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Our previous blogs on offering feedback lead directly to the heart of the matter: how the consultative salesperson addresses the need for behavior change among his staff when coaching for improved performance.  Before we describe specific coaching dialog techniques, we need to be aware of the important differences between “coaching” peers and clients, versus coaching our direct reports— and how those differences modify the concept of “consultative” leadership.

Obviously, we cannot mandate change in the behavior of our peers or clients.  Yes, we can make observations about their conduct— the phrase “offer feedback” aptly signals our delivery style— but we’ll probably have to “get over it” and move on if they choose to ignore our opinions and suggestions.  That’s why the supportive, empathetic and positive communication techniques described in previous blogs are so critically important in parallel and upward-feedback situations: if clients and peers aren’t genuinely attracted to our “invitations,” they’re not going to change, period.

In theory, we don’t have to be nearly so thoughtful when giving feedback to our subordinates— but the rewards for doing so, anyway, are dramatic and lasting.  Remember: our direct-reports know that we could get away with being brusque and heavy-handed, so the respect and empathy we display when giving feedback will be noted, welcomed and appreciated.  As we’ve said before, our goal is to minimize coachee resistance to accepting the need for change; the heart of our success is in making our constructive criticisms palatable.

And now we come to the turning point.  If, despite our best efforts, the subordinate coachee disagrees with our feedback, we clearly cannot accept a stalemate and disengage— as we might be forced to do with an unyielding client or peer.  We have a professional obligation to our sales team, our company (and to our client) to elevate our subordinates’ job performance to the highest achievable level; “failure is not an option” in this supervisory responsibility.

The unpleasant reality is that a capable, ambitious, pro-active business professional is very likely to be resistant to constructive criticism, even if it is rigorously accurate, objective, fair and relevant.  (If we’re ever going to let emotion and ego get the best of us, it’s in the face of criticisms of our selling skills.)

The challenge facing the coach is formidable: how can we move legitimately move forward to the all-important “improvement plan” phase of the coaching process when blocked by strong resistance from the coachee— without abruptly and conspicuously abandoning the genuinely consultative style with which we offered the feedback?

Our next blog addresses this question as it describes the adaptation and application of the “objection resolution” process to the coaching for improved performance model.

Successful coaching is an important element supporting innovative team selling.  Click on the underlined links that follow to read an Introduction, Testimonials, and a Free Sample Chapter of Innovative Team Selling, or to visit the Innovative Team Selling website.