Leadership Interview: Tracy Zhi ‘My Experience as a Coachee’

This article is a first for me and for the Leadership Coach Blog. It’s also another chapter in an ongoing story about how coaching is Blooming in Shanghai. Exactly one month ago I published the article about Sales Manager Samson Zhou and the coaching he had been completing with his direct report Tracy Zhi. Now it’s Tracy’s turn to tell her story. For the first time we hear from the person being coached. So listen up Leadership Coaches; see what you can learn from Tracy’s experience as a Coachee.

PREPARE THE GROUND

Trevor: How, when and why did you get started as a ‘coachee’ (that is, being coached by your manager)?

Tracy: I transferred into Key Client Sales function in February 2016 after 3 years expat in different countries taking other non-sales roles. I am passionate to become a professional high performing sales. After ‘Sales Colleague 1’ training in Apr 2016, and half a year of self-practice in the field, I felt that having a Senior Sales as my coach could help expedite the learning. Hence, I started the coaching program from Jul 2016.

Trevor: What was your attitude towards coaching at that time? (What did you know about coaching? What were your expectations? What, if any, concerns did you have at the time?)

Tracy: I was very excited and open to having someone like Samson Zhou with seasoned sales skills to be my coach. I liked the fact that from that moment on I can consult with my coach regularly for business challenges and opportunities, and I would have a role model to learn from.

I did have a concern at the beginning. My coach is from Global Forwarder Sales segment, thus his client nature is different from mine. I was a bit sceptical how transferrable his sales experience can be applied to my client segment.

Trevor: What were your personal goals as you set out on your coaching journey? (What did you hope to get out of it?)

Tracy: Through better engagement with customer senior level management/decision maker to continuously improve my sales performance.

More efficient time management to focus only on sales related tasks.

Trevor: What were your priorities at that time – improving your performance, personal development or both?

Tracy: Improving sales performance. My starting quarter 2016 Q2 didn’t end very well, partly due to one of the US key tender negotiation failed by the oversea sales, but also I felt I could have done better if I’m more skilful.

Trevor: How were you held accountable by your manager for your success as a results of the coaching? (Or how did you hold yourself accountable?)

Tracy: Quarterly sales SIP target delivery.

Trevor: How did you see the coaching you were receiving integrating into other programs and initiatives at that time? (For example, formal training, on the job instruction, learning from role models, participating in or leading projects)

Tracy: During the coaching period, I had ‘Sales Colleague 2’ training in December 2016. Learning in the classroom is one thing, while putting it into good use in reality is a different story. Through joint sales call with my coach, I got the chance to observe how to talk effective PSM in real life. What inspired me further is my coach’s way of arranging PPT presentation in PSM model, each slide serves a clear purpose, some to outline objective, some to demonstrate pain and value, so that the whole set of PPT makes a complete PSM, which is very enlightening to a new sales like me.

 

SOW THE SEED

Trevor: What were your memories and experience of the first coaching session you received?

Tracy: We had lunch together for the first coaching session. We learnt more about each other’s professional background, personality, etc. And at the end of the session, we agreed on clear coaching objective and goal.

Objective: How to better engage with customer senior level management / decision maker.

Goal: Much closer relationship with customer decision maker thus facilitate volume drive to meet sales SIP target.

Trevor: What do you believe were the success factors for you and your coach/manager as you started out on this coaching journey together?

Tracy: Three things – joint interest, mutual trust & commitment.

Joint interest: both of us have very strong interest to be part of the program. I was eager to learn, and my coach eager to share.

Mutual trust: we believe each other’s words and suggestions, and we communicate all information openly.

Commitment: we created a coaching operating system: 1) bi-weekly joint sales call; 2) every Friday afternoon 2-3pm face-to-face coaching time

During the journey, we received great support from Program Sponsor Mike Fang and Program Manager Allen Tu. Their encouragement, inspiration and guidance at key moments keeps my coach and me moving on the right track.

Trevor: What do you believe are the core skills, factors and processes for coaching to be successful? (From your perspective as the coachee and for your coach)

Tracy: First of all, the coach has to be the master of the coaching area. My coach has an outstanding sales experience of 10 years.

Secondly, both coach and coachee needs to have open mind-set to embrace new idea / concept / methodology.

Thirdly, dedicated time slots allocated to coaching tasks are critical and needs to be followed through.

Trevor: What were your early achievements from your coaching – what are you particularly proud of?

Tracy: I hit my second coaching goal: ‘More efficient time management to focus only on sales related tasks.’ With Maersk organization going leaner and leaner more and more tasks are put to the plate of Sales. Much Sales time is occupied by daily operation tasks such as customer called for space and equipment protection, quotation, schedule changing, product arrangement, etc. This shouldn’t change the top priority of Sales though, which is to SELL. However, at early stage, I felt trapped by those low priority tasks. I discussed the time constraint with my coach during Friday session, and got quite practical suggestions on better time management in sales regime. For example, teaching customer how to use GSC to quote so that I can be freed from 80% of daily quotation tasks. Another example, bring customer service into customer meeting when I project service issue would be raised up, hence I can focus on selling. I could feel that I had more time to sell 1.5 months into the coaching journey.

Trevor: What did you discover about your strengths as a result of the coaching you received?

Tracy: I have very strong analytical and presentation skills, which are sound cornerstone to be top sales. This was reconfirmed by my coach.

Trevor: What were your early challenges as a coachee?

Tracy: I had to allocate additional time for coaching related tasks, while my schedule was packed everyday already.

 

NURTURE AND GROW

Trevor: How do you prepare yourself now for a coaching session? (Including being clear about your and your coach’s goals for the session)

Tracy: I come into coaching session with clear bullet points listed covering past 1 week accumulated questions and coming 1 week sales plan.

