I have had a number of discussions lately about how much you can prescribe or direct salespeople that are already succeeding at a high level. The concern is that by prescribing or directing them, these salespeople will be offended by suggestions that they take some new action or try on some new belief. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Seeking the Edge

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the top 20 percent are coachable. It only makes sense. If the bottom 80 percent were coachable, they wouldn’t be in the bottom 80 percent for long.

Almost all of the top producers that I know are always seeking an edge. They’re always looking for a new idea, a new approach, or a new way to create value for their clients. They want some edge that will allow them to produce even greater results, and they are open to trying new things to get those results.

Because they are open to trying new things, including trying on new beliefs, they are coachable. They are open to discussing what they do now, and they are open to discussing how they might be more effective. They can abandon some of the things they do to try new things.

This group of top producers is interested in learning about what other people are doing that is succeeding for them. They want to learn.

They are coachable because they continue to seek an edge, even when they are already doing well. They are paranoid about falling behind. They don’t want to miss something that might allow them keep their place atop the leader’s board.

When you work with this group of salespeople, they are engaged, they ask questions, and they seek answers as to how to apply new thinking and new actions. They aren’t offended by ideas. The best salespeople will try a prescribed course of action, and they are very open to directive coaching—especially when they believe it will help them get an edge. Because this is true, they are coachable. Mostly.

But there is a small subset of the top 20-percenters that isn’t coachable.

The Other Side of Paranoid

This small subset of uncoachable top 20-percenters is petrified of new ideas, new actions, and new beliefs. It’s not that they don’t believe that the new idea might be valid, or that they can’t take the new action, or that they don’t want to try on the new belief. Mostly, they are afraid that they won’t be as successful as they are now because they will be losing some part of the magic that is allowing them to succeed.

They don’t want to lose what might be their edge.

This small, paranoid group of top 20-percenters is superstitious and worries that they will lose ground if they make any changes. They think: “What I am doing is already working. Why would I risk not doing it anymore?” They worry: “What if I try something and it doesn’t work? I will have lost.”

If you manage these salespeople, it’s important that you help them to understand how they can try new ideas in a way that eases their concerns about losing what already works. If you are one of these salespeople, it’s tough to consider trying new things when things work for you, but it’s important to remember that what allows you to succeed now may not in the future. That’s why it’s important to keep learning, and to keep pursuing whatever may give you an edge.


Is it your experience that the best salespeople are coachable and open to new ideas, or do you find that they are generally opposed to new ideas?

Why do top producers continually look for an edge?

What makes you coachable or uncoachable?

Do you easily accept new ideas and new beliefs that might help you to succeed, or do you have to be persuaded?

Is it worth taking some risks to continue to find ways to improve your sales results even if you are already doing well?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 8, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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