Chuck Noll was the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969-1991, leading them to four Super Bowl wins (more than any other coach) and nine AFC championships during that time. Noll was the youngest NFL head coach in history when he took over in 1969, but he showed great talent for choosing to draft players of exceptional quality, including the league’s first African-American starting quarterback Joe Gilliam and first Super Bowl MVP winner Franco Harris.
Chuck Noll had many strengths as a coach. He would often take players back to the fundamentals and correct small mistakes in their techniques that would enable them to play even more exceptionally than before. He was an excellent teacher who would write detailed descriptions of plays and techniques for his players to study.
Noll also held his players accountable and didn’t let them get away with doing any less than their best. “Whatever it takes,” became a Noll-ism in the 1970s as the Steelers won championship after championship. Noll was quiet and didn’t demand a lot of attention for himself, but he was elected into the Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Noll didn’t make the mistake of playing into preconceived notions about who could be a great football player. He gave everyone a chance – evaluating their attitude and willingness to do what it took to be at the top of their game.
Equal Opportunity Sales Coaching
Our Quadrant Coaching Method is similar to Chuck Noll’s approach to coaching. It outlines a method for giving each of your team members an equal opportunity to be coached – but it also takes into account their desire and their willingness to improve.
Taking this firm but fair approach allows sales coaches to optimize their valuable time, while giving every team member an equal opportunity for productive coaching sessions.
Developing the Wrong People
Think about it this way:
Who is responsible for improving sales effectiveness – you or your rep?
Obviously you are responsible for the overall results of your team… but are you responsible for a rep’s willingness to improve? Absolutely not.
Here’s a critical principle for effective sales coaching: desire determines development. When you grasp this, it will not only shift the primary burden of change to your reps but will ultimately save you countless hours of wasted time spent trying to develop the wrong people.
The truth is, most sales managers are coaching the wrong people. There is a common belief among leadership that everyone on the team needs to be coached. This is not the case. If one of your sales reps does not want to improve their selling skills, to “master their craft,” you cannot force them to.
It’s like that old adage: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
Coaching does not equal managing. We define coaching as observing behavior, aligning on what needs to be developed, and then practicing. Sales coaching is all about skill development – and if someone does not want to improve their skills, coaching them is a waste of time (both yours and theirs).
As our CEO, Tom Stanfill, says, “Desire is the key that opens the door to a coaching session.”
Desire Determines Development
Change is difficult – it takes work. When a rep doesn’t have the desire to do the difficult work required to reach a new level of performance, sales coaching is futile. Desire, not talent or skill, is the only ticket required to enter a coaching session.
The responsibility of the sales coach/ manager is to be prepared and available – but if the rep is unwilling to put in the effort to improve, what’s the point?
And that means more than just going through the motions. A very common question that comes in here is: “How do I know if my reps have the desire?” The answer is simple: effort. Do they do the work you assign them?
You have to see real, tangible effort.
Summing It Up
Equal opportunity doesn’t mean wasting time with people who don’t have the willingness to improve and learn. To quote Chuck Noll, sales coaches who are willing to do “whatever it takes” will inspire the same attitude in their sales team members with open minds and the desire to succeed.
When they demonstrate effort and willingness to learn, give them your coaching time. Until then, they’re on the bench.
If you found this blog helpful and want to go deeper into the concepts we covered, check out our new book, UnReceptive, at unreceptivebook.com.