I always thought of coaching as a noble endeavor; selling, not so much.
However, it turns out they have a lot in common. A while back I completed a comprehensive six-month coaching program with a leading international coaching certification organization. It was a wonderful experience that gave me an entirely new set of skills, and an appreciation for my fellow human beings. I was anxious to apply these skills, but my thinking was somewhat limited. I figured that there was coaching and then there was my other job – leading a professional services business. Sure, I might be able to do a better job with my own employees, but my coaching skills would be reserved for my coaching clients.
A big part of my “regular” job involves selling. Selling our services. Convincing prospective clients that we would be a great choice for their organization development and training needs. I figured that the usual approach to selling was called for in these situations. Then, I spoke with the head of sales at a large multinational organization who had happened to be in my coaching program. We were chatting, and at one point he said, “Selling is just great listening.” Even though it oversimplified the process, I realized he was right.
And then it hit me—what else is just great listening? Coaching!
Of course, this doesn’t do justice to either profession. But when we added a second skill—asking great questions—to both professions, we felt as though we were closer to the mark. Selling is great listening and asking great questions. Equally, coaching is great listening and asking great questions.
If you put those two skills together at a truly advanced level, you really have a powerful selling and coaching approach. The trick is getting those skills to that advanced level. That takes time, practice and feedback from someone who’s been there. So, maybe there’s a case to be made for sending all of your sales reps to coaching school.