By Steve Hackett

Coaching salespeople is one of the most important activities for sales managers. It can also be incredibly rewarding — when done effectively — because it has a direct impact on your team’s sales performance.

But what about that one salesperson who resists your efforts to help them, and refuses to be coached?

When you’re faced with a resistant salesperson, don’t get frustrated. Instead, put these 6 tips for coaching difficult salespeople to use.

1. Don’t Escalate the Situation Unnecessarily

Threatening discipline places the salesperson on the defensive and makes them even less receptive to your coaching. Plus, if you make a threat and don’t end up following through with it, you’ll lose credibility with that salesperson, and potentially the other members of your team.

Remind yourself that if you can get through to the resistant salesperson somehow, you’ll avoid losing all of the time and money you’ve already invested in them.

Start with the remaining tips below, and escalate only if the salesperson fails to respond.

2. Model Coachability

When you have multiple resistant salespeople on your sales team, it may be time to get really honest with yourself. Is the problem your salespeople or the way you’re doing the coaching?

Ask your salespeople to provide feedback on your performance and encourage them to be open and upfront. Listen and be open to the feedback, and improve your performance where you can. This will not only help you be a better sales manager, it will also encourage your salespeople to be more coachable by following your example.

3. Understand Each Salesperson’s Unique Communication Style

Everyone is unique, and we all respond differently to feedback. If you’re having a hard time getting through to a particular sales rep, it may be that your communication style isn’t in line with theirs.

Determine the most effective ways to communicate by discussing it with your rep. A comprehensive assessment tool like TriMetrix can also help you identify what coaching style will work best for each of your salespeople.

4. Be Clear About Behavior Expectations

Your reps know your sales quotas and other performance-based expectations, but do they know your behavior expectations? Privately, make a list of the positive behaviors you would like to see from your difficult salespeople. Without singling anyone out, communicate these expectations to all sales reps.

Then, during your one-to-one meetings, ask your difficult reps how they feel they’re performing on these behavior criteria, and how they would like to improve. This encourages them to become partners with you in solving their coachability problem, increasing the odds that they will improve.

5. Hold Them Accountable

Once you have identified and communicated the correct positive behaviors, ask each sales rep to rate themselves on those behaviors, and if they’re willing to improve.

If the behavior improves, provide them with positive feedback and ask them how else they can continue the improvement. If it does not, then communicate clearly the consequences should they fail to improve. Make it a regular part of their performance review, alongside hard metrics like win rates and quota attainment.

6. Reconsider Their Seat on the Bus

If, despite these efforts, a salesperson fails to improve, consider whether they may be sitting in the wrong seat on your bus.

There’s a chance your difficult salesperson is underperforming because they’re not the right fit for the position or your team’s culture. Using an assessment tool like TriMetrix will allow you to evaluate the salesperson’s natural strengths, communication style, behaviors and motivators and compare them against what the job requires for success.

You can use this information to assess if they’re a good fit where they are, or determine if they may be more effective in another position. If neither of those seem like the answer, it may be time to cut ties completely.


Effective sales coaching is key to keeping your salespeople performing at their maximum output. When you master the skills to get through to even the “uncoachable” sales reps, your entire team benefits.