I was recently reminded of an important interview question that gets missed when interviewing a potential sales candidate or not explored in enough depth. That question is:
Are you coachable?
This reminder appeared after reading the book, The Trillion Dollar Coach. It’s the story of the late legendary business / executive coach Bill Campbell. He coached many of the Silicon Valley tech giants, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt as well as Steve Jobs.
Interviews with his “coachees” share a common theme for Bill’s success. He was smart, caring, generous and comfortable conducting direct, truth telling conversations.
He was highly selective about who he coached.
He would only coach the coachable.
This is a great lesson for all of us to embrace. Because Bill was highly selective, this dramatically increased his odds of success. Coachable people are open to advice and feedback. They take action on the feedback. And as a result, they are more successful in both their personal and professional lives.
Sales managers, take a lesson from this legendary coach.
Recruit and hire coachable salespeople.
Be highly selective in who you hire to be a part of your sales organization. Be selective in who you will coach and develop. Hire coachable salespeople and you will increase your odds of sales success.
The first step to hiring coachable salespeople is to create a sales interview guide, one that includes interview questions that vet candidates for their coachability.
Some of my favorites are:
- “Tell me about a time when you reached out for advice and coaching.” A candidate's answer provides a clear picture on whether or not they are hungry, open and proactive about their development.
- “Share with me the most difficult feedback you’ve received from a friend, colleague or boss.” Follow-up with these questions---which are really the most important questions.“How did you apply that feedback? What did you change because of the feedback?”
A person may be able to provide you with an example of receiving difficult feedback. However, what I’m really interested in hearing is whether or not they applied the feedback!
- Give me an example of a time when you “screwed up.” A coachable person is self-aware and humble. They are willing to admit their mistakes and don’t assign blame to other people or departments. They own it and take responsibility for fixing it.
If you desire to lead a high-performance sales organization, vet your potential sales candidates for coachability. It might be as simple as asking the question, “Are you coachable?”