February 23, 2014

The Joy of Coaching Confident Top Performers Who are Always Looking to Improve

I love almost every aspect of what I do in my business. But beyond all, my absolute favorite thing is getting to work with top-producing sales stars. Don’t get me wrong; they’re not always easy. Many are demanding, high-maintenance and supremely confident in their approach. And all of them are incredibly selfish with their time. Yet, it’s always an absolute joy and privilege coaching top performers. Here’s why:

Top Performers are confident and open to coaching. One of my biggest surprises in helping sales leaders and sales teams is that it’s the top producers who tend to be most open  to input. As opposed to those in the middle or the bottom of the pack who are often insecure about their approach to selling and resistant to coaching, it’s those at the top of the heap who most welcome a fresh set of eyes and outside perspective.

Top Performers are willing to work hard. Those on top not only listen to input, but put it to use. Even more telling, because of their consistent higher-levels of activity, top producers always have something new to talk about –  whether it’s a new opportunity, new challenge or a new dynamic they’re experiencing from trying a new approach I’ve suggested.

Top Performers are always looking for a competitive edge. The top dogs are always asking about what other top producers are doing. They are a magnet for best practices. They invest in themselves and take responsibility for their own development. And they force me to raise my own game, too.

 Top Performers are not complacent. They’re never satisfied and continually looking for how they increase their lead over the rest of the pack. Many top producers habitually check the company’s sales reports or rankings, even when they’re far ahead of everyone else. And it follows that they push their coach for harder feedback and more ideas.

Top Performers don’t say “you can’t help me because you’re not from our industry/business.” Weak players often throw out two quick smoke screens as a defense mechanism. I often hear either a)  you don’t know our business, or b) you don’t understand, this is a relationship business from those under performers who aren’t pleased their company has engaged a consultant/coach to take a look at the sales team. It’s predicable and quite amusing. For the record, the top producing salespeople never say that — because they know better, and because they’re secure in their standing (see points above).

Top Performers get the most out of coaching and are the most appreciative of the help. This one’s as counterintuitive as it gets. It’s the top people who typically benefit the most from outside help and demonstrate the greatest improvement in results. My dad, who’s forgotten more about sales management than I ever hope to know, tried to explain this to me when I was a rookie manager. He would say that it’s not the power coming from the power company that makes the difference, it’s the wattage of the bulb. He drilled it into me that most managers make the mistake of over-investing in their bottom performers at the expense of the top producers. His point has proved to be true, time and time again. It’s the top people who do the most with the coaching offered to them and go on to produce even greater results.

To the top producers who I’ve been privileged to work with over the past several years, thank you! You know who you are and I appreciate the inspiration you provided for this post.

To those of you who may be struggling a bit or looking to take your sales game up a few notches, can I ask you to re-read the characteristics of top performers listed above. My challenge would be to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you’ve been open to change, input from others and coaching, or, like so many, you’ve been actively resisting it.