Great Coaches are Equal to Top Sales Performers – by Leanne Hoagland Smith

Top sales performers know “telling ain’t selling,” but “selling is telling.” This adage can be equally shared by great coaches because they never tell.

During the past decade coaching has become a multi-billion dollar industry and a proven development process to increase individual as well as team performance. No longer are coaches relegated to athletes.

One of the best definitions of what coaching is comes from the Resource Associates Corporation, Reading, PA  in which the coaching role is defined as:

“The role of the coach is not to provide answers or solutions (tell). It is to help you develop the potential that lies within you so that you can increase your capability to overcome all obstacles and achieve all of your goals.”

Additionally, effective (think great) coaching shares these common characteristics:

  • Focused
  • Goal-directed
  • Revelatory
  • Empowering
  • Authentic
  • Holistic
  • Responsive
  • Synergistic
  • Experiential
  • Transformational

Note: In full disclosure, I have been an affiliate of Resource Associates for nearly 20 years and have permission to quote from its curriculum.

Great coaches not only understand how people learn and how people change their behaviors. These are the subtle sales skills consistently employed by top sales performers.

Self-Directed Learning (Mastery)

These individuals both coaches and salespeople are always engaged in self-directed learning from understanding market forces to individual industry challenges. To be able to unlock the potential from the inside out, does demand mastery of not only the coaching process, but mastery of what is happening within a particular industry or role.

Proven Coaching Process (Autonomy)

Just as top sales performers utilize a proven sales process, effective and results driven executive coaches, business coaches or sales coaches also employ a process. For many, myself included, this process begins with an assessment because any prescription (solution) without diagnosis (assessment) is malpractice. This assessment process is similar to the sales skill of fact finding.

A proven coaching process provides the foundational for continual improvement. It allows for course corrections as within a proven sales process.

By being proven allows for replication and therefore sustainable results. This process also encourages personal autonomy by the “coachee” as the only person who can make real change is the “coachee.”

People Driven (Relatedness to Other People)

Coaching is 100% people centered. The reason people hire a salesperson is to sell his or her solution to others. To be able to sell requires being able to relate to people.

With coaching as with sales, the first person to know is you and then you must lead you. You cannot lead others until you learn how to lead yourself.

In sales, people buy you first before they buy your company, your solutions, your price or your delivery. This is just as true within coaching. You must first buy you before others can buy you. To achieve this requires a balance between ego and self-confidence.

The reason coaches are hired is to improve overall performance with other people. For example, how can this executive or manager better communicate with others to drive the team’s performance to that next level?

In this title I wrote great coaches are equal to top sales performers. I did not write great coaches are the same as top sales performers because how the skill sets are applied are quite different.

A top sales performer may not be a great coach nor may a great coach be a top sales performer. Both share similar traits and both utilize the Theory of Self-Determination (Mastery, Autonomy and Relatedness).

The most common shared trait is both do not tell. They create environments where the sales lead or coachee tells. Through quiet insight, they offer suggestions and guidance.

Two Principles of Human Behavior

#1 -No one wants to be sold.

#2 – No one wants to be told what to do.

Top sales performers and great coaches understand these two principles of human behavior. They bring together their understanding of human behavior and apply it through thoughtful, predetermined conversations. Some would call this emotional intelligence. By investing the time for reflection, top sales performers and coaches anticipate potential obstacles, barriers and limitations. Their conversations appear to flow seamlessly. They rarely give the appearance of being “stuck” by a surprised comment.

Marcel Proust wrote “The true voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.When we recognize the shared similarities between top sales performers and great coaches, possibly we can realize (see) even far more achievements for both people and organizations.


Leanne Hoagland-Smith is Trusted Authority for Forward Thinking sales culture. She works to challenge the status quo by closing the knowing doing leadership and strategy gaps that restrict sustainable growth for individuals and organizations.. Give her a call at 219.508.2859 Chicago USA time to end your repetitive symptoms and gain sustainable results. Leanne is also available for keynotes and onsite workshops. Follow her at her WebsiteBlogTwitter, and LinkedIn.


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