What We’re Not Talking About When It Comes To Coaching Sales People

I’m a huge fan of coaching.  I believe coaching is an essential component of leadership. In sales, developing a coaching cadence and methodology is a critical element of success. You will rarely see a successful team without good coaching behind it.

My boy Mike Weinberg talks about the importance of coaching and how leaders need to do more of it in this post. In it he also introduces his 90-day sales coaching seminar with David Brock. I recommend you attend, they are smart guys, who know coaching.

There is no doubt coaching is critical, but there is another element to coaching that is rarely talked about, and I’m gonna drop the dime here today.

When it comes to coaching, there is an element that must be present for the coaching to be successful, and if it’s not present, coaching will not be successful — Period!

No matter how good of a coach you are. No matter how substantial your coaching cadence and process are, without this element the coaching will not work, and you will be wasting time that could be spent other places.

Here’s the deal, in addition to killer coaching skills, excellent and robust coaching cadence and coaching process, you will get nowhere if your people aren’t coachable.  This, my friends, is the unspoken element to leadership, management, and organization coaching we just don’t address enough.

Not everyone is coachable. Not everyone is open to critique, criticism, evaluation, personal development and growth. We operate from the premise that everyone is coachable and that all we need to do is just coach them. This isn’t true. Not everyone is coachable, wants to be coached or sees the value in coaching. Therefore, in addition to running around building and executing a world class coaching organization, you need to have a team, an organization filled with coachable people, people who want to learn, who want to be coached and are capable of absorbing the coaching.

Mark Roberge, a friend, and a smart guy has a great way of defining coachable people in his killer book The Sales Acceleration Formula. Mark argues, coachable people can absorb and apply.

Absorb and apply: these two actions represent the essence of strong coachability. Some people struggle to even absorb the coaching, perhaps because they are poor listeners or simply don’t recognize the importance of feedback. Others absorb the information but struggle to apply it, perhaps because they are less adaptable or less skilled at thinking on their feet. I want to hire candidates who can both absorb and apply coaching.   — The Sales Acceleration Formula

This idea of absorb and apply nails it for me. When we think about the objective of coaching, it is to create productive change and growth. Coaching is about getting better, improvement. If one can not or will not absorb the feedback, the information, then it can’t be expected they would be able to apply it. Taking it further, if someone can absorb the feedback, but are unable to apply it, the results will remain the same. There will be no growth.

Absorb and application are at the core of excellent coaching. If an employee is unwilling or unable to absorb and apply, you’ve got a problem.

Coachability is dependent on people’s willingness and openness to participate in the coaching process. When participation is absent, the benefits of coaching are non-existent.

We spend a lot of time talking about coaching in sales. As Mike discusses in his post, coaching is critical to the growth and development of salespeople. What’s also important to focus on is the coachability of everyone on the team. We need to be focusing on the coachability of the team, their ability to absorb and apply. Are the people on my team open to growth? Are they absorbing my feedback? Are they able to apply it? Do they want to get better? Are they willing to explore alternative approaches? Are they committed to growth? Do they embrace constructive criticism? Are they self-aware? Do they participate in the process? All of these questions and components are critical to successful coaching.

Coaching is a two-way street. Unfortunately, we aren’t spending enough time on both sides of the street. A world class sales organization has world class coaching processes, cadences, and coaches. It also has world class sales people who want to be coached and can be coached.

Figure out how coachable your organization is. Build coachability into your hiring requirements. Make sure absorb and apply are thoroughly represented, because without them, you only have half the equation.

Coaching is a relationship and like all relationships, it takes two to be successful.