What every sales coach can learn from IBM

There are certain sales coaching tactics that work better than others. Showing rather than telling an employee how to do a job properly is a positive strategy. Creating additional training outlets and educational opportunities can help boost employee engagement and corporate value. Building a strong personal relationship with a staff member encourages better retention and loyalty. These are some of the strategies that IBM may wish to impart on their salesforce, rather than the public shaming that CEO Ginni Rometty recently unleashed on her personnel.

According to MSN, recent sales figures showed that IBM's hardware revenue was down nearly 20 percent year-over-year at the close of Q1 2013. This is the first significant decline in the firm's reporting in the last eight years, making many question where the revenue generation issues lie. In this instance, Rometty stated that it was likely a problem with the efficiency and stagnation of IBM's sales team, effectively calling out all personnel in the sales process management scheme as sub-par players. While this kind of response may generate more action in the sales department, that response can sometimes be an exodus of top talent as they search for organizations they feel will appreciate their efforts more.

This could generate significant issues for ongoing sales performance management and employee retention. MSN wrote that, as CEOs, leaders of that height have a responsibility to handle issues in a professional manner toward the public face, though internal discussions should be more matter-of-fact and focused on finding and fixing the problem.

Balancing good and bad
The Harvard Business Review reported that a study of performance versus response showed the balance between positive and negative input should be a ratio of five-to-one. Basically, for every bad thing a staff member is doing, a manager needs to point out five good things in order to negate the impact of the initial comment. This doesn't change that improvement must be made regarding the problem facet, but of the six points, making them mostly positive provides more encouragement and better feedback in terms of personnel actually making progress on the trouble spots. Providing too much negative input is likely to discourage any kind of improvement or positive response.

In the case of Rometty's response, there is a chance it could generate a positive response from the sales team. However, according to research published by the Harvard Business Review, it's more probable that firms should avoid copying this behavior.