Trevor: How would you describe the structure and process of a typical good coaching session?

Tracy: Normally my coach starts with a few warm up questions, following up on the progress since last coaching session, and the major challenges from the week before. We clear out the leftover issues first, so that we can be focused on the new week planning.

My coach enlightens me to think about my past week engagement with customer senior manager/decision maker – if the outcome is good, why and what did I do right; if less satisfactory, why and what would I do differently next time?

Especially for the ‘could do differently’ part, my coach always guided me to think out of the box. “Anything more you can do to improve the relationship with client?”, “Any internal party you may use to help with your engagement with customer?”, “Be more creative!” Those pushed me to be fully engaged and actively thinking.

My coach always ends the session by asking “Which ideas we discussed this time will you implement in your next week sales call?” We put the action plan in paper, so that next session we know clearly what to review for progress.

Trevor: What skills, personal attributes, tools and techniques do you think your coach/manager is using to make a coaching session successful?

Tracy: My coach uses GROW Model (Goal – Reality – Options – Way Forward), which gives a clear structure and flow of the coaching session.

Trevor: What do you appreciate and value about how your coach/manager supports and follows up with you between coaching sessions?

Tracy: Sometimes my coach joins with my sales call for some important meetings. This gives me a chance to learn on spot and live how my coach applies those skills in front of customer. If not joint sales call, I would discuss my meeting preparation materials with my coach, and he gives idea when he sees something can be better.

In addition, we have our team manager Allen Tu being the coach of the coach. Allen sets up monthly review session with my coach and me to observe our progress, and suggests on improvement points. Allen spot out that sometimes my coach jumping to give me conclusion directly, and sometimes didn’t drive deeper by asking enough ‘how’. My coach took those advices, and later sessions I could feel the improvement from my coach too.

Trevor: How do you ensure you are using the coaching time you get with your coach/manager effectively and wisely?

Tracy: I screen and filter the topics to be reviewed in coaching session every time only those related to our coaching objective and goal.

I always come into meeting with full preparation – think through my past and coming week, write down points to be discussed.

Trevor: What do you appreciate and value about how your coach/manager uses feedback in your coaching sessions?

Tracy: I suggested to change coaching venue from office to cafe, in order to make the atmosphere more leisure so as to facilitate brainstorming. My coach happily adopted the idea.

I also suggested that before some important customer meeting, my coach could help me do preparation together. My coach followed my suggestion, and we actually hit a very successful case of gaining 200 FFE additional volume after a jointly prepared meeting in Jan 2017.

 

REAP THE REWARDS

Trevor: How has being coached helped you in other areas of your job role? (That is, in addition to improving your performance and/or your personal development)

Tracy: I gained a wider view of market, since my coach and I are from different market segment. More details in my next answer.

Trevor: How do you evaluate the success of the coaching you have received? (Personal benefits, business impact, confidence, engagement and motivation, career progression, problem resolution, how you do your job, your relationship with team members and other stakeholders, other)

Tracy: I was a bit sceptical at the beginning of the combination of GFF Coach and BCO Coachee model, as the business needs from 2 segments are not exactly the same. Nevertheless, I found it a perfect match as time goes by, because customers are interested in the development of the other segment to have a holistic market view. Take the latest sales call to a KCBCO in Jan 2017 for example, I leveraged spot market info collected from GFF colleagues (with the help of my coach) to demonstrate to customer that carriers are incentivized to take more spot than Long Term contract during 2017 Chinese New Year period, while only with Maersk can the customer have space security for Chinese New Year peak because they enjoy top Priority with Maersk. This aroused strong echo from customer side and led one step further towards my final successful upsell of 200 FFE volume in January.

Having a coach from GFF team also brought me closer to my other colleagues in GFF team, as my coach helps bridge with lunch / coffee.

One top of that, I become more confident to sell even facing customer challenge on our historical service issues. I learnt from my coach how to tactically defuse those negative topics and guide customer to focus on what works well for Maersk.

Trevor: How have you and your coach/manager embedded coaching into your business rhythms? (For example, with one-to-ones, team meetings, customer contact, performance reviews, PDPs)

Tracy: We created a coaching operating system 1) bi-weekly joint sales call 2) every Friday afternoon 2-3pm face to face coaching time.

Our manager Allen Tu has monthly reviews with my coach and me to guide and fine tune on coaching method and direction.

Trevor: What metrics are you working to for yourself to assess the success of the coaching you receive? (If appropriate, give examples of what you believe you might not have achieved had you not been coached)

Tracy: Consistently delivering and over delivering quarterly sales SIP target is the key metric I use to assess the coaching success. I achieved 109% in 2016 Q3 and 114% in 2016 Q4 versus SIP target.

Trevor: How would you describe the correlation between performance (yours and the team of which you are part) and your success as a coachee?

Tracy: Our coaching theme is about improving my engagement with customer senior management / decision maker. With better influence and control of customer key stakeholders, mind-set and prioritization change positively this led to my consistent over performing sales SIP target 2 quarters in a row since the coach program started. I’m now keeping practicing the learnings gained from the coaching program for my daily work and foresee 2017 Q1 should be another successful quarter to close.

Trevor: What are you aiming for in terms of future performance and personal development as a coachee – both short term and longer term? (And if appropriate, how confident are you that you could now coach others?)

Tracy: In short term, I would like to continue linking coaching with my personal development plan, and consistently deliver good sales performance.

In longer term, I will continue accumulating good sales skills and tools from this coaching program, and also leverage my experience to help the team when I become more successful.

Overall, I’m confident that I can become a master of coaching in the long run after continuous learning and improvement from this coaching program.

Tracy Zhi LinkedIn Profile

Samson Zhou LinkedIn Profile

Allen Tu LinkedIn Profile

 

Samson Zhu & Tracy Zhi

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