The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Two Critical Sales Coaching Questions

    by Bill Eckstrom / October 17, 2014

    Bill_Eckstrom_Headshot_2014_sAndy wanted to sell more, and he certainly wanted to make more money.  Andy didn’t want to be good, he wanted to be great.  Intellectually he understood he wasn’t doing what was needed to be a top producer, but he could not have articulated exactly what he needed to do (or perhaps not do).  Mentally, Andy did not know what was holding him back. 

    Most sales organizations have many Andy’s, or certainly producers who want more, but are not doing what it takes to sell more.  Sales managers need to ask themselves the following two questions:

    1. Do I have producers on my team that have a desire to sell more?
    2. Do I believe they have the ability to sell more?

    If both were answered in the affirmative, coaches have an obligation to figure out what the respective sales person needs to make a performance leap (which is not necessarily what they want).  This is part of a manager’s job, part of what allows them to hit a number and certainly the essence of every sales management role.

    Even though he had only been with his current company about 18 months, sales had been Andy’s profession for quite some time, so it wasn’t as if he didn’t know the drill.  Attaining 65% of quota was not going to cut it moving forward and while he knew this, he was able to fly under the radar since there had not been a manager in the western U.S. for almost a year.

    Shortly after becoming the Western District Sales Manager, I flew to S. Cal to spend a couple days in the field with Andy.  The first morning we were to work together he was an hour late picking me up from my hotel.  Needless to say he did not get off to a good start with me, but for the balance of the day I was able to check my tongue and watch him work.  Perhaps not the most talented sales person, but he had very good fundamental skills.  Virtually no sales technique coaching occurred, I just watched, listened and asked a lot of questions about his life, his family and his work. 

    At our first evening dinner I asked Andy’s wife to join us.  Watching this interaction and engaging her in conversation told me he was passionate about his family and I could tell he was a caring and loving husband and father.  What I also learned was that Andy’s dad was diagnosed with brain cancer some months earlier and that he had not shared this with anyone at work.  Though the long term prognosis was good, treatments were taking its toll on both his parents.  I learned about their immediate family goals, most specifically their desire to buy a home, which was not a cheap proposition in S. California. 

    The second day in the field, after discussing expectations around both our roles, Andy shared the reason for some of his passive/aggressive behavior with me, which was a result of my being hired in the management role as opposed to him being promoted.  Not too much was discussed around this topic, but it helped me understand his mind-set and reasoning behind his behaviors.

    By the time I departed for Nebraska, I knew what made Andy tick.  He had allowed me to crawl into his world and understand his professional goals, motivations, distractions, dreams, and as a result I was now equipped to help.  The responsibility to grow was not just his, nor was it just mine, it was ours to share.  Andy would never realize his full potential without a manager/coach, nor would I be a fully functional coach without a commitment to help him grow.

    Andy and I both agreed his current production was not sufficient for the company or for him, and if he wanted to stay he needed to hit a bigger number.  He was not put on probation, no formal PIP (performance improvement plan) was created, we simply talked about what he needed to do to become a top producer.    It started with him telling me how much he wanted to sell, not me telling him what his sales goal was, but he also shared his goals with his wife and daughters.  He asked them for permission to work more hours and told them he would need their help and support to stay motivated.  His goals were taped to mirrors in his bathroom and plastered in his car. 

    Andy and I set-up a series of structured 1:1 meetings and talked frequently about his family, his father, and of course his progress towards his goal.  I was able to do joint work with him a few times during the course of the year, and in addition to him becoming more skilled, he worked with a greater sense of urgency.  He was clearly putting forth discretionary effort, his passion and commitment were palpable.  And thinking back, Andy would not have gotten so much from me had he not been so committed to hitting his goal.  I also believe he would have said the same; had I not been so committed to him he wouldn’t have put forth such a strong effort.  Coaching success is never a one way commitment.

    Andy didn’t just hit his goal, he destroyed it.  His income jumped substantially as a result of being the #1 sales rep in the company, which allowed he and his wife to buy their first home.  His success was not a “flash in the pan”, but a sustained behavioral change that consistently placed him in the top 10% of producers every year.  Andy become more than just someone on my team, he and I (plus our wives) became good friends.  Andy helped me become a better coach.

    Not all my coaching has resulted in such great successes, but all my coaching has involved a process:  Execute the activities that mean the most to the sales person (1:1’s, joint work, skills reviews), and constantly create trust, autonomy and complexity in order to achieve the greatest performance (more on those topics in future blogs).


    Read more about the key coaching activities in a five part blog series.

    Understand how sales managers motivate or de-motivate sales people.  Download this whitepaper.

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    Bill Eckstrom

    Bill Eckstrom

    William Eckstrom is the CEO and Founder of the EcSell Institute. Bill has spent his entire career in the sales management and leadership arena. In 2008, he founded the EcSell Institute to fill a void he witnessed and personally experienced in the sales leadership profession. He's went on to present a viral TEDx Talk and co-authored the best-selling book, "The Coaching Effect."

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