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December 22, 2014 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


How Top Leaders Communicate To Create Best-In-Class Sales Organizations



Keith Rosen



Profit Builders


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published Ė December 22, 2014


Regardless of your role or business objectives, every member of your senior leadership team has the ability to impact their companyís culture. And that starts with the way they communicate their message to each individual and throughout the organization. Learn what the leaders of the worldís top organizations are doing to continually achieve aggressive sales targets, accelerate performance, create organizational alignment and build deeper trust with customers, as well as their people.


CEOCFO: Mr. Rosen, why should companies make coaching and developing their managers into more effective coaches a priority?

Mr. Rosen: Think about how many salespeople and managers are not realizing their fullest potential nor leveraging the opportunities, as well as the relationships they have in front of them. Now, consider what this costs companies every year in turnover and lost revenue. Regardless of your industry or geography, the missing link to exceptional, best-in-class performance is effective coaching.


Unfortunately, most managers donít effectively coach their team because theyíve never gone through a formal leadership coaching course to develop their coaching skills. How many managers today can say they have a coaching framework they use for every conversation that improves and sustains peopleís performance?


To compound this challenge, many managers have never been successfully coached before. So, if youíve never had a great coaching experience, then you may not have a good handle on what good coaching looks, feels and sounds like.


Instead, managers gravitate to what they know. They act as Chief Problem Solvers, get too involved in fixing things or resolving issues and then get frustrated when their people become overly dependent on them.


The companies that are continually innovating and winning today realize one of the greatest opportunities to innovate is with their people, which is why they make coaching a top priority.


Think of it this way. Every day, managers are having numerous conversations with people. Customers, partners, venders, direct reports, peers, prospects, supervisors, and so on.


With all the advances in technology, growth, innovation, along with attracting and retaining customers, nothing happens without a conversation. Which means every conversation you have is critical.


And in every conversation, you are doing one of four things. You are building trust or you are eroding it. You are delivering value or youíre being redundant.


Itís a simple philosophy and the greatest opportunity for innovation. When you change the conversation, you change the outcome. Coaching is the language that changes the conversation.


CEOCFO: It sounds like the conversation is critical. How does this translate into how you work with sales managers?

Mr. Rosen: The conversation is everything. My entire work is focused around changing the conversation for sales leaders. For example, top performing salespeople use a very different language than poor performers. Selling is a language. The best managers use a very different language than ineffective managers. Leadership is a language. Transformational CEOs and CFOs use a very different language than mediocre or average CEOs and CFOs.


Companies are constantly talking about wanting to build a sales coaching culture. Well, how do you think this actually happens and when? No, this is not an event but something that happens in every conversation. Your next conversation is where it begins.


Just think about all of the different meetings and conversations managers have every single day, especially their direct reports. Deal reviews, turnaround situations, dealing with underperformers, cross team collaboration, performance reviews, financial reviews, compensation discussions, closing sales, recruiting, forecasting meetings, pipeline reviews, presentations and customer meetings.


Now, compound this with the various generational gaps that managers need to contend with on their team. Suddenly, the priority is having a consistent way to communicate and connect with everyone on their team, while respecting each personís individuality. This is an absolutely critical skill every manager needs to possess in order for all of their conversations and meetings to be effective.


What if you can exponentially increase the overall impact of every conversation you have? What if you can make yourself more valuable? What if you can build trust faster, especially with your customers and direct reports? What if managers can get their sales team consistently focused on engaging in higher value activities?


These are the results that leaders can expect when they change the way they engage and communicate, especially during the critical conversations that move the needle of productivity and profitability.


CEOCFO: When were you inspired to pioneer what you refer to as leadership coach training?

Mr. Rosen: About thirty years ago, after a successful sales and management career, I started my coaching practice, primarily working with managers, business owners and salespeople.


