Top Attributes of Sales Leaders #6: Coaching Adaptability

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Coach the whole personalityI’ve already written quite a bit about coaching. For example, here, and here, and here. Oh, and here. Probably some other places, too. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of coaching. I think coaching is critical to good leadership — and by coaching, a mean as distinct from commanding (though that’s important, too), and certainly as distinct from managing.

It should come as now surprise then, that I’m very happy to find coaching on the list of top attributes of sales leaders. I was extra happy to discover that, even though I’ve written about the importance of coaching extensively, Martin hit on a particular aspect that I haven’t really covered before: coaching adaptability.

Great sales leaders understand that there is a diversity of selling styles by which salespeople can achieve success. Therefore, they don’t employ a one-size-fits-all coaching style. — Steve W. Martin

A great sales team is all about the people. And while certainly great sales people will have some traits in common, it’s also true that they’re very different. That’s why they’re sales people, not sales robots. As a coach, it’s critical that you adapt your style to give each member of your team what he or she needs. People respond to different motivational tactics differently — and even one individual will respond to tactics differently in different situations and at different times. It’s critical that you be able to read your people, and give them what they need.

If you google “how to coach different personalities” you’ll find that much has been written on this. Unfortunately, it’s largely all predicated upon knowing the personality type of your employees. And what are you going to do, sit down and give them a Myers Briggs? And even if you did, how does that help with hour-to-hour fluctuations in mood?

This is one of those skills that, while you can learn the basics from a textbook, really needs to be learned in practice. What that means is, you need to teach yourself; and to do that, you need to pay attention. As you start off on your sales management career, spend some time every day to sit and think through your interactions. If you’re the analytical sort, maybe even make a chart. If you’re a verbal thinker, maybe keep a journal. But no matter what, spend the time to actively ponder what you said, what they said, and what the reaction was. And come back and review it a day, 2 days, and a week later. See if the advice you’re giving is having the desired impact. If it’s not, change it.

This is definitely way more art than science, but if you put some effort into it, you can develop this critical skill much more quickly than you would if you just let it evolve on its own.