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Why Does Most Sales Coaching Fail?

By Holly Parks

Why Does Most Sales Coaching Fail?

A question we get all the time is “How do I get my sales managers to coach?” As a matter of fact, one of the highest ranking searches on Google around sales issues is Sales Coaching. We have some theories about why sales managers don’t succeed as coaches and they boil down to six basic reasons.

  1. Why? While people think they know why their company exists, they don’t usually know if what they are doing is in alignment with what their company wants to represent to the world. They may think they are, but are they really?
  2. What’s expected of me? Many times people don’t know what’s expected of them to help their company realize it’s objectives.
  3. How am I doing? If they think they are doing what they should be doing, without proper feedback, they are really just guessing.
  4. Where do I go for help? Organizational barriers and obstacles get in the way and they don’t know where to go for help and support.
  5. What’s in it for me? They don’t see any value to themselves in doing what is asked. It’s one more thing and if push comes to shove, either the reward or consequence isn’t sufficient enough to make me want to do it.
  6. How? They don’t have the skills to do it.

We’ll take a look at each of these reasons in a few blog posts. Let’s start with the one that I think has the most impact on the success of a sales coaching relationship – the "What’s in it for me?" question.

It’s Monday morning and I need to connect with my sales people to do some “coaching”. Ugh. Chasing them down is one thing, but having meaningless conversations is another. Why are they so resistant to my help?! I just don’t have time for this!

Sound familiar?

So many “coaches” find themselves spending more time than they have chasing down those whom they are to coach. Why? Then, when they finally do catch them, that person is totally unprepared. It is one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen coaches have.

It’s not easy being a coach. Coaching sales takes perseverance, patience and a willingness to go the distance, especially in a business environment. One of the most challenging aspects of coaching is that it requires the cooperation and commitment of two people, the coach and the person being coached. If one person is not willing, then the coaching fails. And it doesn’t matter which person it is. Both parties need to be engaged and committed.

In order to successfully engage someone in anything, they need to see how it will benefit themselves before they will commit to doing whatever it is. And since there are two involved in the sales coaching process, both parties need to see the benefits.

First, let’s examine some of the reasons why people may resist coaching or being coached:

Time Sapper – many feel they don’t have the time to devote to chasing people down or engaging in exercises they don’t feel are helping them succeed. There are far too many other things that need to be done and this isn’t high enough on the priority list.

Lone Wolf – sales people, by nature are fairly autonomous. This coaching thing feels too much like being managed! Are you checking up on me? Let me do my thing and we’ll all be happy!

I don’t need no stinking coaching! – I’ve been doing this for a long time; I know what I’m doing. This is just a waste of my time!

You’re trying to “fix” me – all I ever hear is what I’m doing wrong.

It’s like talking to a wall! – We discuss ways to do things to help improve performance, but nothing changes. I feel like we are talking about the same thing every time we talk!

Do any of these sound familiar? Here are some ideas of things that can be done to make coaching more rewarding for all parties.

First be clear about the intent of the coaching. Or maybe even more importantly, what benefit each of you will gain from this endeavor. When I think about the need for coaching I always come back to professional sports teams. Even the most experienced, best athletes get coaching – All. The. Time. Tom Brady, six-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, goes to practice every day, listens to his coaches and makes adjustments. Their intent is to help Tom become even better than he already is. Why does Tom continue to accept the coaching? He sees the value it brings to his game and Tom is motivated to be the best quarterback with the longest career in the history of football.

Why do you coach? What will you get out of it if you’re successful? Why would your salespeople want to be coached? What benefit will they get from it? The answers to these questions are not always obvious and many times are surprising.

In order for both the coach and the ‘coachee’, to engage and commit, the rewards need to be personal, immediate, and certain. If they are, coaching will be a lot easier. Here’s what we mean by personal, immediate and certain.

Personal – It’s not enough to say “you’ll meet your sales goals.” Find out what motivates a person to do their job. It most likely is not at all what you thought. Be sure to clarify what the real benefit is for them. For example, Sam is working many hours trying to meet his goals. These hours are hours spent away from his 3 children. If he was able to make bigger sales that would help him reach his goals faster, he would benefit from the time he now has to spend with his children. Sam, on the other hand, loves when a customer shows marked improvement as a result of what she sold them. As a coach, your job is to show how your coaching can help each of them achieve those rewards.

Immediate – most people are motivated to do something when the rewards are close in sight. In today’s short attention span environment, yesterday is immediate! I joke, but the closer to now they reap the rewards, the more motivated they’ll be.

Certain – nobody is motivated by maybe. Remember when you heard those dreaded words as a child – “we’ll see”? And how much more motivated were you when you were told you would absolutely get the reward when such and such was done? The other side of this coin, the consequence, is also true. If there is no certain consequence for not engaging in the coaching, then well, there is nothing to lose.

It is important to do the same for yourself as a sales coach. Why would you want to coach someone to do better? What’s in it for you?

To review, an important component for successful sales coaching is engagement and commitment to the process. Both parties need to know explicitly what the benefits are for doing so. The rewards need to be personal, immediate and certain. Having a discussion around this at the outset will go a long way to ensuring successful coaching. Once this is established, then you can look at the other factors that may affect the coaching process and its success. We’ll take a look at those in future blogs. In the meantime, happy coaching!

Contact us if you have any questions or share your sales coaching suggestions with us.

Published: January 27, 2021

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Holly Parks

Chief Operating Officer

Holly bought out Bob’s partner in 1988 to become an owner in Strategic Enhancement Group. She has over 35 years of experience in business. Prior to joining SEG, Holly ran the operations for companies as diverse as paper converting to packaging to computer value added reseller. Her role with Strategic Enhancement Group is to set and execute the strategic direction for the company. Holly majored in political science with minors in French and Spanish at Western Illinois University. Along with Bob, Holly has been recognized with the highest awards given by Wilson Learning.

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