Coaching Your Salespeople off Plateaus


Two primary culprits lie at the root of why a salesperson stalls out. Here’s how coaching can help them get back on track and hit their numbers again.

By Mike Fisher
Originally published on the SellingPower.com Blog

It happens to nearly every sales manager at some point. One of your most consistent salespeople reaches a plateau and just can’t seem to get past it. The goals you’ve set for them should be attainable, but you hear excuses and their activity starts to fall off. “That won’t work in my territory,” they tell you.

As their manager, you start to wonder, Is that all there is?

The good news is, in most cases, the salesperson is absolutely capable of moving off that plateau. But the excuses and the decline in activity aren’t what the real issue is. Like the “check engine” light in your car, they’re the indicator that something else is wrong.

In our work, we frequently see two primary culprits that lie at the root of why a salesperson stalls out: self-limiting beliefs and a lack of goal clarity. Coaching your people around these two areas can help them release their inner achievement drive so they can get back on track and hit their numbers again.

Self-sabotaging Self-talk

Over the course of our lives, we all develop belief boundaries – defining for ourselves what we can and can’t do. Someone freezes up on a quiz in grade school and decides, from that point on, they’re not a good test taker. A manager sets a goal that’s beyond anything a salesperson has achieved in the past, and they tell themselves, “No way – I can’t do that.”

No matter how much someone knows (intellectually) what they’re supposed to do, that self-talk works against them – looking for ways to prove they can’t do it. Any obstacle is a sign: “See, I told you so.” In essence, they’ve programmed their goal seeking mechanism to achieve negative results.

When you hear arguments or excuses, it’s an indicator that you’re pushing up against that person’s comfort zones. They can move past that plateau and achieve more, but their belief boundary is telling them they can’t. It’s your job as a coach to help them recognize their self-talk is just talk. It does not reflect what they’re really capable of.

  • Focus on activities, not results. Coach salespeople to do the activities that will drive the results they want, and reward and recognize the effort rather than the result. The salesperson can’t control whether someone buys, but can control whether to make the call. When the skills are there, activity will build confidence and expand their belief boundaries as the effort begins to pay off.

Lack of Goal Clarity

People often say, “You can’t teach achievement drive,” and that’s true. But everyone has achievement drive within them; it just lies dormant until they have goal clarity.

That’s where great sales coaches come in. They see more in their salespeople than the salespeople see in themselves. When salespeople don’t think they can do it, sales coaches show them they can.

As a sales manager, you have the opportunity to be that person for your salespeople. Once salespeople are clear about what they’re trying to accomplish, and why, they can come up with a plan to get over the obstacles. The “why” that goal clarity provides is an essential self-motivator. If you have the “why,” you’ll figure out the “how.”

  • Support, don’t assign. Never tell them what you can ask them. You can ask, “How do you think we can reach a 20 percent increase?” Let them share their beliefs. There is much deeper buy-in if it is their idea. This releases achievement drive to make it happen. Coach them and hold them accountable, but let them own the goal.

By nudging salespeople out of their comfort zones, expanding their belief boundaries, and helping them take ownership of their success, you’ll not only help them hit their numbers; you’ll change their view of what’s possible.

To get the full results from Integrity Solutions’ 2018 research on sales coaching effectiveness and its impact on organizational performance, see our Research Brief.


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