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How to Assess a Salesperson's Coachability (& Why It Matters)

By David Jacoby

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To maximize sales results, a sales manager has to ensure that his or her team is operating at their peak level like a sports team. That’s where coaching comes in—it’s one of the most important things you can do as a manager to drive better sales results.

Coaching is the time you spend 1:1 with your team members to improve their ability to sell. The most common obstacle preventing sales managers from coaching their teams is time commitment. Coaching takes time and doesn’t have a “due date.”  So often managers postpone or reschedule coaching  to complete other time-sensitive management activities.

I have previously discussed how to allocate your coaching time. A good rule of thumb is that you should spend:

  • 60% of your coaching time with your salespeople with medium skill levels,
  • 15% of your coaching time with your salespeople with low skill levels, and
  • 25% of your coaching time with your salespeople with high skill levels.

The idea here is that you should spend most of your time coaching salespeople with medium skills. These salespeople will provide the highest return on your time investment as you develop average performers into high performers. Low skilled reps may require too much of a time commitment to help, while high performers have some room for improvement, but don’t need lots of coaching.

But what do you do if you are extremely limited in your time available for coaching? 

If that’s the case, then in addition to considering the skill level of your salespeople when allocating your coaching time, you should also consider their relative coachability. Are they receptive to your ideas? Do they want to improve? Are they enthusiastic about their work? A coachable rep has an internal motivation to improve and do better.

Salespeople who are highly coachable—those who are receptive to your ideas and have the basic ability to do the job—are most likely to grow professionally. A coachable rep not only responds to feedback, they actively seek it. They want to know how to improve. Coachability drives their ability to change behaviors.

Here is a checklist you can use to determine how coachable your salespeople are.

This salesperson…

  1. Asks for feedback
  2. Listens to the opinions of others
  3. Shows motivation for improvement
  4. Grasps an idea the first time he or she hears it
  5. Follows instructions well
  6. Discusses business problems with peers
  7. Is flexible
  8. Asks me how I would handle a situation
  9. Doesn’t get defensive when given tough feedback
  10. Learns from his or her mistakes
  11. Experiments with new approaches
  12. Demonstrates self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses,
  13. Is cooperative and participative at group meetings
  14. Adopts well to new situations and change
  15. Has the ability to act on feedback

A salesperson who is not particularly coachable and, therefore, not receptive to your ideas or your help provides a low return on your investment on your coaching time. If this is the case with any of your salespeople, explore whether performance counseling is needed. Ask yourself, “Why is this person not receptive to learning, and what can I do to increase his or her receptivity?” It might also be appropriate to examine your interpersonal style to see if that is causing the salesperson to reject your coaching efforts.

Every salesperson requires some coaching, even if the visit is for motivational purposes or to evaluate performance or progress. However, if you are time constrained, consider factoring in coachability when allocating your coaching time among your sales people.

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About David Jacoby

David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.

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