You Probably Aren’t Coaching As Much As You Think You Are

Sales CoachingAs a sales manager, you have the responsibility for developing each of your sales reps into an independent, self-sustaining profit center—for themselves first, and then for the company. Salespeople enjoy higher levels of motivation when they see their best efforts benefiting themselves and their families primarily. If your compensation plan is structured properly, the company is going to make money as the sales rep makes money. Both parties win; that’s the goal.

To reach this goal, the salespeople on your team need coaching. Some will need more and some less; some will need coaching in one area and some in others. Each salesperson is unique, but they all share one thing in common: they won’t reach peak performance without coaching.

Unfortunately, many sales managers do sales coaching the least, but believe they’re doing sales coaching the most. This may derive from a misunderstanding about the roles of a sales coach. Coaching as a management skill—or, more properly, a set of skills—exists distinct from sales leadership or sales management. It involves the training and conditioning needed to turn a good sales rep into a great one.

The same truth applies in athletics. For example, every quarterback in the NFL has a quarterback coach. Very few people know who these coaches are; they work behind the scenes as far as the team’s fans are concerned. They invest all their time in observing the performance of one person—the quarterback—during practices and games, constantly analyzing his performance and identifying areas for improvement.

Through this process, coaches discover and define gaps and create development plans to address them. Player and coach work together towards the same goal, forming a partnership to help the player attain the next level of achievement.

For the coach, it’s all about the player, which can explain why conflict sometimes develops when a former sales superstar moves into a sales manager role: still thinking of themselves as they player, they may think it’s still all about them. In the name of role-modeling good behaviors, they frequently want to step in and save the deal. This makes the manager feel good, but it puts a brick on the head of the sales rep because no development—no actual coaching—takes place.

Sometimes salespeople need sales managers. They need rules defined and clarified, expectations set, performance measured. A sales organization needs these managerial functions, and others, to reach its goals, but none of them in and of itself will lead a salesperson to higher levels of achievement.

To maximize the performance of your sales team, you need to become a sales coach.