Episode 322 – Sales Coaching Essentials with Mark Hayes

Mark Hayes‘Having a book has really begun to change how I think about my business and my brand… I am truly surprised about the ripple effect it’s having.’

At the risk of being meta, there’s a lot about conversation in this conversation with sales coach Mark Hayes. Conversations between managers and their sales team that empower and enable; conversations that spark ideas and reveal needs; and the conversation that the author has with the reader – on the page, and beyond the page. 

Fascinating insights into sales coaching, the writing process and the impact of a book on a business. 



Mark’s podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/sales-coach/id1495782683

Mark on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markgarretthayes/

Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky

The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge September 2022: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=proposal-challenge-sep-2022

WriteBrained: A 28-day exploratory writing adventure: https://pi-q.learnworlds.com/course?courseid=writebrainedcourse

The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/

The Extraordinary Business Book Club bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/extraordinarybusinessbooks

Alison Jones: I’m here today with Mark Garrett Hayes, who is a sales enablement expert, accredited coach, and a certified trainer who helps sales leaders and managers learn how to coach their salespeople and dramatically boost performance and revenue. Working both in-house and remotely with sales teams internationally, Mark’s developed powerful tools to help sales leaders to get the very best from their teams.

He’s helped leaders reduce A-player churn, drive greater accountability amongst their reps and revolutionize how they get the best from their salespeople. He’s the host of the popular weekly Sales Coach Podcast, where he interviews sales leaders and thought leaders at SaaS and tech companies worldwide each week.

And he’s the author of Sales Coaching Essentials: How to transform your sales team, which has just been published.

So welcome to the show. Mark,

Mark Hayes: Thank you so much, Alison. Yes, I’m still looking at this…

Alison Jones: Can we see it?

Mark Hayes: Yes, we can, there we go.

Alison Jones: Gorgeous, isn’t it.

Mark Hayes: It is. Yes, I’m very proud of it. It’s a strange feeling, having something physical. It’s no longer in your mind, it’s actually manifested before your eyes. It’s my hand. I’m quite proud of how it feels and how it looks. And occasionally I wake up and turn on the light, and go, my goodness, that’s my book.

Alison Jones: Look at my book. It’s still there. I didn’t dream it. That’s so funny.

Well, I want to talk to you about the book obviously, because we always do on this podcast, but I also want to talk to you about sales coaching, because I hadn’t really understood the difference before I read your manuscript.

That difference between training and coaching and why training just isn’t enough.

 Just tell us a little bit about what it does for sales teams.

Mark Hayes: Yes, I think that the amount of money spent annually by companies on sales training, or sales enablement to give it its current name, is huge. Literally it’s in the billions and I call this the sales training graveyard. It’s where training goes to die. We can invest in people’s knowledge, but that does not necessarily mean that they will use that knowledge or be held accountable for the application of that knowledge. And it comes at a huge cost to organizations.

So the way I explain this is that training is information, but coaching is transformation. Coaching allows you to align someone’s what to do with how to do. And coaches are people who don’t jump into the trenches and fix things for people, but they let go to grow and encourage people to think about how to address their own challenges and solve them.

And so coaching enables this through conversation, helping people to understand what the issue is or challenge facing them, what they should do or can do to address this and to get them to take action to solve that problem.

So in summary, training just gives people information but what coaching does is it helps you as a company, as a leader, to ensure that people are using it, they’re putting into practice what you know, they know. So we generate return on investment.

Alison Jones: And I want to come back to the conversation piece because you use that really interestingly in the book as well, but just more generally, I’m guessing coaching doesn’t come naturally to all managers. I know it does to some, I can think of some managers I’ve had who are just natural coaches, but it’s not an easy thing to do, is it? It’s sort of, you feel like you should be the one with the answers.

Mark Hayes: Well, that’s it. And often people think, well, I’m the manager, I’m the person with the badge. I should be deciding how things go and what’s done and by whom. The thing is, if we’re always in that directing mode, we’re short-circuiting the innate resourcefulness that our people have, and we’re not doing them a service, we need to trust people, hire people who are coachable, people who are willing to come up with their own answers and solve things. If we’re all the time trying to fix things, we’re neglecting our own role. And we’re just, I think we’re not tapping into the potential that people have to surprise us and themselves.

