Optimize Your Coaching Time with the Quadrant Coaching Method – Part 1

Our topic today is one of the more radical things we teach front line sales leaders here at ASLAN. In the past, we’ve referred to it as “strategic coaching” or “OtherCentered® leadership,” but the idea is the same. And this subject isn’t just for sales leaders, it is key for the reps they lead to understand this as well. 

Quadrant coaching has been developed, designed, and honed into existence based on the two biggest barriers that stand in the way of managers coaching: 

  1. motivating reps
  2. finding time to coach

For nearly 15 years, this out-of-the-box approach has been a huge success for our clients, both sales managers and sales reps alike. It truly does lighten the coach’s load and makes their sessions more effective and efficient, while helping reps develop self-awareness and grow their “coachability.”

If you prefer to take this on the go and listen to a conversation on the topic, feel free to check out sALES with ASLAN podcast episode 82:


What is Quadrant Coaching?

One common trait we see in top performers across the board is that they are honest about reality. In sales coaching, this is especially important when deeming what is realistic to expect from your reps and how much time to spend with each team member. 

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 your time (and theirs).  

No one has time to waste – and this is where quadrant coaching comes in. When it comes to coaching your team, there are essentially 4 types of reps that sit in a quadrant (hence the name of the coaching strategy,) along the axes of “results” and “desire.”

Your team members will fall either above or below the “results” line. Either they are hitting their number, or not. While there could be some nuance here regarding how close to the line the rep is, the key here is to clearly define the “line” of what results should be. It will be hard to motivate your reps if they don’t know where the goal line is. Be clear about what “good” looks like. 

The “desire” line focuses on reps that want to change (are motivated to change) or don’t. So sales reps fall to the left or right of this “desire” line on the quadrant axis as well. 

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?


The 4 Types of Sales Reps

Let’s dive into the four types:

  • Independents

These reps are above the line in “results” (i.e. they are hitting their number), but low in desire (they don’t want to change). 

  • Detractors

These reps are below the “results” line (not hitting their number) and don’t want to change either. This is your toughest group. 

Don’t spend too much time with these reps in your coaching capacity until they show some effort (meaning they have demonstrated desire and moved across the “desire” line). 

  • Achievers

These reps are above the line in results, and in desire (they are doing well and want to get even better).  

  • Strivers

Strivers are below the line in results, but to the right in desire (they want to change and will put in the effort). 


The Time Saving Benefit

While you will spend some time with each of these sales rep “types,” you should focus on coaching your Achievers and Strivers, the reps that are hungry for development. Coaching these team members will be an efficient use of your time because they will put in the effort, they will practice, and they will improve. 

You will still spend time managing and leading your other sales reps. As we’ve previously outlined, there are three hats that a sales manager can wear:

  • Lead for desire.
  • Manage for productivity. 
  • Coach for capability. 

You “lead” when there is a desire problem, (think Independents and Detractors). 

You “manage” when there is a productivity issue, meaning your sales rep wants to change but they aren’t doing the right things, (think Strivers). This is about holding reps accountable to their results or key performance indicators (KPIs). 

You “coach” for capability. This is when you spend time observing your salespeople, aligning on what needs to change, and developing. But be strategic about when you’re donning your coaching cap.



“Desire is the key that opens the door to a coaching session.” Tom Stanfill, CEO of ASLAN

Sales reps, be honest with yourself and your manager about where you think you are. Seek feedback. Reflect on yourself. 

What do you want? Have a conversation with your manager about it. 

Sales leaders, to create this culture of feedback, ask for feedback yourself.


Is this Approach Fair?

There may be a subset of people who think this approach is too exclusive. Doesn’t everyone deserve to be coached?

When using this quadrant approach to coaching, you (as a sales manager) are not saying, “I don’t want to coach you.” Your rep, through their behavior or lack of effort, is saying, “I don’t want to be coached.”

It would be unfair if a sales rep asked to be coached and the manager didn’t deliver. We’re not telling you to ignore anyone. But your coaching time is limited. It’s hard to carve out more coaching time. Leaders spend a great deal of time working with sales reps that do not want to get better. This is not time well spent. 

This approach is intended to optimize your coaching time if you want to be more efficient with the time you invest and the results you see. 

One final note, your relationship with someone (your sales rep or your sales leader) should never be determined by their performance. Regardless if someone is an Achiever or a Detractor, your interest in them and the way you treat them should not change. Your relationship is not about what “quadrant” someone falls into. The quadrant simply helps you determine how you spend your time coaching

In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll discuss specific coaching strategies for each of the 4 types of sales reps.


ASLAN teaches sellers an easier, better way to gain access & influence unreceptive customers, by eliminating the hard sell.

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