Leadership Interview & Coaching Case Study 2: Samson Zhou, Sales Manager Shanghai

A success story about coaching for sales performance: rapidly adapting to a new business sector; managing internal stakeholders; influencing customer decision makers; collaborating with the customer service team; and driving more volume to meet and exceed sales targets.

Exactly one years ago today I published the article ‘Leadership Interview & Coaching Case Study: Samson Zhou, Sales Manager Shanghai’ in which sales manager Samson Zhou was coaching his direct report Tracy Zhi. Here is the latest interview with Samson by his manager Allen Tu about his coaching for sales performance success with another direct report – Eileen Sun.

Allen Tu is KCGFF Sales Team Leader for Maersk (China) Shipping Co. Allen attended my Coaching Master Class programme in Shanghai in 2011. Using my material he kicked off his ‘Buddy’ coaching programme in 2016 for his direct report sales managers. He regularly keeps me in touch with their progress. Allen gave Samson feedback how pleased he was to see Eileen’s business performance improvement in Quarter 4 2017, which he believes relates to Samson’s participation in the ‘Buddy’ programme. He asked Samson to share his recent coaching story as an inspiration for others. Samson is showing really professional attention to detail and thoughtfulness as a coach. And as you will see from the end of the interview below, the story has a very happy ending. Congratulations to both Samson and to Eileen.



Allen interviewed his manager Samson Zhou about the coaching he has been completing with his direct report Eileen Sun.

Allen: What did you do to ensure the coaching subject for the session was relevant, both in terms of the coachee’s performance goals and their business priorities?

Samson: Eileen is the newcomer to our GFF team. Her previous position was local sales where she handled small/medium size customers, which is a totally different segment compared to our Global Forwarder customers. So the goal for coaching is very clear, which is helping Eileen adapt to GFF segment as soon as possible and thus reaching her sales target. I start with joint call client meetings, most of the time I lead the meeting to allow Eileen to observe and learn how to deal with GFF customers. Then I used the ‘GROW’ model during weekly coaching session to identify what she had learnt and discover her improvement areas.

Allen: What did you do to ensure the coachee reached conclusions and took actions to meet their business performance priorities?

Samson: At the beginning we have a lot of joint meetings. I guided Eileen to define the meeting objective in each pre-meeting and the objective was always linked with business performance results. After each meeting we had the post-meeting session. I prepared a lot of purposeful questions to let Eileen think back on how we ran the meeting, if the objective has been achieved, what were the following actions, any improvement area, etc. During this process, I try to build up the sense for Eileen of which sales activities always link with our sales target.

Allen: What did you do to select your priorities for coaching – that is, which of your direct reports to work with most/least?

Samson: I set the coaching priority to link with our team’s target, which is to achieve quarterly sales target. Through the ‘GROW’ model I found out Eileen’s personal target is to be a qualified GFF sales. So the areas we are focusing are how to better manage GFF clients in order to deliver the sales target. This was broken down to smaller topics which include: how to engage with client in a short time; how to manage internal stakeholders; how to influence customer decision maker; how to collaborate with customer service team, etc.

Allen: How did you plan and allocate your personal time for performance coaching in the last quarter?

Samson: I set up a weekly coaching session with Eileen – every Friday afternoon 3:30-4:30pm. And we have the joint pre-meeting and post-meeting sessions for important meetings. The reason behind is I want Eileen pick up her clients as quick as possible. So at the beginning I invested more time to let Eileen get familiar with our GFF segment.

Allen: What was it that you did personally as their coach to ensure they achieved their performance goals? What were the business goals your direct report achieved?

Samson: I started with a hands on approach with Eileen’s customers, as I am quite familiar with them. I had a lot of joint meetings with Eileen. The purpose is to let Eileen build the relationship with those clients step by step and not impact the business performance. This kind of approach also gave customers confidence that their business won’t be impacted due to a new sales person coming on board. At the same time it gave Eileen’s confidence that I will stand behind her and support her to handle these customers. This also builds the trust between me and Eileen that she can come to me for any issue she faced and I am willing to help. Finally, in Q4 she achieved 120% sales target and rank number 1 in our team.

Further Reading: look for more information about the GROW Coaching Model, Coaching Preparation and Purposeful Questions in the Coaches Toolkit.

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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