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Coachable: How To Be a Coachable Salesperson

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
November 3, 2010

My friend and partner, Dave Brock at Partners in Excellence, wrote a post two days ago entitled Are You Coachable? If You Aren’t, You Won’t Make It! There is no reason that you need to let the horror story that is Dave’s post happen to you or someone you love.

Great performers in sales are always open to new ideas and new actions that will give them edge and take their performance to a higher level. They are always seeking an edge, and they are eminently coachable.

Here is how they do it and what you need to know to be coachable.

Be Open to Having Your Beliefs Challenged

Being coachable means being open to having your beliefs challenged. Unhealthy belief systems prevent salespeople from producing the results that they are otherwise capable of producing.

Your coach is going to ask you questions designed to challenge what you believe. They are not challenging your beliefs because they are trying to be hard on you, or because they don’t think you aren’t good enough or smart enough. They challenge your beliefs because they need to help you understand what it is you believe, and how those beliefs are failing you.

For you to be coachable, you need to understand why your beliefs are being challenged, and not to entrench yourself deeper into your existing belief system by defending the status quo. Instead, your role in being coachable requires that you remain open to exploring what you believe and having those beliefs challenged.

Be Open to Changing Your Beliefs

Once you have identified your beliefs, you have to be open to changing them. Being coachable requires you to participate in indentifying and adopting healthier belief systems. This isn’t easy.

If you have had long held beliefs, you have more than likely shared those beliefs widely. Embracing new ideas is going to call attention to the huge discrepancy between what you have long vocalized as being right and what you now believe. Embrace it!

Being wrong about something and changing your beliefs is the ultimate sign of growth, even if it is a belief that you have long held as truth and for years defended. If you haven’t been wrong about something important and changed your mind about it in the last 3 months, you’re not open to learning and you are not open to changing your beliefs.

Be Willing To Take New Actions

Being willing to take new actions helps to make you coachable.

The new beliefs you adopt need to take life in new actions and new behaviors. Your coach is going to challenge you to identify the new actions that you need to take based on your new beliefs. Your old beliefs had you running some of the same plays over and over again; your coach is going to challenge you to run new plays.

You have to be willing to take a leap of faith and try some new things. Even when it is uncomfortable, and even when you fear taking them. The new actions you take are going to stretch you, and they are going to be uncomfortable for a while.

Even if you are skeptical as to the new beliefs you need to adopt, jumping into the deep end of the pool as if you did believe with all your heart can go a long way towards making you coachable.

Be Willing to Give New Actions Time

Your new actions are going to take some to time get used to. They aren’t going to be comfortable, and they aren’t going to be all that effective at first. Just like any other endeavor over which you have gained some mastery, at first your poor results are the result of a lack of competence on your part. And like the other endeavors you are good at, the more you practice, the more your competence grows.

You cannot try something once and then abandon it and realize any level of success. Being coachable means that you have to not only give the new actions an honest effort, you have to be willing to give the new actions, and the new beliefs on which they are based, time to take hold.

If the new action you are taking fails the first one hundred and fifty times you try it, know that it isn’t that the belief is wrong or the action is wrong. It is more likely that you haven’t yet gained the competency, and that you haven’t given it enough time.

If this frustrates you, let me remind you that you have held your unhealthy beliefs for far longer, and that you have taken the old actions that have not served you thousands of times. Hang in there, kid! It gets better.

Be willing to give new actions more time than you expect and more time than you are comfortable with.

Be Willing to Be Held Accountable

Your coach is going to ask you about what you did and about the results. They are going to hold you accountable for taking the actions that you committed to take. She is going to ask you about your actions in a way that challenges you about whether or not you are committed enough to your new beliefs to act on them.

You will let your coach down and you will backslide. You will try to rush back into the comfort of your old beliefs and your old actions (they got you lousy results, but, hey, at least you were comfortable there). Your coach is going to hold you accountable and gently—or sometimes, not so gently—nudge back towards healthier beliefs, better actions, and keeping your commitments to both.

It feels uncomfortable being held accountable when you don’t keep your end of the bargain. It is supposed to.

Being coachable means dropping the defensiveness, discontinuing the avoidance, and being accountable. You made the commitment to try, you need to man up and try.


    1. How open are you to having your longest and most firmly held beliefs challenged? When they are challenged, do you automatically defend them? What would you have to do to be more open to having your beliefs challenged?

    1. Ask yourself this: “What does it mean if I am wrong?’

    1. How open are you to adopting new beliefs? Can you think of any you have acquired in, say, the last three months? Are you open to new evidence, new ideas, or new interpretations?

    1. Ask yourself this: “What new beliefs should I be adopting?”

    1. How do you breath life into your new beliefs? What actions can you take to put your beliefs into action? Can you learn to enjoy the discomfort of learning something new, of being inept, of being an amateur? Are you willing to give your new actions the time and effort it takes to for you to gain enough competency in them to be able to judge their effectiveness?

    1. Are you willing to be held accountable? Can you stand up to being asked without becoming defensive or avoiding the tough questions? Can you look your own failures in the eye and improve them over time?

  1. Do you really just hate having your own failure to keep the promises that you make to yourself brought out into the light?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

Read my Blogs.com featured guest post on the Top Ten Sales blogs.

Read my monthly post on Sales Bloggers Union.

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 3, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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