Sales Coaching Blog

The Most Powerful Sales Coaching Question

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

September 2, 2015

1It is simple, succinct and should evoke great thought.  Whether you are a front line sales leader or a Chief Sales Officer, challenge yourself by answering the following question.

What does it feel like to be coached by you?

Before you read further, stop and write down the question and your answer.  Please, do it now.

Most every workshop or speaking engagement I lead, I ask this question somewhere near the beginning.  If you are like most audiences of sales leaders, and if you take the time to provide a thoughtful response, this powerful question caught you off guard.  The title of this writing likely led you to believe you would read some silver bullet question that sales leaders would ask sales people, a profound question that would cause people to think and change behaviors.  Well, perhaps that just happened…

Let’s not forget the extent to which salesleaders impact how much gets sold, which is why this question is so critical to contemplate.  EcSell research shows “coaching” as the #1 skill that impacts a sales person’s “motivation to sell”.  Said another way, if a sales person believes their manager to be a great coach—they are motivated to sell more.  However, the most disturbing component of our research, as it applies to sales managers, is that of the top ten “management” skills we ask sales people to rate, their manager’s ability to “coach” ranks dead last.  So, the skill most needed to drive sales, coaching, is the skill that sales managers across the world are least likely to possess.  And, to put this in perspective, this would be analogous to having sales people whose weakest skill is their ability to sell.

EcSell Institute’s Director of Research, Stacia Jorgensen, recently described this lack of coaching acumen as a “management paradox”.  Since most managers came from a sales producer role, it’s not as if they have never been trained, or learned how to get people from point A to point B.  When in sales, producers are educated, taught and will likely only survive if they have the ability to develop relationships, probe, ask questions and help their prospects/clients identify and solve problems (sounds like some foundational coaching skills).  However, when the move to management is made, these former sales people no longer “pull” information, for some reason they now believe their role is to “push” expectations.   This behavior perpetuates a low-average management model of performance, as opposed to a high performance coaching model. 

What does it feel like to be coached by you?  Perhaps like most open ended questions, there is never a single, proper answer, nor should there be.  If sales leaders are candid in their responses, each answer will vary a great deal.  So the litmus test regarding the quality of your response is to answer the following:

  1. Are you comfortable with how you answered the question?
  2. Would the outcome of what you wrote create and sustain a higher level of performance for those who report to you?
  3. Is what you wrote something you would be proud to pin to your office wall for all to see?

In the spirit of disclosure, here is how mine reads:
What does it feel like to be coached by me?  Challenging, structured, personal, thoughtful, spirited, motivating, intense, thought-provoking and urgent.

By the way, if you want to make this a coaching exercise for your sales people, ask them “what does it feel like to be sold by you?”  This will help perpetuate an improvement culture throughout the entire team.

Keep in mind the obvious--nobody is a perfect coach!  Which should then motivate each of us to not only measure our value by how well we coach today, but also by how willing we are to give up what we believe to be effective coaching behaviors, and learn new ways to motivate those on our teams to sell more.

So, if you still haven’t articulated it, I’ll try again…  What does it feel like to be coached by you?


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Topics: sales coaching, sales management skills

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