Making Uncoachable Sales Reps Coachable

One common question I’m asked when I conduct sales management training sessions is about how to handle salespeople who do well selling, but are seemingly uncoachable. This is a common issue that needs to be addressed since, just as good attitudes are contagious, so are poor ones.

Whenever I’m asked this question, I always first advise looking in the mirror. As sales managers, we must always remain aware that we could be part of the problem. The way that the person has been managed, or their manager has turned their back on attitude problems, may have caused or worsened the issues that are now being faced. Conversely, if you have created a team culture in which you encourage constructive suggestions on how you can be a better manager – your team, following your lead, will be more coachable

Once you have dealt with the possibility of your own involvement in the problem, there are then six steps that can be followed to help the uncoachable become coachable.

Step 1: List the top traits for a great attitude – Make a list of the top five traits that you consider to comprise an ideal attitude. It might be wise to start by considering what your problematic people are doing wrong and list the opposite attributes that you desire from them.

Step 2: Share your list with your troublesome salesperson – When you sit down for your 1-on-1 meeting, show your salesperson the list and explain why the behaviors are important to you and the team.

Use the ignorance of your salesperson to your advantage, as those with poor attitudes are almost always blind to the flaws in their own behaviors. If you talk about the importance of the team adopting the new success attributes, your troublesome salesperson is unlikely to recognize that the discussion is aimed particularly at them and their behaviors.

Step 3:  Urge them to step into a leadership role – There is an established motivational theory which explains that, if someone gets bored with their job, the person can sometimes get motivated again by expanding their responsibilities. Asking a troubled salesperson to “step-up” to become a leader and mentor among their peers could motivate them into changing their behavior.

Step 4: Have them serve as an example – Have a meeting to share the positive attributes with the team as a whole, asking your difficult salesperson to share stories related to the attributes list you have offered. Afterwards, regularly follow up with the team to make sure that they understand how important pursuing those positive traits is to you.

Step 5: Be clear about your ongoing expectations – Sometimes people need to be given recognition in regards to their special skills, while other times they need to all be treated equally. Manage this aspect of your team appropriately and make sure that they understand your expectations in terms of their behavior, attitudes, and results.

Step 6: Be ready to escalate as needed – Make sure that you have considered both the positive consequences of changed behavior as well as the negative consequences of not changing, and clearly communicate them so the salesperson will have needed motivation to change.

Always remember, success isn’t only about the numbers. I always tell participants in my sales coaching training that the way something is done matters as well. Your troublesome salesperson is a role model, good or bad, someone from whom other team members will learn from. Confront the issue now, and turn the situation into your favor.


Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is now available on here.

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.

1 thought on “Making Uncoachable Sales Reps Coachable”

  1. I really like your post Kevin. The tips are easy to follow and # 3 interest me. It has never dawned on me that it could be a tool to use. Thank you for this.

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