What’s the most powerful tool that you as a sales manager have to help your team sell more with greater motivation and more purpose? Is it sales training? More direction from you? Lower pricing? It might surprise you to know that the answer to that question is a very simple one: coaching instead of “managing” your team members. Research by the Sales Leadership Council shows that no other productivity investment comes close to coaching for improving reps’ performance.
The need for more coaching and less “managing” is something I encounter all too often when working with sales managers and their teams.
First, an example from the sales manager’s side of the equation:
Linda manages a team of 15 salespeople for a manufacturer of electronic components, and she is getting tired of the lineup outside her office. “I feel like I should put a ‘Doctor is In’ sign on my door because so many people on my team want me to solve their problems and make their decisions for them,” she says. “For the most part, they’re coming to me for answers to everyday questions about things like pricing a deal or fielding a customer complaint. I’m happy to make decisions about the unusual or tough issues, but I want my team to be able to take care of the rest. How can I make that happen and get control of my time again?” she asks.
Now, the sales rep side of the story:
Reps tell me what they crave from their manager is more coaching and less managing. They want coaching that enables them to work more confidently and independently and improve their performance. But instead of helpful coaching, they are:
- Told what to do
- Told what they’re doing wrong
- Receiving feedback that focuses on weaknesses, not strengths
- Having sales calls taken over by their manager
Sales managers are not nasty people intent on malicious treatment of their staff. The managers I’ve coached over the years really want to be good at their jobs, and their wish lists include learning how to be more effective leaders and coaches. They just don’t know how. Most managers don’t really know what it means to coach because they haven’t had role models in their careers to teach them.
So instead of coaching, too many sales managers think their job is to act as Chief Problem Solver and Subject Matter Expert instead of as a Coach who can help their people realize their full potential.
That leaves some obvious questions:
1. Are you a manager or a coach?
2. What does it take to be a great sales coach?
3. How is coaching different from managing? Here is a list of 16 ways that coaches are different than managers. Understanding this list will help you to be a great sales coach and unleash your team’s ability to excel.
1. Keeps reps dependent on them.
2. Gives the answer or solution to a problem.
3. Focuses on the result.
4. Gives little follow-up or followthrough; support is inconsistent.
5. Doesn’t ask for accountability from reps.
6. Emphasizes what reps do.
7. Looks solely at reps’ actions.
8. Assumes reps possess current knowledge and sales acumen.
9. Engages in conversations that have agendas and desired outcomes.
10. Focuses on the symptoms of poor performance, such as a reluctance to make cold calls.
11. Gives directive advice when a problem is identified.
12. Doesn’t provide a consistent newhire orientation program.
13. Shows inconsistency in taking accountability for team performance.
14. Tolerates excuses.
15. Only focuses on coaching underperformers, not the whole team.
16. Shows frustration and emotion during conversations.
1. Lets salespeople be independent and self-driven.
2. Draws out the answers through questioning.
3. Focuses on the process.
4. Provides consistent coaching to reinforce changes in reps’ behavior until the desired result is achieved.
5. Empowers salespeople to be fully accountable.
6. Places emphasis on who reps are and who they want to be.
7. Observes and is curious about reps’ actions, behaviors,
8. Makes no assumptions; questions everything; draws conclusions based on facts and evidence.
9. Lets conversations with reps evolve collaboratively.
10. Digs deep to get to the source of the issue or problem.
11. Has the rep identify the solution and offers real-life advice on how to change thinking.
12. Provides a 30/60/90 day new-hire orientation.
13. Takes full accountability for team’s performance.
14. Develops an excuse-free culture.
15. Coaches those committed to improving, including top performers.
16. Coaches all reps with a neutral tone and curiosity during conversations.
Let me finish this post with two rules I try to instill in the sales managers I coach. These rules neatly summarize the 16 tips listed above for how to become a coach instead of a manager:
Rule 1: Coaches don’t deal with problems by telling people what to do. They empower and enable others to solve problems on their own, to tackle new challenges and to learn from their experiences.
Rule 2: Coaches don’t just see their reps as who they are today, but who they could be in the future.
Nicki Weiss is President and Co-founder of the SalesWise Academy (www.saleswiseacademy.com), an innovative, affordable online sales development program designed for sales leaders and teams that sell technical or complex products and services. SalesWise Academy trains more effectively by teaching the way adults learn best, in frequent, “bite-sized” lessons, delivered via 10-minute audio podcasts and support materials to members’ inboxes every two weeks.