And that’s why I think coaching is the way forward. It is as many salespeople tell me something that’s core to their competencies. We all know that we should be coaching more, but often we’re not coaching because we’re intent on fixing things and doing things our way. And that’s a problem.

Alison Jones: And of course you can’t be there over your sales rep’s shoulder every call, you need to at some point to give them the resources and the confidence that they can make the call when the situation arises.

Mark Hayes: It’s got to be a safe space in your team to try things out, to stuff up and get back up. So selling is not about a best outcome every time. It’s about best efforts every time. So we need to encourage people to feel that under your leadership it’s okay to try things, experiment and learn from what you do and then improve what you do.

But if I’m all the time as a manager micromanaging, I’m taking my eye off the ball of what I should be doing. And I’m not tapping into what you could be doing.

Alison Jones: And coming back to that idea of conversation, which of course is heart of coaching. When you came to write the book. Just talk us through the process that you went through, how am I going to communicate this to somebody reading the book because I’m not in the room with them.

Mark Hayes: Yes that’s a great question. I agonized when I first had that conversation with you back in 2020, sitting in my car, I kind of took my courage in my hands and I made this phone call and I thought, I don’t believe this, I’m contacting a publishing company to position myself as an author.

I really didn’t know what to write. I felt I had to write something. It was COVID, it’s time to produce something. The world has changed. I should have something to show for this period of my life. And I initially began to write just in a scattered approach, almost like blog posts, and I hoped things would glue themselves together. Then I realized that’s not working. In fact, I became hyper-critical of the language and I thought, am I writing a novel here? Am I writing a magazine article? So I had to think about the structure and this is the thing I learned. One of the things I learned is that you have to build it before you write it.

If you dive into the words, you become a wordsmith and you start worrying about grammar and syntax, and you beat yourself up about what it sounds like. But it’s not about what it sounds like to you, it’s about the impact it has on other people. So the process was one of absolute agony, long, long walks by the Shannon here in Ireland, thinking I’m not going to finish this. There’s no way this will happen.

And gradually, somehow, I just realized it’s about serving the audience. Who am I serving? Who are they? What’s it like to be in their shoes? Question one. Question two, what do they need help with? Which key things, which key problems do they need help with?

And three, what do I want them to do? And why should they work with me? And once I got those answers right, it began to come together.

Alison Jones: And you use conversation quite a lot to kind of communicate that as well, which now you’ve sort of said that I have a much clearer sense of how that was working in your head. You’re literally imagining that person sort of in front of you and you’re showing them how it could go with one of their employees, but there’s a lot of relationships to manage there, to capture on the page.

Mark Hayes: One thing which helped me was to use the podcast more. And the guests whom I had on the show were the kinds of people whose stories, whose language then could actually form part of the book. And I realized when I looked at transcripts and this, by the way is a great reason to have a podcast. Is it provides you with a bank of content that you can insert into the book because we want that healthy balance, I think of not just what you say, but what other people say about what you say. And I found that when I could use other people’s stories in the book, this gave it some context.

So yes, I found interviewing people was a good thing to do. And it shaped my view of what should be in the book and how reading the book would solve that problem for them or those problems for them, and also capturing the language, the way they describe those problems, helps me to sound like I’m in their head.

Alison Jones: Yes, I couldn’t agree with you more about the podcast thing, there’s the content generation and getting people’s perspectives. There’s also something about the energy of it, isn’t it? When you’re sitting writing, it’s quite draining. There isn’t any input going in from anybody else, and then you bring it to the podcast and suddenly you’re kind of re-energized and you see new things and it’s a lovely interplay, I think, between the two different kinds of energy.

Mark Hayes: It’s true. You want your voice, but their voice and often their voice lends to your voice and vice versa. And because it’s your book, you can chop that up in different ways. You can use a quotation from someone. You can use someone’s description of an issue they’re having, and that gives you a whole bank of knowledge.