When I first started my company, I was delivering a great deal of sales training. And as a consummate salesperson myself, I would always follow up with my clients to assess the impact that the training had made and see how I could further support them. Yet, every time I spoke with a client, I kept hearing the same story.


ďKeith, your sales training was great. However, you know how it is. Some people took what you shared with them and they adopted it immediately. A handful of the salespeople implemented some of the concepts and techniques you shared but the majority of people just fell back into their old habits; doing what they know and staying within their comfort zone.Ē


This bothered me because what I want for every person who completes my course is to leave with the tools they need to change their thinking and behavior that will enable them to achieve more than they thought was even possible. Well, as I worked with managers in different companies across the world, it became very apparent where the gap was that prevented organizations from realizing the ROI from their training efforts.


If every salesperson on a sales team is going through the same sales training course and the manager is the only other constant, then why arenít all the salespeople performing at the same level?


Because sales training doesnít develop sales champions. Managers do. If you want to make your employees more successfuldevelop and retain top talent, win more sales and maintain your competitive edge, first make your managers world-class coaches.


The solution to boosting sales isnít more sales training, but better coaching from management to make their people more valuable. This requires having the coaching competencies and insight to facilitate the right conversations at the right time.


Without the manager consistently and effectively coaching their salespeople, any training or desired behavior can never be sustained. Coaching is the bonding agent and reinforcement needed that will make your sales training stick.


Coaching, like selling is a leaned and practiced discipline and skill. However, keep in mind the transformation that a manager goes through which takes them to where they are today. What typically happens is, a top salesperson will get promoted to sales manager. Unfortunately, they have never been taught how to manage and most important, how to coach. They lack the core competencies required to authentically develop, refine, and support their people.


So, what they do is revert to what they do best, and that is, sell. Now, you have a sales manager acting as a super salesperson for the team. Well, if the sales manager is now doing a fair share of the selling for their sales team or are getting far too involved in the deals, then who is leading and developing the team?


Thatís why we pioneered management coach training so that managers could be equipped with what they need to effectively transform from salesperson to sales manager to sales coach.


CEOCFO: What gets in the way of effective coaching?

Mr. Rosen: Being the Chief Problem Solver. Instead of developing people, managers jump in too soon with their own opinions and solutions or when trying to save a deal and paradoxically, send the wrong message. Consequently, managers very often create the very conditions they want to avoid most! Letís walk through this together.


Managers want their people to be more self-driven and accountable. Conversely, theyíre compelled to provide quick answers rather than empower people to create their own solutions.


For example, if I was your boss and every time you come to me looking for help, I provide you with answers, solutions or share with you all of my worldly experience and expertise, what are you, the direct report thinking?


ďWow boss, youíre awesome! Thatís great! Thank you so much for helping me! And thanks for continuing to solve all of my problems for me so that I donít have to think on my own or be accountable for the solution!Ē


Now, the message the manager sends is, ďEvery time you have a problem, come to me, and Iíll fix it for you.Ē


Compound this by then number of challenges, requests and problems coming at you, along with the number of people you have on your team. As talented as any leader may be, you canít scale dependency.


CEOCFO: So, are you suggesting that managers donít have to be subject matter experts?

Mr. Rosen: To clarify, a managerís experience and subject matter expertise is part of their value. That is not all of their value.


To begin the transformation from manager to coach, managers need to challenge their perception of what their value really is and what they bring to their company. The majority of people leaders, regardless of geographic location or industry, would presume that their value is their experience and being the Subject Matter Expert. After all, managers believe this was the reason why they were hired in the first place.


ďWell Iím a people leader. And Iím a great salesperson. My customers, my boss, my direct reports; they all expect me to have the answers.Ē


This line of thinking comes at a great cost. The wrong lesson is learned - ďMy value is being the subject matter expert.Ē


To compound the cost of this behavior, if the answer or solution that your manager provides doesnít work, whose fault is it? It goes back to the manager. Now their direct reports have the license to use the greatest excuse in the world; the one their manager gave them!


