Fast Company

The Power of Coaching

<a href="//www.fastcompany.com/person/cliff-lee" class="profile">Cliff Lee</a>

With the World Series underway, the Texas Rangers' Cliff Lee is standing in the spotlight as one of the top pitchers in baseball. But it was only three years ago that a rough start to the 2007 season had him sent down to the minor leagues to get things pointed in the right direction. In 2008, he won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in the American League. Why the remarkable turnaround? Part of it has to do with coaching. (Of course, he's probably talking with his coaches again after his less-than-stellar performance in Game 1.)

Even the best of the best need a little coaching now and then. Professional ballplayers, golfers, and tennis players all have one or more coaches to help them get the most out of their physical gifts. What does this have to do with business and marketing? Businesses are in an interesting position of being able to provide coaching to help their customers succeed and needing coaching to help themselves succeed.

For instance, here at Constant Contact, our mission is to help make our small business and nonprofit customers successful. Part of the way we accomplish that is by empowering everyone in the organization--from our regional development directors in the field to our support representatives on the phone--to be a coach. If a customer calls in with a question, we train our reps to go beyond answering it by providing practical advice and other pertinent information to the caller.

Small businesses should be doing the same with their customer-facing employees. Instead of employees answering questions and moving on, train them to ensure the customer's experience is great from soup to nuts. Coaching can go beyond in-person opportunities as well. A business can use the content it sends in its regular newsletter to coach readers about how to better use its products and services.

If customers have good experiences and succeed using your products, they're more likely to recommend them (and you) to friends and colleagues. Coaching these customers along will help them get to success quicker, speeding up that referral engine and growing your business in the process. And it's all because you took the time to make them successful.

On the flip side, if your business needs a little coaching help to ensure the path to success stays free of obstacles, there are a number of resources available. First, those vendors you buy services from are hopefully following the advice above and have resources available to help you get the most of the products you buy from them. For more general coaching and small businesses help, I highly recommend reaching out to your local SCORE or SBDC office. Both organizations can hook you up with a consultant that can help advise your business on a number of issues ranging from financing to operations.

Everyone needs a good coach. Make sure you're getting the coaching you need to succeed and proving the coaching that your customers need to succeed.

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