Let’s face it. Many salespeople focus on behavior that is comfortable … and shun behavior that creates discomfort, even though it may drive higher performance. The fact is, all growth and much of higher performance resides on the other side of comfort. “Man’s reach,” the poet Robert Browning said, “should exceed his grasp.” He meant, I think, what David Sandler meant: that all of us have to stretch our beliefs and behavior in order to succeed.

Most salespeople refuse to accept the need for change unless there is a catastrophic event causing them to think differently about their situation.

There’s an old saying, popular among effective sales coaches: “Salespeople change only when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain involved in the change.” When it supports growth, change is not a light switch that goes on and off, rather it’s a rheostat that gradually transitions the salesperson to a new more desired state.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross pioneered the five stages of grief model to help individuals deal with personal trauma and bereavement. These five stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — are typically applied to those individuals dealing with death, dying or catastrophic loss. I have translated the Kübler-Ross model into four “transition steps” that I utilize in the Sandler coaching process.

This transition model I consistently utilize in my coaching process involves four stages: denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment.

The key to helping salespeople move through these four stages involves understanding specifically where the salesperson is right now in terms of the four stages and then helping them move through each stage to gain the momentum required to make the necessary changes.

Most traditional coaching fails because the coach expects the salesperson to begin the coaching session with a willingness to explore behavior and engage in belief modification. This approach ignores the reality that many salespeople deny and resist the need to change (regardless of what they may say to please a manager) and are complacent about the results they are currently achieving.

In the early stages of coaching the coach must help the salesperson move from the stages of denial and resistance into the area of exploration, which is the stage where true growth will happen. This takes patience and practice…but it is the only reliable strategy for helping salespeople to decide for themselves that the time has come to move beyond their comfort zone.

Excerpted from The Sales Coach’s Playbook. © 2016 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

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