Great sales coaching starts with receptivity

Sales coaching can make a difference, and it should be a priority. In fact, pros agree that sales coaching is a critical piece of the puzzle in developing a world-class sales team.

Yet, when it comes to giving coaching feedback, most sales managers don’t do it enough. Many times it’s water off a duck’s back, and sometimes it makes matters worse.

There are many reasons why giving feedback often fails to make a difference. Some relate to the mindset and attitude of the salesperson receiving the coaching while others pertain to how the feedback is provided.

Let’s look at the salesperson being coached first. One of the underlying reasons why feedback often doesn’t work stems from the fact that most people struggle when self-assessing their strengths and weaknesses. What most people end up doing is seeking out evidence that confirms their positive opinions about themselves and ignoring contrary evidence. When this happens, many salespeople hold onto a positive self-assessment, even after their sales leader has shared contradictory feedback. So, receptivity is an issue.

A part of the receptivity issue also relates to the content of the feedback. Another, and equally important part, is how the feedback is provided. A partial answer for the latter is giving more attention to the details of the language used – specifically the pronouns.

If receptivity is to be improved, it’s important to distinguish between situations where sales leaders are providing feedback about things the salesperson does positively versus a negative behavior or action. The positive part is usually not a problem. On the other hand, the negative part can be much more difficult to handle effectively. So, let’s compare two different approaches for handling feedback about a negative.

Approach 1. “Lee, in the call yesterday, the way you handled the objections didn’t go very well. That is something you need to work on.”

Approach 2. “Lee, in the call yesterday, I couldn’t track the way you handled the objections. That is something we need to work on.”
When comparing the two approaches, the key is to determine which question is likely to create greater receptivity. We would suggest the second approach does a better job because it conveys the notion that the sales leader and salesperson are in this coaching effort together.

Now, if a sales leader provides a salesperson with feedback only once every two months or so, this subtlety of language will probably not make a difference. But for salespeople who provide more frequent sales coaching feedback – words matters – they can influence receptivity.

©2018 Sales Momentum® LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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