4 Solutions For Sales Reps Who Resist Coaching

Most athletes would agree that training produces better results with a good coach at the helm. An expert neutral outsider can spot missteps and provide motivation to enable top-flight results. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has won five Super Bowl rings, for example, credits coach Bill Belichick for helping drive his success: “There’s no coach I’d rather play for and I’ve loved my experience here,” Brady said during an interview. “I certainly couldn’t be the player I am today without playing for such a great coach.”

Just as coaching is critical to winning football games, it’s critical for driving sales. With coaching, sales managers and sales reps have an opportunity to identify weaknesses that hamper success and adopt habits and behaviors that will stoke future success. Trouble is, performance assessments and sales coaching one-on-ones may prompt some sales reps to get defensive and lose focus. Instead of channeling energy toward sales, they waste it on indignation.

To combat this, here are some techniques to bolster your sales coaching efforts:

  1. Reframe: Sales reps may resent coaching because they deem it a referendum on their effectiveness, or worse, a punishment. The notion that something is broken or needs fixing can make sales reps feel like failures. Try reframing what you’re trying to achieve. Position coaching not as a penalty but as strategic support with long-term benefits.
  2. Face fears: Some sales reps believe their way is the only way. For example, veteran sellers may resist altering a formula that has worked for them, perhaps for years. But shifting consumer behaviors and marketplace competition may force tactical change, especially if KPI data in your CRM confirm a downward performance trend. Start a conversation that allows you to understand the sales challenges from their point of view. It’s key to establish a collaborative atmosphere to get buy-in from the rep on your sales coaching efforts.
  3. The root cause: Some sales reps may struggle with their own personal problems; others may just be tired and unmotivated. An effective sales coach needs to be able to identify whether the root causes of underperformance are motivation or skill-based. It is much more challenging to coach someone effectively without knowing what drives them each and every day.
  4. Try some sugar: Sales coaching shouldn’t solely focus on things that require improvement. Discussing accomplishments and strengths can go a long way towards building confidence and spurring motivation in support of areas that require development.

Sales managers should be mindful of their approach and also be open to feedback themselves as well. Resistance to coaching may very well be the result of poor communication and perhaps even poorer coaching skills. Being open to constructive coaching upward can give sales managers insight on how to coach and communicate more effectively. Fostering such a work atmosphere will demonstrate that no one within the sales organization is beyond needing feedback.

Remember, determining why sales reps resist critical feedback is the first step toward effective coaching. Successful coaches communicate critical feedback in positive terms and will impart enthusiasm for the process. When coaching works, teams win. It shows on scoreboards — and on sales ledgers.