ďHey boss. You know that solution you shared with me? Well, it didnít work. Itís not my fault. I was just doing what you told me to do. My hands? Theyíre clean on this one.Ē


Managers are actually robbing their people of the very accountability they want to instill, while creating a team of dependent people! And while the manager solves other peopleís problems or offers up solutions, they have inadvertently made themselves accountable for the outcome!


CEOCFO: What do you suggest managers do to become better coaches?

Mr. Rosen: As we discussed, leaders need to first resign from their role as Chief Problem Solver.


Second, and this is where it gets a bit strange, managers need to stop being so result driven and become more process driven. Now, letís face it, when you have sales targets and business objectives to achieve, managers become victims of their culture. And Iím not referring to their geographic culture or where they live. Iím referring to their company culture.


This occupational hazard of continually looking at whatís next to complete, the next task, goal, project or sale, is truly a global epidemic.


Now, I get it. Managers are measured by results. And I understand that for most managerís, their career, reputation, compensation and performance is based upon the performance of their team.


But there is a greater cost here. These result driven cultures breed toxic thinking. Which is,


ďIf you stay focused on the results, keep your eyes on the prize and on your sales targets, you will get there faster.Ē


This is the line of thinking or assumption that is deeply engrained within most sales driven cultures. In order to achieve your goals and attain quota, you need to keep focused on the results.


Paradoxically, focusing on the result actually gets in the way of achieving the results you want.




Because if you are always focusing on the result; then you are not focusing on your people.


The real irony here is, when you coach, you donít coach the result or the Ďwhat.í You coach the Ďwho,í you coach the person, you coach the process and you coach the how.


So, donít just define the word ďprocessĒ as a series of repeatable, measurable steps you take to achieve a consistent result.


When I suggest becoming more process driven, Iím referring to moving beyond your external execution and focusing on your inner game for a moment. That is, change your thinking to become someone who is process driven. Consider how this change in your thinking would affect how you communicate.


CEOCFO: Can you share an example of how changing your thinking would affect your communication style and how you come across?

Mr. Rosen: If you were a sales manager who is more of a process driven thinker, here are several examples of the questions you might ask when handling with a challenge or working on a deal.


  1. How have you handled that situation before?

  2. Whatís your opinion on how to resolve this?

  3. How does the customer define value and ROI?

  4. What are the top concerns the prospect shared with you that could get in the way of earning their business?


Notice that each question was focused on seeking to understand the other personís point of view in an open ended, objective way.

But in order to start asking these questions in a more natural way, beliefs precede experience. That is, when you change your thinking first, the byproduct is then the change in behavior, which is likely to continue for the long term.


Unfortunately, because most managers are conditioned to generate results, hit their numbers and achieve business objectives, itís this result driven line of thinking that, in turn, kicks out result driven questions.


Here are some questions that are continually being asked by managers who have a result driven mindset. These questions focus on one thing; the outcome.


  1. How many meetings did you schedule this week?

  2. Youíre inputting everything we need into the CRM, right?

  3. Is your sales forecast accurate?

  4. How much good business are you going to close this month?


Are these questions important? They most certainly are! However, these questions enable managers to facilitate only half of the conversation you need to have with your salespeople. While these questions certainly focus on results, they are also, for the most part, all close-ended questions, providing no additional insight into the situations, facts, behaviors or what was discussed.


What are you really learning when you ask your salespeople these questions? You only succeed in uncovering their opinion around some end result and not necessarily how itís being done.


Hereís the real cost incurred when only asking these close-ended, result driven questions. The manager assumes their salespeople are emulating the best practices, knowledge and behavior of world-class sales champions Ė and so do their salespeople!


CEOCFO: How can managers truly assess the talent on their team?

Mr. Rosen: The most common response I hear from managers is, ďI look at the numbers. I look at the results. I look at their activity.Ē


Thatís the same as management assuming that the quantity of coaching equates to its quality!


