Last updateWed, 01 Jul 2020 1pm

Coaching the uncoachable

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner with a fellow speaker, trainer, and friend.  He and I were both speaking at a trade association show.  Prior to his seminar, we were talking and he was asking me a lot of questions about the participants, the group, and the industry.  This professional speaks to a wide variety of industries and different types of businesses, from retail to wholesale and large corporations to small independents.  This highly respected, highly sought after professional was seeking as much knowledge as he possibly could about the group to whom he was about to speak.  Imagine that, a professional seeking knowledge and education from an outside resource.

At dinner, he mentioned to me that one of the biggest issues with independent businesses is that the owners are uncoachable; and that you cannot coach the uncoachable.  His words didn’t immediately sink in.  In fact, it was a couple of days before I really got it.  Once I got it, I got it.

I have had the opportunity to speak at trade shows and conferences all over the world, for sporting goods, music, pawnbrokers, jewelry stores, and furniture stores.  At all of these tradeshows, the same pattern is seen repeatedly.  Each convention has free education seminars where retailers can come and listen to and exchange ideas that have to do with improving their businesses.  There are numerous speakers dealing with everything from personnel, sales, sales management, advertising, marketing, social networking, website design and promotion, legal aspects for the various different types of retail, and most any other topic you can think of when it comes to having an opportunity to learn from the industry experts.

At one particular show, they had an area set up where the participants could go and get free advice from nine industry experts.  All the participants had to do was either make an appointment or just show up.  At a show where there were some 650 retail store owners in attendance, less than 5% of them actually came to the industry experts to talk, seek advice, or try to learn something to give them an extra edge.  Let me say that again - less than 5% took advantage of this free service. Kind of speaks to not only the state of the industry, but the state of the country as well, doesn’t it?

Amazingly, most of the people that came to talk were the people that are already the most successful in the group.  One young man that came to talk to me has grown his store from under a million dollars in volume to over three million dollars in volume in the last few years.  He said to me that once he decided to implement the systems we had installed several years ago, the company grew at an incredible pace, in a down economy, due to the systems and other circumstances.  He now wanted to know what he needed to do to reach his next milestone of five million in sales.  This same type of scenario was repeated several more times during the show, and that’s when it really sunk in.

This young man is coachable and wanted to be coached.  If you are not coachable, or don’t seek the knowledge to know what you don’t know, how can you possibly coach your people?  You can’t!

The most successful people are those that seek knowledge and education at every level.  The people that are the movers and shakers are the people that are always looking to industry experts and professionals to reach the next level.  They have a line on their expense report devoted to personal growth and development, and invest in themselves and their people.  They know that their people are their most valuable asset.  It seems as though within every industry you have the movers and shakers that have committed themselves to training, coaching, and instilling an environment of personal growth and development within their business.  These people are continually increasing sales and profits and growing their businesses.

On the other hand, you have the people that are not involved with their industry trade associations, don’t attend the free education seminars, wouldn’t think to invest in the growth of their people and who basically believe that they know everything or that they will learn over time at the school of hard-knocks.  These people worry me.  They are the uncoachable who don’t know what they don’t know and have no interest in trying to figure out what they don’t know.  Further, they don’t have the time or the desire to participate in any of the industry functions.

At dinner with the other trainer that I mentioned, we were talking about business owners and wondering why they aren’t coachable.  I believe there are numerous reasons, which include arrogance, ignorance, complacency, ego, time, thinking they already know everything they need to know, money, they have gotten comfortable, fear, and the list goes on and on.

In order to grow your business, to reach the next level, to survive tough times, maximize your opportunities, reach your goals, and lead the good life, you must seek knowledge.  Be humble and realize that you don’t know what you don’t know and there is nothing wrong with admitting that you need help.  In fact, it is admirable.  It is also exactly what the most successful people are constantly doing.

I know what some of you are thinking, “What if I spend the time and money and invest in my people, and then they leave?” My answer is, “What if you don’t and they stay! Then you are in the same condition that you were in before.  If you keep doing the same things over and over again, how could you expect any different result?”

Some are thinking, “Training is expensive, and I can’t afford it right now.” My answer is, “I know training is expensive, but not training is even more expensive! If you can’t afford it, that is the very reason you need it.” Some are thinking, “I don’t have time to do the training, and last time I trained my staff it didn’t work.” My response: “Make the time; your business and your people deserve it.  What didn’t work?  Was it the training or was it the follow-up after the training that didn’t work?”

I will be the first to admit that sales training doesn’t work if it is an event.  If training is a consistent, ongoing, never-ending process, then it works very well.  The day of the retail clerk are gone and will never return. The day of the highly trained, retail sales professional is upon us right now.  If your people don’t want the training, don’t want to be successful, don’t want to make more money, don’t want to grow the business, don’t want to be above average, and don’t want to be professionals, then get new people.  Further, I have to say to salespeople that if your company doesn’t want to offer training, doesn’t want to improve, would rather give you hell than help, has gotten complacent, is just existing, doesn’t create an environment of personal growth and development where you can flourish, then get a new company.

Any business that is standing still and waiting for things to happen is going to get passed by.  Any business owner that thinks they know everything and doesn’t constantly seek knowledge and a better, more profitable way of doing things, are on their way to failure.  I can’t say it often enough or loud enough, THE PEOPLE WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION WILL DETERMINE THE COMPANY’S SUCCESS OR FAILURE.

Invest a little time and attend the free seminars that are available.  Attend educational seminars.  Start a training library of books, CDs and DVDs.  Pick up a trade journal and read about the new and exciting innovations happening in your industry.  Be curious.  Do not let complacency in.  Be progressive, try new things.  Train yourself and your people.  Most of all, be coachable.  Then and only then will you be able to be the coach that your people expect that you will be, and the coach that you had always hoped that you would be.

Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training.  Mr. Huisken has authored several books and training manuals on sales.  In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information on training, contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or fax 303-936-9581 or visit the website at www.iastraining.com.