee and Nick Holbrook or James Potter, people who have got a really good voice on topics. But again, they’ve got that sharing mindset.

Unknown Speaker
And, you know, it’s getting legs and it’s going in all kinds of directions.

Ben Gaston
You know, it’s leading to conversations like this. Yeah. It’s allowing me to interview some people for their perspective that might be useful, but mostly, it’s just there to help and provide some useful advice and insight that people can jump on if they wanted

Dr. Jeremy Noad
to. So again, quick plug the humble sale calm. And I really like this idea of sort of, yeah, it is this. And we use the iceberg analogy for so many different things, but whatever you want to call it, it’s that tick that moment in time where all the things that have gone before to get to that point of the sale have happened. Opening well As you said, right at the start, you know, the purpose isn’t to sell stuff. The purpose is to solve the customers problem, help them get better. So in the b2b environment, and it’s sort of that moment in time that triggers everything else to that change in that transformation in the customer. So I really like this sort of you focus on that little piece, except all that goes on, and all this potential to go forward. Really good. And I think overall, I just like to say thank you, Ben, for your time today. I think Jim really good, really insightful. And for our listeners, thank you for listening to the coffee collaboration and enablement podcast and hopes you listen next time

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