I ask every manager Iíve ever had the pleasure of working with the same questions. ďHow consistently do you observe your people engaging with customers and prospects on the phone, in person, or even how they are communicating via email? Are you truly certain of the processes they use, how they communicate and how they perform or are you assuming that based on the reports, results and data?Ē


The majority of managers would acknowledge they need to invest more time with their people observing them in action. They would also admit they could do a better job providing feedback that actually results in behavioral changes.


Observation is such a crucial activity that managers need to be doing more of it for one good reason. That is, people canít change what they donít see. Think about sports. Where does the coach stand during the game? The sidelines. Because players canít self-diagnose in the middle of the game. Theyíre playing to win, and so are your salespeople. Thatís why they need another set of eyes to observe the things they canít see on their own.


To truly develop champions, managers need to make a fundamental shift from being a spreadsheet manager to being a people manager.


You canít manage people from a spreadsheet. Data only provides insight into activity and results, not the quality of output, which makes the difference between the ďAĒ and ďCĒ player. The numbers donít uncover coaching or developmental opportunities because the numbers merely represent results. And you donít coach the result, you coach the process!


Donít get me wrong, the numbers are important. However, the numbers donít uncover someoneís blind spot or what people canít see on their own because when something is always going on, we become blind to it. Especially when engaging with a customer or prospect, salespeople donít always recognize the behaviors they need to modify to produce greater results.


You see, when youíre looking at data, the numbers just tell you what is going on. The numbers donít tell you why itís happening. And the data also doesnít tell you how that person is performing.


So, when you look at activity, you might think, ďHmmÖmy A player is engaging in the exact same activities as my C player. Well then, why is my A player an A player and my C player a C player?Ē


Youíre not going to get the answer by only evaluating your data.


Any manager who is not observing how their people actually perform, present, communicate and manage themselves has no idea what theyíre really doing, especially when in front of a customer. Youíre only going to uncover the real truth if youíre truly taking the time to observe your people.


Like the athletic coach, the manager is that other set of eyes and ears. To see and hear the things that the player canít when theyíre in the middle of the game; the opportunities to continually refine their skills and better their very best. Without consistent observation of their players, they will miss a myriad of authentic coaching opportunities that would build a strong team of champions.


The good news for managers is you donít have to be better than your direct reports at their job. You just have to be really good at observation.


CEOCFO: How do you help people so that they do not slip back into old behaviors?

Mr. Rosen: Think about your health. If you want to be physically fit, the key is to eat healthy and exercise on a consistent basis. You donít wake up on a Monday and say, ďToday I am going to exercise and eat well. However, Tuesday through Sunday Iím taking a break from exercising. Instead, Iíll be eating fast food and sitting on my couch watching television.Ē


My point is, consistently focusing on and engaging in the right behavior and thinking is the only proven formula that leads to long-term change. If no one is there to help reinforce what was learned, especially after any type of training event, people simply gravitate to whatís comfortable, even though it may not be productive.


Many managers look at coaching as an Ďeventí or as something you do with your people when thereís a problem. This is not the healthiest way to look at coaching.


Instead, like being physically fit, if you want to maintain the health of your team, coaching never stops. Professional athletes spend more time practicing than they do playing in the game. This holds true for sales athletes as well. Thatís why the new ABCís of leadership are Always Be Coaching!


CEOCFO: Your book, Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions, has been endorsed by dozens of thought leaders, including Brian Tracy, Denis Waitley and Tom Hopkins. What has made it the number one sales management book on Amazon for the last 5 years?

Mr. Rosen: According to the feedback I hear, managers tell me that other management or leadership books talk about coaching in principle and in theory without fully teaching how to actually coach. That is, the tactical part of what the manager has to do and the conversations they need to have every day.


