Episode 183: Monty Fowler on Coaching and Mentoring to Fuel Rep Success
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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices that they can be more effective in their jobs.
Today, I’m excited to have Monty Fowler from Lob join us. Monty, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.
Monty Fowler: Thanks, Shawnna. Well, my name is Monty, I lead our revenue enablement team at Lob. I’ve been there about three years and honestly, this is the first time I’m ever leading or working in an enablement organization. I’ve been a sales leader and a sales contributor for nearly 30 years, so it’s a new journey for me and I’m loving it.
SS: Well, we’re excited to have you here on our podcast today. I noticed on LinkedIn that you mentioned your passion is coaching and mentoring sales professionals, and really to focus that around selling with high integrity. What does high integrity mean to you and why is it important to master that in sales?
MF: Yeah, great question. To me, high integrity means first and foremost, always telling the truth about your company, about your products, about your features, about your place in the marketplace. Whatever the topic of conversation is, we want to always strive to be as truthful as we possibly can.
The other side of integrity for me is making sure that we’re always coming from a place where we’re truly interested in the outcome for the customer. We’re trying to solve a problem, we’re trying to give them a new capability, we’re trying to maximize some value point for their company, or we’re trying to minimize some mitigation risk or mitigate some risk for their company. You have to truly care about that outcome if you’re going to be a high-integrity seller. I stress those two things, be honest and really try to care as much as you can about your customer.
SS: I love that approach. Now, how can coaching help reps maximize their talents and what would you say good coaching looks like particularly today?
MF: Yeah. Well, for me, the approach I’ve always taken to coaching is really grounded in my military training. In the military, they assess an individual’s capabilities from the first moment they’re there. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t break you down and try to turn you into a robot or a clone of every other person there. What they really do is they try to identify, where are your strengths? What are the things that you already have mastered and that you can help other people come along with? Where are your deficiencies? Where the areas that you struggle so we know where to focus our attention and training and development?
We do the exact same thing in sales and in revenue enablement. When I’m coaching either a new employee or an existing employee, we always start the conversation with one, what are we trying to address? Are trying to learn a new behavior? Are we trying to get rid of a bad habit? Are we trying to try something new and we’re not sure what the outcome’s going to be? Then we always go to, alright, what area with that are you struggling? Where do you need some help? Where do you need some additional instruction? Where do you need some development? Then I’ll, I’ll either point them to resources that I’m familiar with, or I’ll go find some. In many cases, if it’s directly Lob related knowledge, we’ve already got assets and I can just point them to what they need.
SS: That’s fantastic. Now, I want to pivot a little bit. You mentioned before that the most talented reps are those who have both something special about them and the ability to follow a sales process. How do you balance the sales process in the coaching programs? Why is it important to focus on process as well as talents when coaching?
MF: You know, for years, I’ve talked about the two sides of the selling coin. The artistry, or the art of selling, and then there’s the science of selling. I think the artistry has more to do with your natural makeup as a person. Your personality type, your methods or preferences in terms of communication, how you speak, how you present yourself, how engaging you are, whether you’re funny or a little bit more stoic. All of those things go into the artistry of selling. Those are things that you’re either born with or traits that have developed through other aspects outside of work.
Then there’s the science of selling. I think this is where a lot of companies try to get it right and end up doing more harm than good. What I’ve found over the years is that while process is important, it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing, going back to the earlier question, is making sure that your customer-facing people, and that’s everybody, not just sellers, but customer success, customer experience, marketers, product people, anybody who has face-to-face contact with your customers, they have to be able to communicate properly. They have to be able to ask good questions and they have to be able to follow a process to a point.
What we don’t want to do with processes is that we don’t want to be so prescriptive that we remove the artistry from selling. We have to leave space for someone’s personality to shine through for their individual communication style to come through because at the end of the day, that’s when you get the best results. Be yourself, follow the process, and when you find a friction point in the process that isn’t working for you, let leadership now because chances are good that somebody else is feeling that same friction point and we need to address it.
