2 Tips to Help Coach Your Sales Team: What Cross-Country Skiing Can Teach Us

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash.

I’m a die-hard cross-country skier.  I’ve been out 93 times so far this season.  When I first started trying to conquer hills and sharp turns, I fell – a lot!  It was discouraging.  Then, my husband, who has been a skier since he was four and is now a skilled coach, said to me,

“If you aren’t falling, you aren’t pushing yourself far enough.” 

He also helps me celebrate when I conquer a new (and previously terrifying) hill.  When we make it to the top – or the bottom – depending on the direction we are going, he pauses and says to me,

“Look back.  Look at what you just did, that you thought you couldn’t.” 

You know what that does for me?  It makes me want to conquer the next big and terrifying hill!  And, when we get to that next terrifying hill, he says to me,

“It’s no harder than anything that you’ve done already.”

Let’s take a look at how we can use this simple lesson to help our teams stay motivated and resilient.  It’s all about coaching.  Even though things are challenging right now and many of us are operating outside of our “normal,” coaching is even more important than ever

If your focus is on building resiliency, confidence and motivation,  try these 2 simple steps with your team:

1. Focus on the positive.

This isn’t about being nice, it’s about being effective. Resiliency and confidence are built when we help someone understand their strengths and what they are doing well.  They can leverage that when building new skills and facing new challenges.

It’s not enough to say, “Good Job!  You did a great job on the presentation.”  Carol Dweck, Ph.D, in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, describes how praising someone on the effort and steps that they took to achieve a success is far more long-lasting and effective.  It helps them face future challenges.  Here’s a simple example:

Instead of saying:

“You did a great job in your video presentation to the client.” 

Try this:

“I could tell that you put a lot of effort into making that presentation a success.  Walk me through how you prepared for it?”  

This does two things:

1) It praises the effort and process that leads to success, which is something that can be replicated.  It’s not just luck. 

2) It gets them to self-reflect on what they did to be successful.  Why is that important?  First, it makes their process visible to them.  Second, it affects our self-talk. 

There have been a number of studies on what makes for effective self-talk.  There are two basic routes.  For example, let’s say you have an important call with a client.

Route A sounds like this: “You’re going to crush it!”  

Route B sounds like this: “You’ve done well in other presentations like this.  You’ve prepared well and you were ready.” 

Route B is far more effective.  When we help our reps articulate how they’ve prepared, this naturally feeds into this route.

When I’m out skiing and about to tackle a new hill and my husband says to me,

“This isn’t any more difficult than any hill you’ve skied so far” or my favorite, “It’s only a little harder than what you’ve done so far,” it triggers me to think of “I’ve done other scary hills.  What did I learn by doing those that I can apply here?”

It makes the new hill less daunting. 

2. Help them see their progress.

When we see progress, we are naturally and intrinsically motivated.  In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Really Motivates Us, Dan Pink calls this: one of the three keys to intrinsic motivation

Right now, we are asking people to fill roles that might be outside of their norm and their comfort zone.  When we are venturing outside of our norm, it is natural that we might falter and stumble – and that’s okay.  Yet, most people are pretty hard on themselves and these stumbles are discouraging. 

As their coach, we have a tremendous opportunity to help them see that stumbles are simply a part of the learning process.  But more than that, we can help them see that even with a misstep, they are still making progress in the desired direction.

When I’m on the ski trail and I fall attempting a new hill, my husband stops to say,

“Look at what you just did!  A year ago, you wouldn’t have even tried it.  Falling is part of the learning.  Think about everything that you can do now that you couldn’t do a year ago.”

I can’t tell you that coaching will be as fun as cross-country skiing, but try these 2 simple steps with your team and you will see their confidence and motivation rise to meet the occasion

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One of our Senior Consultants here at ASLAN, Bobbi is passionate about instilling the gift of hope, knowledge, and assurance that anyone can be more successful and fulfilled if they choose to. Find her on LinkedIn.

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