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Sales reps: are you actually coachable?

Revenue Blog  > Sales reps: are you actually coachable?
5 min readDecember 21, 2020

As a sales rep, even if you receive the greatest sales coaching ever from the best coach, it could still lead to failure. That’s because there is one quality that coaching plans cannot control: the coachability of the salesperson.

It is for this reason that Richard Harris states that sales coaching starts at the hiring process.

The strategy of sales coaching has become increasingly prevalent. If you have yet to experience sales coaching firsthand, perhaps you hope that your current sales manager will implement a plan or that you will have the opportunity to join an organization that follows a sales coaching philosophy.

Coaching is proven to increase individual rep goal attainment, improve sales team performance, and lead to happier and more fulfilled reps. As a sales rep, a proper sales coaching culture significantly contributes to your career growth, personal development, learning, achievement, and overall success.

Coachable sales reps are the key to an effective sales coaching culture. Without them, progress or consistent skill improvement is random at best. Team members must be ready, willing, and able to participate in real sales coaching. But not everyone is ready for coaching. A truly coachable rep must possess an insatiable curiosity, burning desire to learn and improve, as well as humble personality.

A few days ago we were reading through some discussions on a popular sales forum, and noticed a question about how to “appear coachable.” The author said they were an underperforming sales rep. They had an upcoming one-on-one sales coaching session, and wanted to know what key words their manager wanted to hear during the meeting. The assumption is that that rep was hoping that by stating certain words or phrases, they could convince and even deceive the manager into believing that the coaching was working.

Unfortunately, this is the polar opposite approach that an underperforming rep should take. Coaching is about openness, honesty, development and ultimately each party taking responsibility for actions and improvements. To be coachable, sales reps must be prepared for an entirely different management experience.

Personal development, learning and skill growth is not always comfortable, and it’s often hard work. It’s not something that comes naturally to most people, but if you put in the effort the skills you develop will be very rewarding.

If you want to find true success through sales coaching, here are some basic qualities and traits you must instill within yourself:

Coachable sales reps are humble sales reps

Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” In the context of sales coaching, it’s important to remain humble. You may find great success or feel outclassed, regardless, you must maintain a distance from arrogance or frustration. In time, anything can change and you may find yourself in the opposite position. When you are on top, take time to help others get there as well, when you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Those who are coachable take responsibility

If you want to be coachable, it’s time to step up.

First and foremost, you need to take responsibility for yourself, your goals, and your improvement. You must wholeheartedly commit to change. You alone are the only one who can control of this crucial element, and every decision and feeling you have during the sales coaching process is yours alone.

Be willing to own and admit your shortcomings and losses, and do not blame others. You are the one in control, and if you want to be successful you must accept that there are factors to be improved and own the process of doing so.

The best sales learners are self aware

You need to be able to objectively look at your sales behaviors, feelings, and actions. In order to be truly coachable, you should look at your actions impartially and be ready and willing to wholeheartedly adopt suggestions or criticisms from others without taking them personally. Realize you may use certain tactics or act in a manner that appears different that you think. Stand back to view yourself from an external viewpoint, what sociology and communication research calls the “looking glass self,” and be aware of your behaviors and how they impact other parties. Do not take criticisms or suggestions personally or reject them before giving them a legitimate shot at success.

The most successful seek input from others

In sales coaching, it’s not enough to do a single one-on-one every week or so. Additionally, it is easy for these meetings to devolve into a standard pipeline review, so it is up to you to help keep them on track. You need to actively find and utilize feedback on your own. Whether it’s feedback from peers, analyzed conversations through a recording platform, or input from AE’s, SDR’s, and your manager, the quest for advice and real improvement has to become part of your daily activities.

To win, be truly open to feedback

For many, it is extremely hard to openly and impartially receive feedback, absorb it, and integrate it to make improvements. To truly be coachable, you must appreciate new perspectives, and not be dismissive of ideas that are not your own. If someone suggests an outlandish new tactic, or a method outside of your comfort zone, do not simply reject the idea. Give the idea the thought and time it deserves, and maybe even try it for yourself before throwing it out. You may be surprised at the results.

To make sales skill growth, you must embrace learning

To borrow from Glen Garry Glen Ross, coffee isn’t for closers, its is for learners. In the modern day with fears of many sales functions being automated away, those who will come out on top will be the continuous learners. Coaching is all about learning. It is a fundamental structure in the sales learning process. In fact, personal development for each and every rep is part of every great sales coaching plan. In order to be as coachable as possible, you must be ambitious, have a desire to be successful, and be willing to utilize all of the tools and people at your disposal to achieve it.

The most coachable salespeople accept accountability

In order to improve sales performance, you must be prepared to own the outcomes, whatever those may be. Coaching is one of those exercises where you get out of it what you put in to it. If you do the work, target your goals, and accept the skill improvement plan that your coach has for you, the results will come.

To be truly coachable, you should immediately apply directions and suggestions to your daily work, and make sure your coach can see that. Coaching will never work if you merely take suggestions but never implement them. Your managers and teammates will count on your to hold up your end of coaching. If they give legitimate suggestions, you should utilize them to the best of your ability. Your sales team will not be successful if each individual does not work to succeed.


Sales coaching is one of the most effective ways improve both sales team performance and help each individual rep achieve their goals. In fact, it provides just as many benefits to the reps themselves as it does the company. However, for it to truly succeed, each rep must be ready, willing, and able to commit.

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