Coaching the Uncoachable?

Coaching the Uncoachable

Last week I had a monthly coaching session with one of the top sales managers I work with. Tony started with a new company in January and had made it a point to work in the field with each of his reps twice in the first two months. Tony’s team is made up of the company’s “top” sales reps that have been promoted to launch a new product.

He had worked with Sally twice and was very perplexed and desperately looking for insights on how to coach her.

First Field Visit:

Sally had extensive experience in the industry and had good relationships with her clients. On his first visit, Sally had suggested meeting at 10:00 AM at a local coffee shop.  She only had one meeting planned that day in addition to a couple of drop-ins. At their first meeting, Sally told Tony that she works very hard and that there was no need to meet earlier than the scheduled time.  Based on the day’s activities, Tony was questioning her work ethic.

After observing Sally’s first call, Tony saw that when speaking with the client she didn’t do any probing but rather just spoke to the client.  When they went to a second call, Sally spoke to the receptionist but was unable to speak to the client. She set up a follow-up meeting.

At the end of the day, Tony thought that grabbing a coffee would be a good opportunity to debrief.  He asked Sally “what went well today”?  She responded by saying that she doesn’t like to review her own performance. Tony asked Sally “would you like some feedback?” Sally responded by saying “No”.

Sally’s response made Tony feel very awkward. Tony had never experienced someone who was completely closed to feedback. He was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say. He decided he would start with some positive comments on the day.

Second Field Visit:

Their next meeting wasn’t much different. Tony met Sally at a coffee shop. They spent the first hour talking about how Sally felt that she had been hard done by her new role.  She felt that the company had not been fair to her and how she and her colleagues haven’t been treated well.

After this discussion, they went to see their first client. Again Sally had what Tony called a “show up and throw up” meeting. The client was confused and had many questions. Sally answered all the client’s questions but never probed or asked effective questions.

Post meeting they went to lunch where Sally informed Tony that she had a dinner meeting that night with a client and that she was going home to prepare.

Listening to this story I was speechless.  I asked Tony a couple of questions:

  1. How would you rate Sally versus your other sales reps?
  2. How important are the relationships that she has?
  3. How long has she been with the company?
  4. What did her previous sales manager have to say?

I told Tony that I would ask for other expert opinions on how to coach/manage Sally?

  • What would you do with Sally?
  • How would suggest that Tony coach/manager her?

Please share your comments and expertise on how to coach an average performer who is not open to receiving feedback or being coached.

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Coaching the Uncoachable in Toronto, ON, Canada