Iím a wordsmith, so in my book, I share what managers can do to change the conversations theyíre having with their direct reports, peers, boss; even their customers to create new and greater possibilities. I walk the reader though the process of confidently facilitating powerful, engaging coaching conversations.


My book answers the most pressing questions that managers all over the world are asking. For example, how do you actually facilitate a coaching conversation? When do you coach, train or advise? How do you make coaching your number one revenue generating priority? How do you recognize coaching moments? What are the specific topics you should be coaching? How do you build trust and create buy in/alignment around coaching and change? What causes coaching failure, lost sales and missed forecasts? How do you uncover how people like to be managed, motivated, even held accountable? How do you sustain a positive coaching culture?


I also share the first version of my proprietary L.E.A.D.S. Coaching Frameworkô thatís leveraged to facilitate any conversation, including customer reviews, performance reviews, forecast meetings, even turning around underperformers.


My coaching framework also creates buy-in around change or new initiatives by aligning each individualís personal goals with corporate objectives. Now the quality of output increases exponentially, since everyoneís working toward a shared vision.


The greatest gift I receive from the work I do is when I hear from managers that my book has helped them build a team of top producers, create a thriving coaching culture and achieve their business objectives faster.


When managers bring my book to any event or course Iím delivering, I love seeing my book with the pages dog-eared, highlighted in different colors, with post-it tabs all throughout the book. Thatís when I know, hereís a manager who is using the book the way it was intended. As a playbook!


CEOCFO: What types of companies work with Profit Builders?

Mr. Rosen: Weíve had the pleasure of working with organizations in every industry and profession. The common characteristic of all our clients? They want to innovate and put their people first. Some of our clients include Microsoft, DigitalGlobe, Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen, The NBA, New York Yankees, DHL, Oracle,, the American Cancer Society and CommVault.


CEOCFO: Whatís one area that you see managers struggle with that affect their ability to invest the time needed in developing their people?

Mr. Rosen: Time management. Inevitably, at some point during any coaching workshop I deliver, a manager is bound to raise the concern, ďKeith, I believe in coaching but I just donít have the time to coach as consistently as I would like.Ē


Thatís why my next book specifically focuses on what sales leaders can do to master time management and minimize distractions. Itís a missing, yet critical link to ensure any training or coaching initiative will be long lasting.


Sales leaders need a time management system with specific strategies to make world-class coaching a manageable part of their daily routine. What makes this book unique, aside from the fact that itís written specifically for sales leaders, is that it also covers the inner game of time management, as well as the language of time management. That is, how leaders can coach their direct reports to improve their daily personal productivity.


CEOCFO: What is next for you?

Mr. Rosen: After I finish the time management book, I will be working on the follow-up book to Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions. But these books are all part of the bigger picture that complement the quest Iím on. I absolutely believe that every organization in the world deserves to be led by world-class coaches. Thatís why Iím on a Coachquest to globally transform caring leaders into world-class coaches.


This book, Coachquest, is a compilation of many of the experiences Iíve had while traveling and coaching managers from around the world. Of course, I will also share core coaching principles and best practices that any leader can use to help them on their own quest to become a world-class coach. You can find out more at


With all of the wonderful people Iíve met, regardless of where they are from, there is one common denominator; coaching is truly a universal language.


CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Profit Builders?

Mr. Rosen: We make your people your new competitive edge by coaching sales leaders how to facilitate deep, value-driven, engaging sales conversations that improve results.


We do this by transforming managers into world-class coaches so that your sales leaders can enable the critical sales conversations you need. This includes the conversations that sales managers have with their direct reports every day, whether youíre a manager of managers or a manager of salespeople, as well as the conversations your salespeople need to have with your customers.


In addition, we ensure we align, embed and complement your sales process and methodology with the critical coaching conversations and coaching framework to drive the successful execution of your sales process. Now, your business objectives, sales process and coaching process align and unite.


