Sales Coaching Blog

Don't Be Afraid To Challenge Your Reps: It's What They Actually Want

Posted by Sarah Wirth

October 14, 2015

iStock_success_sidewalk_chalkMy 9-year-old son is a tennis player. He absolutely loves the sport and really works hard at it.  Recently, we were talking about his coaches, as has a few different ones at his tennis club. I asked him out of all of his coaches, who were his favorites.  When he gave me two names, I asked him why those were his favorite coaches and he replied, “I like them best because they push me. The other coaches are really nice, but they sometimes let kids mess around in class. I like the ones that make us work.” This answer made me smile because it showed me that even a 9-year-old knows the difference between nice coaches and those that really drive performance.

Just like a 9-year-old tennis player, sales reps, especially top-performing ones, often prefer a coach that make them work and improve.  The EcSell Institute research team was recently asked to compare two regions at the same organization that had very different sales results. In both regions, the managers received high marks from their reps on how they gave feedback, listened to needs and drove collaboration. Managers in both regions were also consistent in how often they conducted coaching activities with their reps.  On the surface, the managers’ coaching behavior was very similar, so why was there such a difference in results?

We dug further and finally had a big “a ha” moment when we found one major difference.  In the region that was significantly outperforming the other region, the sales reps rated their managers much higher on two key questions:

  • Your manager purposely asks you to do things that stretch your abilities
  • Even if it is sometimes uncomfortable, your manager pushes you to be a better sales rep

This was fascinating! Just like my 9-year-old son recognized that he worked better with coaches who demanded more of him, the reps in the high-performing region were achieving more sales because their managers pushed them and stretched their abilities.  At EcSell Institute, we call this the catalytic factor and the more we study it, the more we see it has a significant impact on a sales team’s ability to achieve.  When sales managers have high standards, seek out new ways to increase their reps’ performance and are willing to challenge their teams outside their comfort zone, they drive growth. 

So next time you are trying to be the nice coach and let things slide in order to make life easier on your reps, consider that you may actually be doing them a disservice and, ultimately, creating a less effective coaching relationship with them.  Top-performing reps have high standards and appreciate a coach who shares their drive for excellence.  Like my son said, “I like them best because they push me… I like the ones that make us work.”

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Topics: Catalytic Factor, sales coaching, sales performance

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