TALKING SALES 139: "Sales coaching for behavioural change" - John Dougan

John Smibert

[ File # csp10378786, License # 3220605 ] Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement ( (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / photography33 Can Stock Photo Inc. / photography33[/caption]"Coaching for behavioural change provides a better return than skills coaching" - an interview by John Smibert.

I recently published a great discussion with John Dougan about how to apply sales coaching in practice sessions in order to achieve consistent application of skills.  In that discussion John mentioned that changing behaviour is much more important than skills development. So I asked John back to explain why and to tell us how we can coach to change behaviour.

John DouganFirstly John points out that sales training programs do not change behaviour - we need to coach and mentor to embed behavioural change.

"As sales coaches we need to be cognizant that the people ...... are actually driven by their emotions, their feelings and their limiting beliefs" all of which will impact the way they act.

John pointed out that based on his research 60% of sales managers focus on the numbers and skill based activity, they don't focus on the emotions and beliefs and feelings of their salespeople. This focus provide limited sustainable results because skills are a minor component of what's needed to be successful compared to having the right behaviour. Given the right behaviour skills are easy to add.  Given the wrong behaviour patterns the best skills in the world skills will not produce results

In this discussion - that can be viewed or read below - John goes into detail on the subject of behavioural change and he provides great recommendations for sales managers and their leaders. I hope you like it.


John Dougan is the Intrepid Sales Detective, a noted writer and blogger on sales effectiveness.

John S: Hello, I've got John Dougan with me again - welcome back, John!

John D: Thank you, John!

John S: John, last time we talked about coaching, and we focused primarily on how to coach for skills and that whole area of consistent practice on one skill at a time, and I think that was a great message. Towards the end you started talking about behavioural change, and to me that's absolutely critical because working with salespeople out there... I run a lot of training programmes, and you know at the end of a training programme they get excited about it, but you know it's not going to change behaviour because that's got to happen with consistent activity in the field, consistent coaching. How do you go about driving behavioural change, and what do you recommend for others?

John D: Yes, John, and you raised a very valid point. I think it's just over 80% of what is learnt in a classroom is forgotten within 30 days. So in terms of what we need to coach, we actually need to coach for the embedding of behaviours rather than just skills, because the truth is the skill piece only plays 10%, as we mentioned.

coaching-behaviour-trainingJohn S: If we've grown up doing a thing a certain way and it's built within our very being, our belief make-up and so on, it's tough to change, isn't it?

John D: Very much. You speak about beliefs, John, and this is one of the most interesting areas when it comes to sales psychology for me, because as human beings we're incredibly emotional towards both the idea of selling and the idea of making our buyers feel a certain way and helping them with problems. We're talking about basic human instincts of trying to fix, accomplish or avoid a problem, so we've got to be very cognizant of that, and as sales coaches we need to also be cognizant that the people who are doing that from an action point of view are actually driven by their emotions, their feelings and their limiting beliefs.

John S: Limiting beliefs particularly. So, as a coach, as a sales manager coach... What sort of things do you recommend people need to do as a coach, to help drive that change in beliefs that are going to drive the behavioural change?

John D: Yes, and it is in understanding your sellers or your salespeople. John, number one, we've got to understand what is it that motivates them, we've got to understand what goals they are trying to achieve.

John S: And when you say they and them, you're really talking about each individual, aren't you? Because everybody's different.

John D: Absolutely. And lo and behold, the coach that tars everybody with the same brush, it just simply won't work. Everybody's going to have their own motivation, their own goals they want to achieve and their own limiting beliefs that will stop them getting there. And when I talk about limiting beliefs, it's an area that I'm very passionate about, I'm specifically talking about beliefs that don't drive action or that limit the action we can take, and traditionally as human beings what we've done is we associate a past experience with the action that we take. The truth is that the experience we've had creates a belief that then creates the action or the inaction that we take.

coaching-behaviour-beliefJohn S: I can speak from personal experience, when I was a young salesperson I had a sales manager, and I knew that I had a lot of beliefs that were restricting me, most young people do, and it was really restricting a lot of the behaviour I needed to have to be a successful salesperson. I had this vivid memory of this sales manager, who was probably only five or ten years older than I was but he looked like a much more mature person to me, and he just demonstrated absolute belief in me and really was convinced, "You are going to be successful. Let me coach you through that, let me show you how..." or not to show me how but talk me through it, help me build the beliefs that I needed to be successful. I'm really, really pleased that that happened, otherwise I might have been out of sales and moved on, and yet I've had a very successful career.

John D: Great sales leaders, great sales coaches ignite the fire within people, they really do, John, and that is what drives action. But I can't count on my fingers and toes the amount of sales leaders I meet that just say to me, "John, the problem is my BDMs no longer pick up the phone." And the truth is, when you think about the experiences they've gone through, they should be susceptible to actually doing that, but the problem is we allow our past experiences to drive our beliefs. And the truth is, when somebody talks about the motivation and the results that we can affect by actually picking up the phone, I think it has a profound impact on how we get results.

John S: And in my experience sales managers are often too quick to give up on salespeople that aren't performing. Once you change one or two beliefs and they get their self-confidence going - and often their skills are reasonably good, they just need to fine-tune them - you'll find that unsuccessful people can be turned into very successful people, and sometimes the investment in doing that is a lot less than letting them go and trying to find another person, going through whole process, with the risks associated with that.

John D: Our sales confidence drives the sales actions that we take, I am a big believer in that. And the problem is that if a sales coach or a sales manager you detract from that confidence, you are killing your salespeople.

coaching-behaviour3John S: And I've seen a lot of sales managers do that, they berate their people or whatever it is, bullying and so on; it just doesn't work. It's got to be helping them change their beliefs so that they believe more in their success capability and they grow into the role and become very successful.

John D: Well, I would definitely take a bet on... I think it's nearly 60% of sales managers running rubbish sales meetings, and the truth is, the reason that's the case is because they focus on the numbers and the activity, they don't focus on the emotions and beliefs and feelings of their salespeople.

John S: That's a great way to finish, John - thank you very much for the message. And for all sales managers out there, heed; it's all about the belief patterns of your people, and making sure those beliefs are developed in order to drive the right behaviour to be successful.

John D: Absolutely, John.

John S: Let's coach to make sure that happens.

John D: Thank you!


If you like John Dougan  you can see more of his interviews here:

  1. Adapting Sales Process to Buyer Behaviour
  2. Choosing the right sales methodology
  3. The social selling evolution
  4. The sales profession
  5. Why is your sales meeting de-motivating?
  6. Research shows sales meetings suck
  7. Coaching for sustainable sales growth



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Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

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