One mission critical today is leveraging technology and CRM. We show managers how they can leverage their CRM, analytics, data and observation so that your managers can quickly recognize coaching opportunities, while providing them with the conversation, templates and questions to better coach and effectively develop more insightful and productive salespeople.


We make it easy for our clients to achieve the long term results they want from any sales leadership coaching initiative.


CEOCFO: What should any senior executive or decision maker be mindful of when looking for a coaching company to partner with?

Mr. Rosen: I find many companies when searching for the right vender or partner to provide any sales leadership development course or sales management coach training lose sight of the most important component thatís going to determine the success or failure of any coach training initiative. That is, the coaching framework, the coaching methodology and the facilitator they bring into their company.


Regarding content and coaching framework, is the leadership coach training program youíre considering specifically engineered and designed for sales managers? Sales leaders need a distinct sales coaching program for them to facilitate the specific and unique conversations they have compared to anyone else in the organization.


Second, itís absolutely critical to consider who youíre putting in front of your sales management team. Are the trainers youíre putting in front of your management team just following a trainer guide? Are they experienced executives and trained coaches themselves? A trainerís credibility, disposition and expertise can make or break any training event. While many have tried, you canít fake experience and subject matter expertise.


As a final point to consider when hiring a training partner, does the company youíre bringing in to work with your management team understand your culture, company language and the demands placed on managers by the company, boss, direct reports, peers and customers, as well as the ever changing business objectives that youíre responsible for achieving?


CEOCFO: What do the ROI companies realize from your ďcoach the coachĒ program?

Mr. Rosen: We know how important it is for companies to be able to measure the impact and effectiveness of any training or coaching initiative. We support every one of our clients with additional tools so they are able to assess firsthand the results and return on investment that support their business objectives.


As a result of working with us, our clients report that theyíve improved forecast accuracy, increased sales and profitability, turned around underperformers within 30 days, retained top performers, accelerated their sales cycle, created a positive environment and reduced problems.


When managers coach effectively, they reduce their workload, make their job easier, have more time and most important - build trust.


As for specific and measurable results, here is one case study we did with a client and what theyíve achieved within one year of using our program and methodology. First, there was a 48% increase in sales rep productivity, which equated to more sales and greater consistency in hitting quarterly goals.


Now get this; managers freed up approximately ten hours each week that had been consumed by problems and challenges that their salespeople can now resolve on their own. Think about what you would be able to do with an additional ten hours each week?


In addition, we shortened their sales cycle by 20%. The attrition rate of top performers decreased from 18% to 3%. And hereís one final data point. There was a 50% improvement in forecast accuracy per rep! These are mind-blowing results that any organization would want to achieve.


CEOCFO: Any final thoughts?

Mr. Rosen: It is essential for every leader to know that they can transform talent and change a culture; one person at a time; one conversation at a time. And coaching is the language you use to do so.


So, itís not that your job description as a people manager has changed. What has changed is the way you engage, communicate, empower and support your people.


Thatís the language of coaching. Itís the language - both the internal dialogue - what we tell ourselves, and our spoken word, that create the positive impact every leader wants. After all, when you change your thinking and you change the conversation, you change the outcome.


Sure, you manage data, however you develop people. Besides, if you keep focusing on the result, then nothing changes, including your people.


Alternatively, if you focus on change, innovation and growth, the byproduct is, you achieve what you want most; your business objectives, a powerful team of champions and future leaders, and your unstoppable competitive edge.


To contact Keith, find out more about one to one coaching, sales and leadership coach training or to get Keithís ebooks, articles and videos, visit


ďTo develop a high performance team; sales training doesnít develop sales champions. Managers do. If you want to make your salespeople more successfuldevelop and retain top talent, win more sales and maintain your competitive edge, first make your managers world-class coaches. Coaching is the language of leadership. And when you change the conversation, you change the outcome.Ē - Keith Rosen


Profit Builders



Keith Rosen

CEO of Profit Builders and author of the award winning, Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions








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