Everyone needs coaching. I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog talking about coaching as key to driving performance in sales people.

I’ve written extensively about directive and non-directive coaching–focusing on non-directive as the most impactful in helping sales people learn and grow.

Effective coaching is really a shared learning experience between the manager and the person being coached. Ideally, the manager learns more about their people when they coach. The sales person learns how to think about what they are doing and how to be more effective–whether we are coaching deal, account, territory management, prospecting, or pipeline skills. Or we are helping them think about their long term development, or helping them develop their abilities to work more effectively with their team.

We know practices that are ineffective in coaching. Not paying attention, not listening, not taking the time to coach are, perhaps, the biggest errors. Telling them what to do is pretty ineffective, they don’t learn anything–and most people feel resentful about this (often they do exactly the opposite, just out of spite).

Coaching is one of the most important things in driving high impact performance improvement with our people. We want to help them think differently about what they do and how they perform. We leverage coaching to help them understand, embrace, and implement change.

Now let’s shift gears a little, let’s think about our customers and their development. Like sales people, they face rapid change, disruption, challenges, and opportunities. Now they are facing issues they have never experienced before.

As they look at solutions, they face another challenge, an overwhelming amount of information about how to address their challenges. And the majority of it is high quality information. They struggle with sorting through and “making sense” of these choices, and moving forward.

Customers need help. They aren’t so much looking for the answers, they recognize they have to figure out the best approaches for them. But they are looking for help sorting things out, making sure they are thinking about the right issues, risks, challenges. They need help in determining what’s most important, or how to look at things differently than they have before. They need help in re-thinking what they do and how they do it.

They need “coaching.” Of course they will get some from their own management. But those managers face many of the same challenges their people face. They are dealing with things they have little experience with.

Where do our customers turn to get coached?

It’s a huge opportunity for sales people! Who better to coach them, after all we have the experience of working with many other customers solving similar issues. Our companies have the collective experience of working with thousands of customers.

We can do a lot to help our customers learn and think differently. We can do a huge amount in helping make sense of the things they face. But only if we apply the approaches of high impact coaching. If we examine the foundations of things like Challenger or Consultative selling, we see they are really built on coaching approaches. We know the skills high impact sales people leverage are just the same as coaching–collaborative conversations, shared learning, active listening, caring about the success of their customers.

Where does this break down? It breaks down in the same way bad/no coaching breaks down: We don’t do it, we don’t care, we are constantly telling/pitching, we don’t take the time to understand the situation and what customers face, we aren’t qualified……

Just as our people look for and get great value out of high impact coaching, our customers are doing the same thing. If we aren’t providing that leadership, who is?