I think in total, I would’ve had enough to write another 200 pages. Thankfully I didn’t, but I was able to chop it down. But having that bank of knowledge of other people’s perspective really added some context. And the thing is when I came to ask those people for endorsements, there was this element of reciprocity. And that was really important because I asked a bunch of people, would you like to contribute an answer to this thing for the book? They were net new people. People that didn’t know me, really, they were in my network, not one of those people provided an answer, but having, if you will, given time to someone on my show, those people felt like they owed me something and everyone, except one person, except one drama person and will not go into, who just seemed to think it was a cheeky thing to ask.

Everyone else couldn’t do enough. Literally said no problem. What would you like me to write? What would you like me to mention? And that filled the first two pages of my book and that’s that social proof, having other people’s voices, names, titles in the inside cover of the book, it really sets the tone for its credibility.

And again, it’s funny how that came to… I never planned it this way, Alison, but just having that podcast, having that bank of other people’s input, gave me ideas, one, about what to write, two, how they see those problems. And three, when the time came to ask for something, they were primed to reciprocate.

Alison Jones: So that’s three great reasons to start a podcast. None of which were in your mind when you did. So why did you start your podcast and what else has it done for you?

Mark Hayes: It’s helped me to clarify my thoughts. It’s also added some self-discipline and that’s something that is not my strongest point and it’s funny how coaches need coaches. Often many people who need to be coached, actually start off as coaches because we’re trying to help. And in helping we’re helping ourselves.

The podcast gave me permission to put my voice out there. It also, when the time came, opened doors, because I could say to someone I’m a podcaster like you. Like a rung on a ladder, you are no-one until you are someone, and that’s a bit harsh, but when someone realizes you have an opinion, you have a voice. That’s an act of courage.

Many people will never start podcasts, even fewer will write books. So if you think of it like a pyramid, the ground floor is writing things, at least some kind of maybe a video you make, a blog post. Step two is having a consistent output of those thoughts in the form of a channel on YouTube, for example, like your channel or having some kind of a podcast.

And once I had the podcast and I could align what someone needed from being a guest on that show with what I needed, then synergy happened. And I had no problem, well, a few problems with getting guests on the show. Sometimes people would, you know, prevaricate and reschedule, but just having a podcast actually sets you apart from competition.

And having a book now has really begun to change how I think about my business and my brand and having that book has actually encouraged people to contact me proactively. So often with a podcast you’re acting as a conduit for other people’s view of the world, and they’re happy to share it with your listenership. It’s in their interest too.

Having the book now has changed that, I think, that traffic stream. Now people are coming to me, the fact that I’m an author and I can actually say that out loud. It’s actually strange still to hear it in my head. It’s actually creating some ripples.

People are now saying to me, would you like to be on this? Could you write this? It’s just amazing. It’s actually less work now, once that book’s done, I am surprised, I am truly surprised about the ripple effect it’s having and how people are now coming to me without me having to chase them.

Alison Jones: I love that. That’s, I mean, it’s great to hear obviously from a business perspective, because that’s what we want for authors. But I love that taxonomy that you set out there as well. That you’re kind of… the undifferentiated mass of people are consumers in a sense and then you become a curator by setting up that kind of, the platform for having other people on.

And then the book takes you into that creator space, doesn’t it? And really, yes it’s…

Mark Hayes: I like that…

Alison Jones: …interesting taxonomy. Yes. Brilliant. Really interesting.

I want to talk about the writing as well, Mark, because apart from walking by the Shannon, which I think actually sounds great. I think I’d like to do more of that in my writing technique.

But what did it look like for you? When did you work best and what surprised you about the process and what did you learn about yourself?

Mark Hayes: Yes, that’s a great question. I think back to the, it’s understanding how the human brain works. There are times when you listening to this will be creative. It just comes to you in a rush, bang, bang, bang, you get this out. And then there’s the dry patch of maybe in my case, six months and it’s oh, no. And it’s a feeling of depression and just this inner dialogue is turmoil.

And I realized that I can always force that creativity. It does make sense sometimes to walk away. So it’s about having your expectations clear in your mind. And what I’ve learned is it’s good to go in stages, one, you should start by just dumping ideas onto some piece of paper. I got some from Tesco’s, which is in this part of the world. If you’re listening to this in The States, you might have Staples. It’s a giant, you know, it’s a store that sells stationery. I got this huge roll of brown paper and I stuck everything on it, mind-mapping, just dumped ideas down, walked away, came back maybe a few hours later or a day. And I began to see connections between things.

