Three Ways to Determine if Your New Sales Hire is Coachable

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Posted: September 25, 2018
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Have you ever noticed that everyone says they want feedback -- until they receive it? I’ve seen more than one CEO, sales manager or business owner invest too much time and mental energy trying to get through to a noncoachable salesperson, one that resists feedback. 

This type of salesperson generally has a high need to be right, gets defensive when hearing feedback, or shifts the blame back onto you or the company for their lack of performance. Hiring a salesperson that is not coachable is exhausting and will cost you money.

Dr. Eve Grodnitzy is a research psychologist and works with organizations all over the world. I had the good fortune of hearing her speak and she asked her audience a provocative question:

“Are you in the behavior-modification business or in the behavior-selection business?”

That is a great question. Sales leaders often get stuck in the role of psychologist and psychotherapist because they didn’t hire salespeople that are comfortable with feedback.   Let’s apply the EQ skill of reality testing. And the reality is, sales leaders lack the skills and time to play psychotherapist. So how do you hire coachable salespeople?

In my years of working with sales organizations, I have found three common traits in highly coachable salespeople.

#1. Self-regard. In the emotional intelligence world, this is defined as “an inner confidence.” And with that comes the ability to accept your strengths and weaknesses. These salespeople don’t play the blame game. They raise their hand, own their actions and outcomes, and as a result, learn the many lessons gained from making mistakes. The sales manager doesn’t waste time or energy on managing excuses. Instead, she can invest her time in coaching the salesperson about how to do better in the next selling scenario. 

A great interview question to ask in order to test for this skill is, “Tell me about a time when you really screwed up? What did you learn? How did you apply the lesson learned moving forward?”

#2: Humility. Many years ago, I was working with a business owner that was frustrated with his new sales hire. The salesperson was really talented. He had great track record in sales and hitting quota. But his huge ego was a problem.

The salesperson was talented but there was still a lot to learn in his new job. Unfortunately, when the business owner tried to give well-intended coaching, the arrogant salesperson would shut down and reply, “I know what I am doing.” (Obviously not, or you’d be closing more business or the right type of business.) This salesperson lacked humility.

How do you determine if your new hire possesses humility? Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Ideal Team Player,” talks about the importance of hiring humble people. In his book, he shares a great interview question to see if your potential hire is humble or arrogant: “Tell me about someone who is better than you in an area that really matters to you.” As Lencioni points out, humble people are comfortable showing appreciation for others with more skill and talent.

Arrogant people, not so much.

#3: Growth mindset. Carol Dweck is the author of, “Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential.” In her work, Dweck shares the difference between people with a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. One of the big differentiators is that growth-mindset people have a sincere passion for getting better. As a result, they seek out feedback that will make them better, even if the feedback stings a little bit.

Fixed-mindset people are more focused on confirming their intelligence, which limits their ability to ask for and receive coaching.  When you invest your energy in confirming, it leaves little time for learning. 

Here’s a good question to ask to determine the mindset of your new hire: “Tell me about times when you proactively sought out feedback on your sales performance.”

Make your life easier as a CEO, sales manager or business owner. You didn’t sign up to be a psychotherapist; you signed up to be a sales leader. Hire salespeople with self-regard, humility and a growth mindset.

Good Selling!

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