The Gretzky Effect in sales coaching

“Wayne Gretzky is the greatest player in the game of hockey. The game came really easy to him. He saw the game very differently. The moment he went behind the bench. How did he do as a coach? He was average. But as a player? Nobody is even close”, says Karl Ortmanns ☁, VP of Sales at Agorapulse. 

In sales coaching, we have this Wayne Gretzky effect, too — those who were great at selling actually struggle to coach it. They struggle with what to ask, understand where the coachees are, or how to pull the information out of reps rather than telling them what to do.

Lisa Hubbard, VP of Sales & Marketing at The Vernon Company adds: “Sales leaders lack sales coaching tools and resources to coach, so managers have to do the research by themselves and then build decks for their teams.”

The sales methodologies usually do not teach sales leaders how to coach sellers. “There is a huge inconsistency in how they coach, which creates inconsistencies in revenue as well.” as Ruby Raley, VP sales and alliances, explains.

So, what is the solution? According to Adam Wainwright, Director of Sales at Clari, “Sales coaching is all about creating a repeatable cadence. We focus on celebrating the engagement, not the activity. The funnel will follow. Engagement is a far better leading indicator for success because it can be coached.” By creating a repeatable process, sales managers can ensure that their coaching is consistent and effective.

However, coaching is not just about the process. It’s also about the personal reward that comes from helping others level up, as Josh Van Dyk, VP of Sales at Censhare, notes. It’s about helping sellers to self-assess their feelings throughout the sales meeting so they can become more mindful”, as Chris Karlin, VP of Sales at Superb AI, emphasizes. It’s important sellers see you as a coach and not a judge and you must be coachable yourself first to be effective, as Bob Horn, a CRO highlighted. It’s also about breaking down goals into actionable plans and holding sellers accountable, as Kelli Denes, Director of Business Development at Vernon, points out. And it’s about focusing on one thing at a time, as Christy Naranjo, Sales Director, SMB at Culture Amp, suggests, “Do not coach 10 things a salesperson should get better at. Focus only on 1-2 skills at a time to build a habit.”

On the other hand, some exceptional CCOs also prefer bringing outsiders for sales coaching because they do not know what they do not know, like Glenn Wirick, CCO from AdhereHealth.

In Ortmann’s teams, they have war room every week. Everybody goes for 5 minutes in the same structure. We start with a lost deal, then a stuck deal, and a win. We want to hear the story behind the story, and the whole team is asking deeper. If a team is not willing to give advice, it’s not a team.

And all of a sudden, you see that people start doing this with their teammates and helping each other. Now you have a culture of learning.

The salespeople that are willing to help the most are the right people to promote as leaders. The question we should ask about our sales leaders is: how many leaders did they create? Because leaders create leaders.

Written by Petr Zelenka

Petr grew a startup with over 100% annual growth (3 years in a row), as a Chief Revenue Officer. Obsessed by building great teams, he’s run business transformations for Philip Morris International or HomeCredit and worked for some big brands across 12 countries: Merck, IKEA, Philips, Lime, IBM, T-Mobile, AXA, etc. Petr has become a Partner of Hackerly at PwC (Big4 joint business relationship) consulting around organizational growth, culture, and new ways of leading. As a Google Mentor, he advised high-growth startups and acted as an inspirational speaker at Grow With Google while co-founding the largest P2P coaching program for women in CEE. Having coached and trained over 5 000 leaders himself, Petr developed a globally unique sales coaching method that enables employees to coach each other and build strong connections. His mission today is “to make top sales leadership development accessible to everyone”.

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