And then I used index cards and sticky notes. So that took a while. And I often showed, I showed that a couple of times to people and said, what do you think is missing here? Sorry, what do you think is connecting here? And people could see connections that I couldn’t. So I’ve learned that the next book I’m writing. Yes. I’m writing another book, I’m going to, decided to.

Is to build it before I write it. The structure is key. Once you’ve got the structure right. Once you’ve got the shell right. You can begin to think about the furniture.

The temptation often is if we short circuit that process, we try and force ourselves to be that wordsmith I mentioned. And we dive into the language and this and all that stuff that doesn’t really matter until the whole thing is built. So I’ve learned that you have to involve people in that creation of that structure, as soon as possible get feedback from them, reflect on whom you’re serving, think of their inner voice, the language they use. And then, a lot of that, allow your brain to scatter gun that approach until you see connections and then build that structure, take a break, maybe for a week or two, come back and then begin to build content into that. And something else I wrote or learned Alison is the act of telegrams.

Don’t try and write full sentences. Write telegrams.

Alison Jones: Yes, that’s a great way of putting it.

Mark Hayes: Yes

So incomplete sentences. So you might say managers must listen more than talking, now when I come to write that it’ll be different. It’ll sound like a sentence with definite articles and have punctuation, et cetera. But when I give myself permission to write telegrams, I don’t have to worry about how that really sounds, because I know it won’t actually sound like that when it’s out there, but it’s beginning to form kind of proto-sentences, if you will.

I’m not worried about perfection. This is just invention. So when I’ve got those telegrams down that’s a paragraph done. So two or three telegrams, that’s a paragraph. And then the brain goes to work and begins to fill in the rest. So it’s funny how we want to finish the thing, but the brain doesn’t work that way. It needs structure. And then it goes to work, thanks to the neural pathways in the mind and begins to join things together.

And if we try and rush that process, it’s frustrating. And I found that I have to be more patient, not too patient otherwise you miss deadlines. But when you are patient with your mind, how it works, that creative process actually serves you.

 And I realize now that there are parts where I’m slow, really slow, and there are parts where I’m quicker than I thought I would be. So it’s now about finding that compromise. So when I’m working with you on the next book, I’m not being chased and I’m not too quick on some things. So it’s a learning exercise.

And the way I write something is not the way other authors listening to this today might write. It’s very personal actually.

Alison Jones: It is, but it’s a great system and you’ve set it out really clearly. So thank you. I love the idea of telegrams as well. It’s kind of halfway between a subheading and a bullet point isn’t it? The key point here and then get the whole thing down.

For you, to use the language of project management, was that a kind of waterfall, so you started off and then you wrote it or was it agile, did you kind of go back and revisit the structure?

Mark Hayes: Great point. And for people listening, waterfall is classic project management methodology. The idea being that we know everything, we have an idea of the money, the resources, the time upfront, but as we know from infrastructure projects, it doesn’t work that way. Agile, is reality.

So it was actually in my mind, I thought I was a waterfall project manager.

Absolutely not. It was all these stops and starts and go backwards and then go forwards again. And I think that’s a great point, Alison it’s that reality, it’s that sometimes you go two steps forward, one step backwards and then sideways for a bit. And then back on track again, if we think that it will be linear, we’re fooling ourselves.

I’m sure there are people out there listening to this who are wonderful and they can get this like changing gears and go clickety, clickety click. For me, it wasn’t, it was lots of that funny noise when you put the gear into the wrong place in the car,

Alison Jones: Grinding. Yes.

Mark Hayes: Grinding and panic, and then backwards and then start the engine again.

Alison Jones: I remember coming back home after a writing day, my husband asked, you know, how many words that I got. I actually had net negative. He was just like, wow, that’s terrible, isn’t it? No, no, it’s fine because those had to come out and you know, but if you are measuring it by really simplistic number of words on the page at the end of the day, you know, added to the page, it doesn’t always work and that’s okay.

Mark Hayes: Oh, it’s okay.

Yes, be kind to yourself.

