Who coaches the coach?

Recent research by Objective Management Group suggests that 34% of B2B sales professionals are uncoachable. I find that hard to believe.

In a performance-based role like B2B selling, can one in three professionals be either so confident, so arrogant or so complacent they don’t want help to get better? I don’t think so. Sure, there’ll be a few individuals who are one, or more, of the above, but not many. So, what’s going on?

If we dig a little deeper and, if uncoachable means ‘unwilling to enter into a coaching relationship’, it soon becomes clear.

Most salespeople will have experienced sales coaching early in their career, and for many (about 34% if the research is accurate) it was a bad experience. The coaching interaction was either so uncomfortable, so ineffective, or both, that they simply refuse to go through it again. They become uncoachable. So why is so much coaching so bad?

Because most coaching is done by sales managers and many of them are lousy coaches. As I’ve said before https://www.stevethurlow.co.uk/why-most-sales-managers-dont/ most sales managers are promoted out of the sales team and are usually your best performers. The theory goes; you’re great at selling, so get your team to do what you do, and they’ll be great at selling too. That means every coaching session starts with “If I were you, I’d have…”  and the default response to that is “But I’m not you…”. It’s pointless and ineffective, the salesperson gets no useful guidance and the manager gets no performance improvement. Neither side wants to carry on with it and coaching stops.

It’s hardly the manager’s fault, they’ve been dropped in it without any preparation or support. They’ve not been trained to manage let alone coach and their own personal experience of coaching – as an inexperienced seller, was exactly the same as they’re now dishing out to their team.

The managers need coaching themselves in order to become effective coaches, and who’s going to do that? Their boss, the Sales Director? I don’t think so. They simply don’t have the time, and even if they did, they probably aren’t trained coaches either.

Companies recognise the value of highly trained sellers and invest in their team. Clued-in Directors understand that training needs to be reinforced so they espouse a coaching culture. But then it breaks down. No-one coaches the coach. That’s why so much investment in sales training is wasted.

Research shows 67% of companies with an effective coaching regime enjoy high growth, and you don’t need a huge L&D team to deliver it, there are plenty of coaches out there with the skills to develop your managers as coaches. Best of all it’s a one-off investment, once your sales managers become effective coaches, they have a life-skill they can deploy forever – developing their sales teams and maximising your sales, and sales training ROI, indefinitely.

What’s not to like?