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How to Be a Sales Coach, Not a Sales Manager

Almost every up-and-coming salesperson wants to grow into the job of sales manager. The job title carries a lot of weight and the position itself typically involves either running the entire sales department or a significant portion of it.

Someone with this kind of business responsibility could easily fall into the trap of spending their time managing the numbers, studying the spending, being mindful of the cost of sale, carefully watching the attrition rate of existing accounts, and tracking new business. There is no doubt that these are all important job functions that fall under the responsibility of the sales manager.

However, none of those responsibilities are as important as growing and developing salespeople.

At the Center for Sales Strategy, we believe that the sales manager’s primary responsibility is to turn talent into performance -- and you do that by being an outstanding sales coach.

Coaching Essential to Success

The sales manager’s job is, first and foremost, as a coach. And the sales manager’s dilemma is finding a way to focus primarily on coaching while also juggling all of the responsibilities listed above.

The best sales managers know that it all starts with spending time out in the field, coaching salespeople, rather than simply looking at the scores. They ride with them to the appointments, ask them questions about their plans for the call, give them feedback on what they did right, and help them to continually improve.

In essence, the best managers help grow their salespeople. What they don’t do is ride along on the call in order to take on the call and close the business.  

To be respected (and a good teacher), managers can’t join ride-alongs by surprise to check-up on and micromanage the salespeople. Effective coaching days are always planned and on the calendar many weeks in advance -- because this is not about catching them doing it wrong. This is about completely focusing on helping them to grow. When done right, the sellers actually like and appreciate the coaching. Why? Because they see actual growth as a result of that coaching.

Can you imagine a professional football coach not attending the practices or the games? What if that coach avoided any time in the field, and instead determined how a play was doing by relying entirely on the score? How could he give his players input on what they need to do to win or to grow professionally?

Don't be this coach. Be involved with your team so you can impart your knowledge and assist them in any way possible.

3 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Sales Coach

1) Commit to spending time regularly in the field with your sales reps.

Remember to use this time for coaching, rather than micromanaging. Schedule this in-field time well in advance, so it's not a surprise attack, and share very clear expectations regarding the purpose and intended outcome of this time together.

Also, this is a coaching call, so make sure to provide detailed feedback on what you saw that you liked and where the seller might make slight adjustments to improve.

2) Make time to get to know each of your salespeople and build an individualized growth plan for each one.

It's vital to learn what their goals are, how they prefer to receive coaching, and the kinds of recognition that feels good to them when they succeed. The more you can get to know your salespeople as individuals, the better you will be able to coach, teach, and motivate them.

3) Understand their talents inside and out.

In order to be a highly effective coach, you need to understand the natural abilities of each person you plan to grow and create a clear plan to do this. This means creating strategies to maximize their innate strengths and provide them with opportunities to use and grow those strengths. It also means recognizing any weaknesses they may have and building workarounds to keep those weaknesses from getting in their way.

Because each person you manage is wired differently, the one-size-fits-all coaching plan won’t work here. You will need a specific plan to nurture each individual based on their unique set of natural talents. 

So here is the question you should ask yourself: Are you coaching your players while they play and practice? Or are you spending most of your time managing from your office? No need to worry if it's the latter -- it’s not too late to change your methods!

Take time today to rearrange your priorities and make sure you're spending time coaching. I assure you, you will see your salespeople grow -- and you will also find that your business grows along with them.

Matt Sunshine is the Executive Vice President at The Center for Sales Strategy, for which he regularly blogs.

Image credit: euthman

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