And I said that in the book when I’m trying to talk… so a colleague of mine, Marie said to me, I like what you’ve done because you’ve made the reader the hero. So I use lots of you in the book. I’m trying to speak to someone as if I’m in their head. And I think that’s very important in a nonfiction book because the reason someone buys a nonfiction book is to typically solve a problem.

It could be leadership, it could be resilience, health, mindset you know, something like that. So it really is important to me that the person can jump into a part of the book and feel like I’m talking to them…

Alison Jones: And you actually, you…

Mark Hayes: …in their language.

Alison Jones: …you do that really well and very conversationally and very authentically. And it’s interesting because with other people I have found them writing to you, plural, where you say, you know, some of you may have found. It so destroys that illusion, that the author is talking to you as an individual.

So it’s a great point to make.

Mark Hayes: Yes.

Alison Jones: I’m going to ask you for your best tip, Mark. If I had to say, you know, if you had one thing that you were going to say to somebody who’s at the beginning of this process, what would you ask them to hang on to?

Mark Hayes: I would say that you have to, I think I mentioned this, build it before you write it. You have to focus on the structure. Don’t start writing too early. You have to share the outline, get feedback, involve other people, because there are payoffs to that. You will find out things.

I interviewed, for example, one guy who was, his name is David, at the time he was the Director of Inside Sales for British Airways. And I remember sitting at Dublin Airport in the car, in the baking sun for two hours, on the iPad, interviewing this guy and it just blew my mind how he described things.

And I thought that’s a lesson for the next time, is to involve other people, interview them as if they’re in the book.

You don’t have to include what they’re writing, what they’re saying. Listening to the voice of your reader, capturing that, it will have an amazing impact on how you think and how you’re going to communicate with them when they have that book in their lap. It will sound like you’re in their head, speaking to them about the problems they recognize and why they need to be solved by someone like you.

Alison Jones: Yes, it’s a great tip. And again, we’re back to that conversation piece.

Actually, one thing I did want to ask you about conversation was one of the distinctive things about the book is the way that you’ve put in almost sample conversations. I don’t know. I can’t remember the exact phrase you use, but it’s that sort of sense of, you know, this is how the dialogue might play out. This is how it might play out differently.

 Where did that come from and how did you sort of find those to be so realistic?

Mark Hayes: Two things. One, I found that idea from a different book and I thought isn’t that an interesting idea to put this into context, but also helps to show that you know what you’re talking about, this isn’t just a bunch of notes you’ve cudgelled together. This is helping someone see that you can actually put this into practice.

And in terms of your second question, where did that come from? It was from notes I had from previous conversations. I would record using, let’s say Zoom and the Otter app, otter.ai which plugs nicely into Zoom and actually creates a transcript. So when I’m coaching, I would obviously anonymize names, companies all that kind of thing, but I would look at the language and that helped me to influence or to shape how I created model conversations for particular challenges that sales leaders would create and it really helped. And I’d use these phrases I would never use myself, but that’s the point, it’s the voice of the reader. Not necessarily my voice.

Alison Jones: That’s brilliant. And I think answers a question that a lot of people ask me, which is about how you use real examples and whether you anonymize and you kind of, you draw on them, but you abstract out of them to something that’s going to be more helpful for the reader. It doesn’t have to have every detail of that conversation and it shouldn’t because that’s not helpful, but it is about basing it on the observed reality and then packaging it in a way that makes it most maximally useful for the reader. That’s a great, great demonstration of it.

And I always ask people to recommend a book, you’re not allowed to recommend Sales Coaching Essentials, obviously, I will do that for you in the intro, don’t worry.

But if you said to somebody, you know, what book has been really, really helpful for you as a reader?

Mark Hayes: Yes, without question, well, two books, but I’ll mention one. I can mention two, if you like.

The first book is Influence, Influence: The psychology of persuasion.

Alison Jones: Robert Cialdini.

Mark Hayes: Yes, Robert Cialdini. The anniversary edition came out recently, in the last two years or so, this book alone will help you to understand, from a business perspective, how people do things and why they do things. So all of these elements of his six principles of persuasion are actually applicable to the act of writing a nonfiction book. Social proof showing how other people like Mike Weinberg, who was one of the top selling authors gave me an endorsement and that’s on the cover of my book. The number of people who on LinkedIn said, I’m buying the book because Mike Weinberg has endorsed this. That’s huge. And then inside the book, all the VP’s and CEO’s who gave me that endorsement too, that’s social proof, that’s Cialdini’s idea.

