Skill vs. Will Sales Coaching Part III: Tapping Into Your Team’s Potential

This is part 3 in the “Skill vs. Will Sales Coaching Series.” Read part 1 here and 2 here

In parts 1 and 2 of this blog series, we’ve looked at using skill vs. will to analyze your team and introduced some of the personality traits you might come across. Now, in part III, we get to the meat of it: Given this knowledge, how do you manage your salespeople?

Tapping into Your Team’s Potential

Imagine you’re a VP of Sales with 4 direct reports. Based on conversations and working with these people, here’s where they land on the skill vs. will matrix:

Team's Potential

Charlie Johnson (QI, High-Skill, High-Will) 

(taken from part 2)

  • Ambitious
  • Skilled
  • Confident
  • Reliable
  • Passionate
  • Leads by example
  • Difficult to recruit & retain

Core coaching tactic: Delegate Responsibility

Charlie has the combination of skill and will you’re looking for and he’s not motivated purely by compensation, but opportunities to grow and advance in his role. The challenge for Charlie isn’t so much improving performance, it’s helping him stay on an upward career trajectory. A good way to do that is to delegate more responsibility his way.

Since QI salespeople are ambitious, skilled and reliable, they’ll take to new challenges and strive to fill bigger shoes. For Charlie, you can send him to conferences and events, task him with researching or opening new verticals or even just serve as a mentor that challenges him to help coach and lead his colleagues. With QI salespeople like Charlie, the increased trust and opportunities to grow are huge motivators.

 *These circumstances can vary widely. A person in Quadrant I might be motivated by compensation as much or more than opportunities to lead or advance. This is based on common attributes found in these quadrants for the sake of example. 

Katherine Martinez (QII)

Attributes (Low-Skill, High-Will):

  • Determined
  • Passionate
  • Confident
  • Willing to learn
  • Raw
  • Inexperienced
  • A work in progress

Core Coaching Tactic: Guide Development

Katherine has a ton of upside because of her strong will, but is more inexperienced and less skilled than someone like Charlie. She leads the team in effort and enthusiasm, but can be mistake prone and lacks the know-how to always make the right moves, which is why Katherine would benefit most from a guided development approach.

As opposed to Charlie who can thrive autonomously, Katherine needs more coaching to get to that level. In highly independent environments she might struggle, but with the right guidance she has potential to become an all-star. She’ll benefit from coaching opportunities that help her gain more skill.

David Fitzgerald (QIII) 

Attributes (Low-Skill, Low-Will):

  • Low passion
  • Low skill
  • Low morale
  • Low competitiveness

Core Coaching Tactic: Direct Expectations

There are a number of reasons why David might be in Quadrant III. He could be young and inexperienced, moved into his role too soon or more vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of sales. He could be a bad hire, too. Or, David may have started out more like Katherine with high will levels but has since become disengaged. Regardless of the exact reason, David’s not performing, and with low will, you’ll be challenged in getting him to perform.

One critical step here is to let David know what your expectations are. This means being clear about how he’s falling short and what he needs to do to get back on track. Ultimately, people can learn the skills and improve, but without the will they won’t get far. If David’s in a short-term slump, it might be worth trying to kickstart his motivation. If it’s a bad fit or there’s no end in sight, it’s time to explore filling that position.

Rose Morrison (QIV)

Attributes (High-Skill, Low-Will): 

  • Knowledgable
  • Experienced
  • Competent
  • Able
  • Reactive
  • Low motivation

Core Coaching Tactic: Motivate

Rose, residing in Quadrant IV, is in a curious position. Possessing high levels of skill, she’s the most talented on the team but has lower levels of will than you’d like. This can go one of two ways: If she’s deft at working smarter instead of working harder, she might do just fine. If she’s actively disengaged, that’s another story. In either case, the best approach to take is to understand where the lack of will comes from and then work against that to motivate her.

In order to motivate her, it’s important to understand Rose’s internal motivators. Is she just interested in compensation, or are there other things that get her excited? You need to ask whether there are issues lowering her will, and if so, whether they can be resolved. For Rose, it pretty much comes down to whether or not her will inhibits her from doing her job effectively. If you have the most skilled person in the world on your team and they have no will, it won’t work. But remember: Just because she doesn’t have the will of Charlie or Katherine doesn’t mean she can’t still be an asset.


Pulling It All Together

Great VPs of Sales should seek to be master motivators, and with salespeople, what motivates is often more than meets the eye. Since you probably won’t be coaching all Quadrant I, champion sales pros, you need to know your people, understand what motivates them and then coach them in ways that’ll get you their best efforts consistently.

Keep in mind that interacting with people isn’t scientific, and not everyone will fall neatly into one quadrant or another. That being said, by being able to objectively assess your team’s makeup, you’ll be able to confidently determine what actions are necessary for crafting your team into a powerhouse unit.

*Special thanks to Chuck Loeher, VP of Sales at G/O Digital for inspiring this topic.

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