Coaching a Rep on Your Strongest Skill

Sales managers get frustrated coaching reps who "don't get it". Remember sitting in class as a kid, bored out of your mind because the teacher was going over and over a math problem you understood the first time?  "This is so easy," you said to yourself, "who wouldn't get this?"

Until a few weeks later, when it was your turn.  You struggled with a math problem while other kids stared at the ceiling.  This time, they were bored.

The same goes with coaching sales reps.  They aren't you and you aren't the rep.  The skills you mastered fairly early in your sales career, may trip up another salesperson.

As a rep you enjoyed a reputation for asking great questions during the discovery phase.  You amazed your own manager by coming back from initial meetings with more information than most reps gathered by the third meeting.

Presentations -- that's another story.  Keeping your voice from shaking during the first few minutes proved difficult.  You spoke too quickly and didn't encourage the audience to ask questions.  You blew more than one.

For several reps on your team, the presentations seemed effortless.  That made the situation all the more difficult.  It took time and mentoring for you to believe in your abilities and make a solid presentation.

In coaching mode, empathy comes naturally when a rep we manage experiences the same difficulties we did.  We relate and share our own struggles, saying things like,"I remember trying this and it helped," or "whenever I took a deep breath at this point, I was able to get my bearings."  Would you be willing to give that a try to see if it would work for you?

Coaching a rep on a skill that came easily proves problematic for many sales managers. We get impatient.  Offering tips gets tricky -- especially if you don't know why you excel at one particular area of the sale cycle. Telling them "how you did it" doesn't work.

To combat this talk with other sales professionals who struggled in areas where you excelled.  Ask them:

  • what steps they took to improve
  • who gave them the most valuable advice
  • to share helpful tips
  • for recommendations on books or courses

When coaching a rep in this situation watch your body language and tone of voice. Work hard not to let your lack of patience or frustration show.  Try saying something like:

I know you struggle in this area and I know you want to improve.  What first steps could we take?  A colleague of mine had issues with this same thing early on her sales career.  Hard to believe isn't it?  She made this suggestion.  It helped her a lot.  Would you be willing to give it a try?

Know when you aren't sure how to help a rep.  Ask for advice and guidance from others.  Give salespeople all the support they need and deserve.