SS: Yeah, absolutely. Now, along with coaching, I feel like mentorship also plays a significant role, and you are passionate about both. How does mentoring differ from coaching for revenue teams?
MF: Coaching is what I would consider a one-to-many process. One person with the requisite skills and experience can effectively coach fairly large groups of people. Think like a football team or soccer team or something, there’s usually a handful of coaches and a whole bunch of players and it gets the job done. Mentoring is absolutely a one-to-one proposition. It’s not a relationship that can be forced on someone, it has to come organically. All the mentoring that I’ve done over the years and that I’ve been on the receiving end of, those are relationships that just kind of came together. Either I asked the mentor, hey, would you be willing to spend some time helping me with this or that, or the mentor came alongside me and said, hey, I see a couple of rough spots here I think we need to work on, would you be willing to do it with me? That’s the way mentoring works, at least in my mind.
SS: No, absolutely. What would you say it takes to be an effective mentor though, and have you been able to, through enablement, successfully implement mentorship programs for revenue teams?
MF: We don’t take a programmatic approach to mentoring for the reasons I just stated, it needs to be an organic relationship that’s born out of some sense of mutual desire. I need some help with this, I’ve identified that you’re the person who’s got that skillset, and I reach out to you, and you say yes or no. Or vice versa, a junior person you see a struggling in an area you offer to help. Again, it’s more than just one or two sessions. We’re going to outline a process and a relationship by which we’re going to take you from where you are today to where you want to be as a mentee.
Putting that into a program and putting it into a process, I think it defeats the purpose of it. That’s why coaching has such an important role in enablement though, because you always have those situations where someone is struggling or needs help, and somebody else on the team or within the organization has that requisite skillset or can help unlock that ability for that person, if you were to just put them together in a coaching relationship, that is something that we do all the time at Lob. It’s something that we’ve got baked into our enablement and training processes and it’s something that I ask our department leaders to always be on the lookout for. Who do you think could use some coaching? Who do you think would be the best person for that? Then I’ll go ahead and put the people together and try to outline at least some sort of framework that’s going to get them from point A to point B over a reasonable period of time.
SS: I do like that though and I think you’re right. We have this term called radical responsibility with my team and I think that holds absolutely true when it comes to mentorships. To close Monty, my final question for you is, what are some of the key metrics that you use to measure the success of coaching? Maybe to a lesser extent with mentoring programs, maybe they’re not metrics-driven, but are there sentiment measurements that you’re looking at, and then how do you demonstrate the impact of those programs to your executive stakeholder?
MF: Yeah, both of those are squishy topics, I have to be honest with you. It’s not like, hey, I need you to log into this new piece of software, do this training module, and then take this quiz at the end and demonstrate your knowledge attainment. When it comes to coaching, and especially mentoring, being able to objectively measure the impact and the outcome or the effect I think is very difficult. I think some companies probably have figured it out. We sure haven’t. What we really try to focus on are the things that we can measure. All of the training that we do, all of the content that we produce, all of those have a set of analytics around them and certain measures that tell us whether it’s good, bad, we need to change it, keep it the same, do more, do less, whatever.
When it comes to coaching, though, really all you can go by is two things. What is the person you’re coaching, or mentoring say about the experience before and after, and what observations can you make about their behavior or performance or whatever it is that you were coaching them or mentoring them on? I think that’s the best that we’ve been able to do so far, not to say we won’t do better in the future or figure something else out. Really what you’re talking about is, how do you measure the relationship between two people and the effectiveness of it? If somebody were to say, hey, measure your marriage or your parent-child relationships on a scale of one to ten, it’s completely subjective and it changes over time. That’s a tough one.
SS: It changes daily sometimes with my children. Well, Monty, thank you so much for joining us today. I greatly enjoyed this conversation.
MF: Absolutely, my pleasure. Happy to do it.
SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesnablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.