May 032012

Sales Coaching: 3 ways Sales Managers Can Overcome Coaching Resistance

Sales Coaching:  By Dan Perry on Sun, Apr 29, 2012 , Sales Benchmark Index

Sales Coaching: Here at SBI, we preform thousands of Sales Manager observations and interviews each year.  We recently complete a project in which we assessed 900 sales managers of a large company.  And one major mistake we found is most sales managers are making when coaching their sales reps is not managing their resistance to coaching.

89% of all sales reps show some type of resistance when their sales manager either coaches them or provides feedback to them.  It is staggering how we watch a coaching session between a sales manager and sales rep only to uncover later that the sales rep has ‘totally blown off the advice’.  We hear post coaching mortem quotes from the sales reps about their sales managers:

“I have to listen to the fool if I want to keep my job.  So I tell the new guys to grin and bear it because it will be over soon.”

He wants me to sell like him.  But I am not him.  He is outdated.  Just because he was the number 1 rep in 2003 doesn’t mean he can sell today.”

Listen, if he thinks he can sell the deal better than me he should just be a sales rep again and I can go look for a new job.”

Do you hear these quotes from your reps?  Is your coaching producing measurable improvements or is it being ‘blown off’?  Are you making an impact as a sales manager or just navigating the internal processes and politics for your sales reps?

What do I care Dan?  Why should I be concerned that coaching improves performance?   Providing constructive coaching to a sales person more than 3 hours/month leads to much improved quota performance.  It is worth the effort to make it happen.

So how can I identify resistance and how can I manage it?

3 ways Sales Managers Can Overcome Coaching Resistance

  1.  Verbally Identify the Resistance.  When you hear it, call it out right away.  Don’t be shy and try not to avoid the topic. For example, if you notice a sales person giving you silence (aka: the silent treatment), stop what you are saying and tell them you feel resistance from silence.  Address it right away.
  2. Discuss with them how to manage this resistance.   Say something like “You are being silent when we are discussing this call.  How can we manage your silence?”  This places the burden on them to come up with a solution for the silent treatment so your ideas on how they can improve will be acted upon.
  3. Several forms of resistance occur during one coaching session.  Just when you thought one form of resistance was mitigated (silence in our example), another one may come up.  You need to be aware of the different forms of resistance so you can identify them at any time.

Below is a chart of the various types of resistance, definition of each, when they most commonly occur and how to manage it when coaching your rep.

You can download the master copy of it here:

    Managing Resistance  
Resistance Definition Common Occurrence How to Manage
Silence Sales Rep doesn’t say a word Begins within minutes of the coaching or feedback session Demonstrate how we have already started to solve the problem
Impracticality Struggling with how they would implement the solution During discussion of remediation plans.  Typically is brought up after they agree there is a problem Review other methods they have used to solve.  Did they work?  Suggest references
Give me more detail Questions your expertise and evidence of issues Happens while you are providing the coaching or feedback: “Can you give me the exact time you saw this happen?” Probe deeper into the real objection. This is a smokescreen.
I’m not Surprised Rep says they had always know this was a problem Typically during the feedback session rather than the coaching session Ask:

  1. Why it hasn’t been solved in the past
  2. What do they need from the company?
  3. What do they need from you?
Attack Debate the projected productivity increases if problem is fixed Either when you are delivering the coaching OR when the results haven’t improved because of non-compliance Clarify the individuals priorities and goals; collaborate on alternative options to solve the problem
Confusion Doesn’t understand the problem and how to solve Toward the end of the coaching session when discussing solutions Define your role as a coach, advisor or collaborator and choose a preference
Compliance Agrees with everything you say; appears to be a Raving Fan Begins immediately and continues through the session Acknowledge but ask what the 2 or 3 things that can happen which will prevent you from solving the problem
Pressing for Solutions Sales Reps wants answers, answers, answers to the solution Usually will interrupt during the session. This can happen early and often. Remind sales rep to be patient to solve the problem. It will take time to resolve.
Moralizing Expresses concern about own incapability to solve issue When discussing solutions, rep will bring this up after the first solution mentioned Resist the urge to agree; instead ask them how they view suggestions to solve problem
Time Can’t secure a time together: “I’m too busy” Day after coaching and feedback session when you are trying to schedule time with the sales rep Ask questions around priorities and consequences of inaction to cure bad behaviors
Intellectualizing Rep stays high level, moves conversations to theoretical vs. how project gets completed During the entire coaching and feedback session.  Need to get into tactics immediately to resolve. Redirect objective and quantify the problem.  Let’s get tactical and measure our results.

Download the Managing Resistance Chart H

Does this work?  And how can I begin using the table?   Reach out to Tom Cousins, VP of Sales for RR Donnelly. Tom is one of the best at identifying resistance when coaching and giving feedback to the sales rep.  He knows that ignoring resistance prevents actionable results from the message.  He makes sure he has memorized this table and looks for resistance in his conversations.  And he has exceeded his region’s plan for the past 20 years in a dying industry among large competitors.


To Discuss how these Solutions will add value for you, your organization and/or your clients, Affinity/Resale Opportunities, and/or Collaborative Efforts, Please Contact:

Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

sales coaching, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC