An interview with Mary Poul, author of Sprint to Sales Success

In this interview I asked Mary Poul what surprised her as she talked with top sales producers for her book and how she expects people to have greater sales success by following the advice in her book.

Why did you write this book?

To start off with I want to be clear. I did NOT write a book on sales skills. You and many other experts have great resources for people who want to learn how to prospect, influence, and win sales more effectively. I wrote a book on how high achievers get better at selling faster than the common approach.

In my work with Sales Mastery magazine I’ve interviewed hundreds of top sales producers, CSOs, coaches, and experts. A pattern that jumped out at me is that they were all lifelong learners – constantly pushing themselves to get better. And they all worked with great coaches in the process so they had someone with a fresh perspective to help them see what they were missing. Of course, these are the type of people who are open to coaching. Not everyone is.

What do you mean by that - not everyone is open to coaching?

Well, obviously we all believe we are life long learners and coachable. But we all have our moments when this isn’t true. In a previous career life when I was coaching a group of really talented people, I quickly learned to recognize the signs of who is coachable and who isn’t. It’s really a spectrum.

On the narcissistic end of the spectrum, these people are waiting for the world to change for them. I’m sure you’ve run into a colleague or two that found the world to blame for why they couldn’t sell more. The product sucks, the boss is an idiot, marketing isn’t doing their job. Of course there is NOTHING this person could learn or do better to be more effective. He’s just waiting for everyone else to change so he can be effective.

Progressing toward the other end of the spectrum you find people that you recognize more often. They have blind spots about what they could do better and no idea how to use a different approach. But once you point out the blind spot and work with them on ideas for change, they are on it. They want better results and are willing to do something about it.

In your work Diane, when you help people get better at closing the deal with a new customer, you observe how they are doing it now so you can find their blind spots. You only get to work with the people who aren’t totally intimidated by that. Narcissists aren’t inviting you in. The people who are want to change but need help on what and how to do it. So your fresh perspective and vast experience using and observing techniques to overcome final objections, negotiate contract terms, get decision makers into a comfort zone to say yes – all of your experience is a huge benefit to someone who only has their own personal experiences to reference. But they need to be open to changing.

The pinnacle of the coach-ability spectrum is a true lifelong learner.  I worked with a person like this once who was a great model for how a lifelong learner behaves. He outperformed the rest of my team by a long shot – he had 50% more clients than everyone else and all of his clients adored him.

After every project he would proactively solicit feedback on how he could be better on the next assignment. He would specify to me what stretch or challenge he wanted to tackle in his next assignment and asked for mentorship through it. Of course this person has done amazingly well in his career. He never waited for feedback or viewed it as a judgment of his weaknesses. He sought out feedback and considered it one piece of direction to help him continuously become better.  A coach’s dream!

So how does this relate to your book Sprint to Sales Success?

The book is meant to help people in the second and third examples who have high achieving mindsets. They want to get better. I discovered most people aren’t sure what to do when they are working with a coach or in a mastermind group to get the most out of the experience. They are just showing up. There isn’t training on how to get the most out of working with a coach. So this book does that.

In my interviews specifically for the book I was surprised to discover that top performers were already clear on their purpose. They knew WHY they wanted to keep improving, what their ultimate vision for their career and life was. They sought out coaching help to accelerate their journey toward their ideal vision. So the book helps readers find their WHY.

Others need help being proactive in what they get out of a coaching session. Especially if they are working with their manager who isn’t as experienced at coaching as a pro is. So I give them a coaching check-in process so they can prepare for the hour or so and get the most value from it.

A lot of people need help with making the change. A professional coach like you helps people build this into what they are working on improving for the week. As you know, it’s not enough to say, “Now respond this way when your prospect says this.” You have to create the environment, prepare the mindset, have some triggers that make a new behavior possible. So the book covers how to set yourself up for real change and then how to sustain it.

Sometimes it comes down to justifying to yourself or to your company why investing in a coach makes sense. So the book even helps someone determine the ROI or return on investment for coaching. Research by PriceWaterhouse Coopers found a median of 700% return on coaching investment. One fifth of people coaches get as high as a 5000% return on investment. By investment I mean the opportunity cost of their time spent learning something new as well as whatever they may pay for coaching.

A study out of the Harvard Business School found that clients who had a relationship with a professional coach were more likely to attain their goals than individuals who were not being coached, and they experienced higher levels of self-reflection and insight accompanied by lower levels of depression, stress, and anxiety. So the evidence is great that coaching pays off to become more successful at selling. But an individual sales pro or business owner needs to make this payoff true for herself. That’s what the book is intended to do.

What do you hope happens as a result of your book?

I hope that a lot more people recognize that there’s an easier way to reach their dream goals than trying to do it alone. I want a lot more people to achieve the kind of results this year that they would expect to get after 10 years of experience in their sales careers. That’s what getting smarter about using coaching can do for them. I say that using what I recommend in the book can make you 10% more effective at selling. In reality, you see a whole lot more improvement than that. So for someone with career ambition, I want the book to help them achieve their goals, their purpose, a whole lot faster.

Mary Poul is publisher of, which publishes a monthly magazine and interviews and hosts online events. She also founded the initiative Teach Kids 2 Sell, with the ambition of teaching one million kids the life skill of effective selling. Sprint to Sales Success is available on and comes with bonus worksheets to make sure readers do what they learn.

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