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  • Writer's pictureEd McCarthy

Ditch the Script: Mastering the Art of Authentic Coaching Conversations

Updated: 6 days ago

In the world of sales coaching, there's a silent killer lurking in many organizations: the dreaded scripted conversation. You know the type—rigid, predictable, and about as inspiring as a tax audit. If you're tired of these stale interactions that leave both you and your reps feeling unfulfilled, it's time for a revolution. It's time to ditch the script and embrace the power of authentic coaching conversations.

The Problem with Scripted Coaching

Before we dive into the solution, let's understand why scripted coaching is so problematic:

  1. Lack of Engagement: Reps can sense when you're going through the motions, leading to disengagement and resistance.

  2. Missed Opportunities: Scripts can't account for the unique challenges and situations each rep faces.

  3. Stunted Growth: Cookie-cutter approaches fail to address individual strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Erosion of Trust: Inauthentic interactions can damage the coach-rep relationship over time.

The Power of Authenticity in Coaching

Authentic coaching conversations, on the other hand, can transform your team's performance and culture. Here's why:

  1. Deeper Connections: Genuine interactions build stronger, more meaningful relationships.

  2. Increased Receptivity: Reps are more open to feedback when it comes from a place of authenticity.

  3. Tailored Development: Real conversations allow for personalized coaching that addresses specific needs.

  4. Emotional Intelligence: Authentic coaching develops emotional intelligence in both coaches and reps.

Mastering the Art of Authentic Coaching Conversations

Ready to break free from the script and embrace authentic coaching? Here's your roadmap:

1. Create a Safe Space for Open Dialogue

The foundation of authentic coaching is psychological safety. Your reps need to feel comfortable sharing their true thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or reprisal.

How to do it:

  • Set Clear Expectations: Explicitly state that honesty and openness are valued in your coaching sessions.

  • Lead by Example: Share your own challenges and vulnerabilities to model the behavior you want to see.

  • Respond Positively: When reps open up, acknowledge their courage and thank them for their honesty.

Example: "I appreciate you sharing that challenge with me, Alex. It takes courage to be vulnerable, and I'm glad you feel comfortable doing so. Let's work through this together."

2. Practice Deep Listening

Authentic coaching requires more than just hearing words—it demands deep, empathetic listening to understand the rep's perspective fully.

How to do it:

  • Remove Distractions: Give your full attention during coaching sessions. Put away your phone and close your laptop.

  • Use Body Language: Maintain eye contact, nod, and lean in to show you're fully engaged.

  • Reflect and Clarify: Paraphrase what you've heard to ensure understanding. "So what I'm hearing is..."

Example: "Let me make sure I understand correctly. You're saying that you feel confident in your product knowledge, but you're struggling to handle objections smoothly. Is that right?"

3. Ask Powerful Questions

The heart of authentic coaching lies in asking questions that provoke thought, self-reflection, and insight.

How to do it:

  • Use Open-Ended Questions: Encourage expansive thinking with questions that can't be answered with a simple yes or no.

  • Avoid Leading Questions: Don't guide the rep to your preferred answer. Let them discover insights on their own.

  • Embrace Silence: Give reps time to think deeply about their responses. Don't rush to fill pauses.


  • "What do you think is the root cause of this challenge?"

  • "How might this situation look from the customer's perspective?"

  • "If you had unlimited resources, how would you approach this differently?"

4. Provide Behavior-Focused Feedback

When it's time to give feedback, focus on specific behaviors rather than personal attributes. This approach is more actionable and less likely to trigger defensiveness.

How to do it:

  • Be Specific: Reference particular situations or interactions rather than general trends.

  • Use the SBI Model: Situation, Behavior, Impact. Describe the situation, the behavior observed, and its impact.

  • Offer Alternatives: Suggest different approaches or behaviors that might be more effective.

Example: "In yesterday's call with ABC Corp, I noticed that when the client raised a concern about pricing, you immediately offered a discount (Situation and Behavior). This could potentially undervalue our product and reduce our negotiating power (Impact). Next time, consider asking more questions to understand their budget constraints before discussing price adjustments."

5. Celebrate Successes Authentically

Recognition is a powerful motivator, but it needs to be genuine to have impact. Celebrate both big wins and small progress authentically.

How to do it:

  • Be Specific: Highlight exactly what the rep did well and why it matters.

  • Connect to Goals: Show how their success relates to their personal development goals or team objectives.

  • Encourage Reflection: Ask the rep to share what they think led to their success.

Example: "Congrats on closing the XYZ deal, Sarah! I was particularly impressed by how you handled their initial hesitation. You asked great questions to understand their concerns and then tailored your presentation to address those specific points. That kind of adaptability is exactly what we've been working on. How do you feel about how it went?"

6. Embrace Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Authentic coaching requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. Develop your ability to understand and respond to your reps' emotions.

How to do it:

  • Recognize Emotions: Pay attention to tone, body language, and word choice to gauge emotional states.

  • Validate Feelings: Acknowledge emotions without judgment. "It sounds like you're feeling frustrated."

  • Respond Appropriately: Adjust your coaching approach based on the rep's emotional state.

Example: "I can sense that you're feeling overwhelmed with your current workload. That's completely understandable given the challenges you've described. Let's take a step back and look at how we can prioritize your tasks and perhaps redistribute some responsibilities."

The Trust Dividend: The Ultimate Reward of Authentic Coaching

As you infuse your coaching with authenticity and empathy, you'll notice a profound shift in your relationships with your reps. Trust will deepen, communication will become more open, and your team's performance will soar.

This trust becomes the foundation for transformational growth. Reps who trust their coaches are more likely to:

  • Take risks and step outside their comfort zones

  • Openly discuss challenges and seek help when needed

  • Embrace feedback and actively work on personal development

  • Go above and beyond in their roles, driven by a sense of loyalty and shared purpose

Your Authenticity Challenge

Ready to revolutionize your coaching approach? Here's your challenge:

  1. Choose one upcoming coaching session.

  2. Commit to ditching any pre-planned scripts or rigid agendas.

  3. Enter the conversation with an open mind and a commitment to authenticity.

  4. Focus on asking powerful questions and listening deeply.

  5. After the session, reflect on how it felt different from your usual approach.

Remember, the journey to authentic coaching is ongoing. Each conversation is an opportunity to deepen your skills and strengthen your relationships with your reps.

By embracing authenticity in your coaching conversations, you're not just developing better sales reps—you're cultivating resilient, emotionally intelligent professionals who will drive your organization's success for years to come.

Are you ready to get real and transform your coaching impact?

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