Four Sales Coaching Styles

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Consistently using the right sales coaching style facilitates the development of a high performance sales culture. The Coaching Style Model examined in the ASTD Sales Coaching for Business Impact Certificate uses two “lenses” to view and evaluate sales rep behavior:

  • Ability: Describes the learned and innate selling competence of the sales person being coached
  • Motivation: Describes the level of need to help get the sales rep emotionally engaged.


When a sales professional’s situation is difficult to evaluate, focus first on the observed (Primary) emotional engagement in the situation. Then examine the next most observable (Secondary) behavior. 

This approach is helpful because it gauges the level of willingness—whether the sales rep is open to being coached.  With observation, a clearer picture and a more accurate assessment will emerge over time on how best to coach the individual.

Here’s a closer look at the four coaching styles highlighted in the model.


This coaching style is used with the sales rep with a Low Ability and a High Need to be motivated.  With a telling approach, the sales manager or leader should ask fewer questions during coaching but provide more direction.


Your bottom line approach as a coach is to help people in this situation experience success in the task as quickly as possible, so they don’t lose motivation. The important thing to remember is that the coach should stay around to observe how well the individual follows directions. Then the sales manager can provide motivation and feedback based on what he observes. Remember: Simply giving directions to a sales rep and then leaving them alone is not coaching.


This coaching style is used for the sales rep with a Moderate Ability and a Significant Need to be motivated. An explaining approach requires the coaching conversation to be much more two-way. There should be plenty of “give and take” dialogue between the coach and the rep to ensure that success can be sustainable and repeatable.


This coaching style is used for the sales professional with a Significant Ability and a Moderate Need for motivation. An encouraging approach means that the rep is quite able to do the job, but there is a need to increase the sales rep’s confidence and motivation so she can more frequently experience success on her own.



This coaching style is used for the individual with a High Ability and a Low Need for motivation. With an empowering coaching style be sure not to assume that the already high-performing professional doesn’t need coaching involvement just because he is already very accomplished. 

Instead, the sales manager should still stay close enough to that high performer to credibly observe, motivate, and provide on-going feedback so that high performer knows you know what they’re up to. 

With this approach, the manager should consider actions that help the sales rep identify obstacles to achieve even greater sales success. The sales coach also can focus on creating a more fulfilling sales career path for that high performer.

Bottom line

By using the right coaching style and approach with the right sales professional, a sales leader “wearing the hat of sales coach” can further broaden her ability to motivate and engage a sales team to achieve even greater levels of sustainable results and sales excellence.

To learn more, join us for our next ASTD Sales Coaching for Business Impact Certificate on September 29-30, 2014, in Alexandria, Virginia.  

About the Author

Mark is a facilitator, trainer and executive coach who has been working with clients world-wide since 1995.  Specializing in sales and leadership development, team development and managing personal change, Mark’s thirty five years of corporate experience includes being a thrice certified professional coach.  Mark has coached executives, sales professionals and leaders in the transportation, information technology, communications and financial services industries to name just a few. Mark is an acclaimed professional facilitator, speaker with five patents pending in the field of organizational culture transformation Mark established a sales training curriculum for professional hires coming into IBM’s Global Services organization.  This required hiring and training a team of instructors and staff to deliver an expanded and accelerated new hire curriculum that trained 1200 professionals annually. This resulted in over $55 million dollars of incremental revenue to the North America organization alone. He was also was the Leadership Portfolio Executive supporting IBM’s Global Services organization.  This entailed identifying, selecting and marketing a robust portfolio of educational offerings in the leadership and relationship fields and becoming certified as an executive coach with a number of IBM C-suite executive clients. As Client Relationship Manager for a leadership development organization, Mr. Meredith delivered an executive development curriculum for a number of different organizations companies including BellSouth, American Express Financial Services, Boeing - McDonnell Douglas, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. He also provided executive development for a number of senior executives ensuring that a multi-million dollar worldwide training budget was prudently invested and executed for over fifty-five thousand employees of a large IT services provider.   Mark was chosen by a large outsourcing provider to facilitate a major culture change initiative for over two hundred leaders and three thousand employees spread over seventeen states. Results to-date includes customer satisfaction improving seven points and employee morale increasing ten percent A graduate of San Jose State University, Mark is a certified Hay McBer executive coach and certified by the Coaches Training Institute. Mark stays busy with community and charitable activities as well as running a successful consulting and coaching practice located in the metropolitan Atlanta Georgia area.

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