The second thing is scarcity. If you want people, for example, to let’s say sign you up as a solution provider, as a consultant for them, if that’s the intention of your book, providing that a commercial offering. Then an element of scarcity shows how working with you will help them. But it’s linked to taking action. They have to take action, sign up for something, subscribe to something. Otherwise they don’t get that thing.

So lead magnets could come from the book, offering people something in connection with a time-bound offer. I won’t go through all of these, but there’s so many things.

Alison Jones: You’ve already touched on reciprocity.

Mark Hayes: Yes we have. Exactly. So the act of having someone on a podcast meant that someone felt they owed me something and it did. When I came to ask them for something they gladly gave, but because I’d given first that really helped me to ask them for a reason that they couldn’t say no to. And I didn’t do it that way, that sounds manipulative. But when I came to ask for favours, because I had that bank of goodwill, people said, no problem, Mark.

They knew me and they trusted me and that was important. So I’m not going through all of those, But that’s a really important book, the psychology of persuasion. Why would someone help you do something for you? How can you serve people in a way that makes them feel they want to trust you, endorse you, talk to you. And eventually, hopefully buy from you.

My second book probably would be something like the Chimp Paradox from Professor Steve Peters.

I’ve mentioned this so many times on coaching sessions with sales leaders. How people’s brains work. That fear factor. And I think as an author, listening to this or a prospective author, where does this voice of fear come from?

If you can’t overcome it, you will perhaps not write a book. And it’s important that you manage that inner dialogue, recognize why that voice of doubt is in your head. It’s okay. It’s okay. But learning how to manage that and not have it overtake you, because if it does, you’ll just struggle and then give up.

And although they say everyone has a book in them not everyone actually writes a book, right? So it’s not about having the best book in the world. It’s about having a book out there in the world with your name on it. And to do that, you have to really dig deep and overcome that voice of objection or rejection or fear of rejection and know where it comes from.

And that book really helped me, The Chimp Paradox, all about the amygdala, the part of the brain that tends to sabotage us, and then how to use logic, the rational mind, to play down that negative talk and to get things done.

Alison Jones: Yes, it’s such a good book. And I totally agree that writing a book is a great demonstration of things that really awaken the Chimp and even just being aware of that, knowing that it’s happening and knowing that it’s not true. It’s just something that happens in your brain is hugely helpful.

That’s brilliant. Thank you so much, Mark.

If people want to find out more about you, more about the sales coaching stuff you do, the podcast, the book. Where should they go?

Mark Hayes: Well, the book is on Amazon and many fine bookstores. Anywhere you buy your books, right? It’s also over on your website and I would say people can connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s usually the easiest place if they want to connect and chat.

I’m very happy to share some of my experiences good and bad from writing the book. If anyone wants to drop me a line, happy to do that for your listeners.

And the other place is salescoacher.com. That’s my shop window. It’s going through a process now of redesign. And the final thought I would share is that I wish I had lined things up better.

I wish I had lined the book up with the revamp of the brand and other things like that. So this is another good reason to project manage this. It’s not about writing the book. It’s about having the book serve you and using it in a way that actually adds to your business. How does this fit into my business message?

How does this fit into my brand? As part of my business model? It’s not just a sheaf of paper, it’s got a job to do. And I now see this book has got to get into the right hands and that’s the next part, it’s about marketing. The book is great. Wonderful. But now market it, that’s got to be done otherwise it’s, you know, it’s not being used properly.

Alison Jones: Yes, this is phase two. Yes, there lots of moving parts. Yes

Mark Hayes: Unbelievable. Huge, huge learning curve, Alison, huge. Think of Eddie the Eagle.

Alison Jones: not trivial.

Mark Hayes: I’ve got those big glasses on right now. It’s not, it’s worth it though. It’s worth it. Yes it really is.

Alison Jones: Just got this image now of you as Eddie the Eagle now, that’s wonderful. Let’s end it with that. That’s glorious. Thanks ever so much, Mark.

Mark Hayes: Pleasure, Alison.

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