Modern coaching programs are consistent, measurable, and tactical — but what are the key components of an evolved, forward-thinking 1:1 conversation? How can a sales leader better prepare to lead their teams to individual and team victory? What are the need-to-know-now coaching tactics that sales leaders can implement immediately to see results? 

At our Ambition Customer Summit this fall, we hosted a panel of sales experts who answered all of these questions and more. Ambition co-founder and CRO, Jared Houghton, moderated our guests:

  • Doug Landis, Partner, Emergence Capital
  • Larry Long, Director of Collegiate Sales, Teamworks
  • Richard Thornton, Senior Manager Ticket Sales, Atlanta Braves
  • Catie Ivey Coutinho, Regional VP Sales, Demandbase

Here’s a summary of their discussion about installing the right leaders, growing existing teams, and guiding every rep to success.


Question: What does it mean to be a modern sales coach? 

Our panel came to a very quick consensus: modern sales coaching starts and ends with caring deeply about your team. Show that you believe in them even more deeply than they believe in themselves.

When it comes to philosophy and methodology, we often hear a lot of discussion (and strong opinions) around directive and non-directive coaching. Our panelists agreed that there isn't one right way to coach. To get the best out of your players, it's usually about striking a balance between the two.

The key is taking an individualized approach because every rep is different. For example: your younger, more inexperienced reps may be more insecure and, for lack of a better word, perhaps more fragile. While a seasoned rep may be able to hear and leverage direct feedback, you may need to soften or adjust your approach for a newer employee. 

Question: How does a sales coaching mentality differ from a manager mentality? 

To be clear: “manage” is not a dirty word. There are a lot of things under the domain of a sales leader that must be managed on a daily basis: meetings, calendars, projects, data. If we stop managing altogether, organization and structure will go out the window.

But through the lens of modern sales coaching, people are one thing that shouldn’t be managed. People should be coached.

How do you shift away from the manager mentality when it comes to your team? Our panelists said it helps to ask questions versus spoon-feed direction. The idea is that you’ll ultimately teach your reps self-awareness, so they can recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and adjust accordingly.

Question: How do you build a culture of coachability?

Our panelists agreed that when it comes to coachability, hiring is key. You want people on your team who understand that there’s always room to improve; there’s always a “next level” to aspire to. And then, they have to have the ambition and motivation to get there.

Of course, you can’t expect them to do it alone, but you must have employees who are willing and able to put in the work. 

Once you have the right team in place, there are ways to nurture that culture of coachability on your sales floor. A huge piece of that is demonstrating that you’re personally invested in the success of every rep. 

Catie suggested helping your reps identify their own “superpower.” In other words: what are the unique skills or strengths that each person brings to the team? Unique is the key word here; showing that they deliver value to the team that no one else can replicate instills a level of confidence that they’ve probably never experienced. It also creates a layer of accountability: they'll understand how and why their team needs them. 

Richard added that a culture of coachability goes hand-in-hand with a culture of trust. And trust goes both ways: your team needs to trust you just as much as you trust them. Again, a big piece of that is showing that you’re invested in them; but it’s also showing a level of vulnerability and transparency about your own limitations. 

Richard said one of the most powerful things he can do as a coach is demonstrate that he's not actually an expert in all things; if his rep has a question and he knows someone else on his team could answer it just as well (or perhaps even better), then Richard will send his rep in that direction. It seems like a small thing, but it can go a long way in strengthening your relationships with your reps and deepening their respect for you as a leader.

Want to hear more about modern sales coaching? Watch the whole video below!


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