A sales manager is responsible for making sure that the sales force is driving toward a unified goal. That sounds simple but when we analyze the situation and see that the sales manager needs to mold a group of individual goals into a group focus, and get everyone on board with that team focus, it’s not so simple. There is a reason people want a sales team rather than just a group of sales people. A group of individuals participating in the same activity doesn’t make a team. Without the team environment, individual goals and competition can subvert the overall vision. Being a team means sharing a goal and taking advantage of the strengths of the group to achieve success. The sales manager has to coach individuals to maintain a cohesive selling strategy.
So what makes a good sales coach? It’s a combination of being a listener, mentor and an accountability partner. A balance of nurturer and task master, and knowing when to fulfill each role is necessary. Remember a coach’s goal is to correct negative behavior or commend positive behavior. Anything that doesn’t serve one of those two goals will prove counterproductive.
The first task in providing coaching is to take your anger temperature. The coach needs to do everything possible to deliver the message so the receiver “gets it.” A sales manager’s frustration with a sales person can block the intended message. Coaching is about helping them improve, not berating them and letting them know the stress they are causing you. The more confrontational the communication manner, the less likely the person will be open to listening to feedback because panic or resentment will set in. If the coach is very angry – the anger will be the primary communication, not the issue itself.
Secondly, you are a model for your salespeople; they are watching you. Practice what you preach – consistently and constantly. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a formula for disaster. A coach gains a lot of credibility when they show they are up to their own tasks. If a coach gives advice that they can’t or won’t enact, the sales team starts to get a “those who can’t, teach” resentment. Additionally, you must be open to their feedback. A coach can’t provide guidance unless they understand the situation.
Finally, be authentic with each of your people. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Let them know you understand what they are going through because you went through it too. People can sense a genuine response. It’s OK to validate a sales person’s frustrations and share in their difficulties. That bond helps make any guidance provided more feasible as they understand it’s coming from someone with a real-world outlook.
There are a lot of sales managers but very few sales coaches. When you master a coaching mentality it draws strong sales performers and improves performance. Great coaches create great teams.