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Sales Leadership
Sep 8, 2014 | The Canadian Professional Sales Association lock

No matter the company they are employed by, sales managers across all industries, face the same frustrations when coaching their sales team. Challenges frequently involve employees who are unwilling to accept criticism or make changes to the way they conduct business.

In most instances, employees simply lack the listening skills needed to comprehend their instructions or fail to understand the directions they have been given. Let’s look at how to approach an employee resistant to criticism, in addition to exploring the changes a sales manager can make to ensure their coaching is more effective.  

Speaking With an Employee Unable to Accept Criticism

While constructive criticism is often a tactic used by sales managers to train their sales team, it is not uncommon for a sales manager to have an employee who is simply unable to handle criticism, in any form. Nonetheless, there are steps you can take during the coaching process to make this situation easier.

1. It should go without saying that place, time, and tone can have a significant impact on your conversation. You should always offer criticism in a private location, at the beginning of the work day. While it can be tempting to put your conversation off until the end of the day, doing so leaves the employee dwelling on your comments. Speaking in the morning, gives both the sales manager and the salesperson an opportunity to work through challenges head on at the moment of highest tension.

2. When you do speak with the employee, be sure to maintain a friendly and even tone, even if your employee becomes upset. This could potentially prevent an unpleasant confrontation.

3. Start with positive statements. In all likelihood, your employee has several positive attributes.  Begin by sharing them with him or her to soften the upcoming criticism. For example, commending an employee’s punctuality and enthusiasm for securing new clients may make it easier to discuss his or her subpar customer service.
4. Limit the amount of criticism you present at one time. Your employee will almost certainly become discouraged if you present a long list of concerns. Present several, allow time for change, and then present additional issues.

5. Make precise, not generalized statements. For example, don’t tell an employee you think he or she is lazy. Give examples like, "You consistently put things off to the last minute," or "You pass work off to co-workers at any given opportunity."

6. Be honest, but not brutally so. Don’t sugar-coat your problems or leave some out entirely simply to prevent a confrontation. Explain to your employee that everyone has ways in which they could improve and that positive criticism presents the opportunity for positive changes that can make them more successful in the sales field.

Tips on Coaching the Uncoachable

Coaching an employee or group of employees on a daily basis can be difficult, but it can be done.  Consider the following tips when trying to mould a sales team that is unwilling to accept your suggestions and feedback.

1. Look for a possible root cause to your team’s attitude. It’s much easier to begin making changes when you are aware of the problem area, such as overall pessimistic outlook or a fear of failure.

2. Find a balance. If you are pushing too hard and are viewed as an unapproachable authority figure, you could easily alienate employees, making them appear uncoachable in your eyes. Of course, there are also individuals who need a demanding figure for successful coaching. Adjust your attitude and approach as needed.

3. Create a reachable vision that your employees can adapt to and work towards. Discuss the impact, both positive and negative, that your coaching can have on your employee’s success. Explain how it can help them achieve their goals as well as how not following the guidelines can hinder their accomplishments. 

4. Don’t overstep your coaching role or micromanage. A large part of coaching involves providing employees with the tools they need to achieve their objectives and then stepping back so they develop and implement a plan for doing so.

5. Utilize two-way communication and feedback. Offer more than one way of meeting targets and/ or examining the big picture. Make certain to focus on what your employee is saying, so that you can correctly understand their concerns.

While it may not be quick or easy, it is possible to turn an uncoachable sales team into one that welcomes your feedback. Utilize the above tips, so you can turn your ineffective coaching technique into the key to success.

About the Canadian Professional Sales Association
Since 1874, we’ve been developing and serving sales professionals by providing programs, benefits, and resources that help you sell more, and sell smarter.
Contact us today at or 1-888-267-2772 to see how we can help you and your team reach new heights in sales success.

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