May 27

You Don’t Have a Coaching Problem, You Have a …


Many years ago, I was conducting a sales management workshop. One participant had a rather challenging member on his sales team. The other sales managers were generous in offering advice and insights to their peer. However, he had tried a lot of the coaching tactics and strategies they suggested.   

Finally, one participant had an epiphany.

“You don’t have a coaching challenge. You have a hiring challenge. Your people pipeline is empty and that’s why you are hanging onto this wrecking ball in your sales organization.”

Duh. The truth will set you free. 

This statement helped this struggling sales manager realize the hard truth. One more coaching session with a non-coachable salesperson wasn’t going to produce progress. 

Let’s unpack this scenario a little bit more and figure out the root cause of hiring a non-coachable salesperson. Or, simply a salesperson that isn’t a fit for your sales organization.

This requires the EQ skills of self-awareness and reality testing because that which you are not aware of, you are bound to repeat. And the reality is you have a gap in your sales hiring process.  

Check out some common gaps that I’ve seen in working with sales managers.

1. Lack of recruiting metrics. Sales managers teach and preach the importance of consistent sales metrics to their sales team. They measure leading and lagging indicators to ensure that their sales team has full and qualified sales pipelines.

Smart sales managers recognize that salespeople with empty sales pipelines end up nurturing and chasing unqualified opportunities because of desperation. A warm body is better than nobody!

Sales managers fall into the same trap because few have established prospecting metrics for recruiting top talent, even when they don’t have an opening. As a result, they end up in the same place as salespeople that don’t consistently prospect. They are desperate!

  • They put unqualified salespeople in their people pipeline. A warm body is better than nobody!
  • They ignore red flags from the interview that later turn into big sales forest fires.   

Metrics matter, and the sooner sales managers establish prospecting metrics for consistently reaching out to potential sales candidates, the sooner they will have a deep bench of qualified candidates from which to recruit.

2. No hiring playbook. You have a team of people at your company to assist you in hiring sales talent. But you are busy so, you haven’t taken the time to define the top seven or 10 competencies your new hire needs to possess. As a result, each person on the hiring team is interviewing for what they think is important, not against a defined set of competencies that have been identified for your company at this time.

For example, a startup company that is not well-funded needs to vet potential candidates for their ability to work without resources. I’ve seen startups hire a veteran salesperson for their experience, but this candidate is used to established systems and support. Without it, many flounder in this quick-moving entrepreneurial environment.  

3. Interviewing and vetting candidates only for their Sales IQ: Industry experience, number of years in sales and achievement of quota. However, what often is missed is interviewing candidates for their emotional intelligence skills. 

Yes, your sales candidate has a great track record.

But what you didn’t learn from the interview was that as she achieved that track record, she shoved a lot of people off the track.

She’s really nice to her customers, but doesn’t show the same respect to other departments and peers. This erodes your credibility as a sales leader because the mission statements on the walls don’t match the behaviors everyone is seeing in the halls.

The message you are sending as a sales leader is that those values listed on your website are important – but if you are bringing in a lot of cash, we are OK waiving the demonstration of such values.

Perhaps you missed vetting your sales candidate for teamwork, especially in a business environment where team selling is important. Your sales candidate has a strong history of success, but it was accomplished in a Lone Ranger environment. This salesperson doesn’t really enjoy playing with others and as a result, doesn’t succeed in your team selling approach.

If you are struggling with one of your salespeople, stop and think.

You may not have a coaching problem, but you may have a hiring problem.

Good Selling!


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