Coaching with Sandwiches

Published on August 2, 2002

Ever wonder what the best way is to give advice to someone? Try using the “sandwich approach”. The sandwich contains 3 parts: Positive reinforcement on top, advice in the middle and positive reinforcement on the bottom.

Here’s an example. Many moons ago when I was the National Value Added Reseller Manager for a manufacturer of local area networks, I managed the NYC reps who called on software vendors to form strategic alliances. There was this one rep named Jean who was incredible.

One day, she invites me to go on a sales call to meet the President of a software company on Wall Street. Jean already sold the sales force on the concept of our technical abilities. Now the president wanted to talk about how the relationship would work.

Jean started the meeting by going into exasperating detail on all the features of our products. At an appropriate opening, I intervened and steered the conversation to what the president wanted to discuss. Fifteen minutes later we had the basis for an agreement.

When Jean and I arrived back at the office, I immediately complimented her for uncovering this great opportunity. Then I asked her how she thought the call went. She acknowledged that she may have given too much detail in the presentation. At that point, I laid out the 5 key elements every sales call should include; First Impression, Qualifying, Demonstration, Influence and Close.

She looked at me and said she does all 5 of these elements already. She just did not know how they all fit together. I ended the conversation by telling her how thrilled I was at the potential she had for being a sales Titan. 9 months later, she closed the largest deal in the company’s history.

Next time you need to give advice, try the sandwich approach. People tend to be more open to advice when they are complimented first. Follow-up the advice with more positive reinforcement. This provides the confidence for them to take risk, go through the pain of change and try something new.

So start supplying the sandwiches. Everyone needs to be nourished.

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