Why Sales Managers Don’t Coach

Selling, particularly outside sales, can be a hard, lonely job. That’s why salespeople need someone who can coach and motivate them.

I’m not talking about the pump ’em up, rah-rah motivation that dies within an hour or two. I call that the Chinese-food type of motivation. An hour after it’s done you want it again! I’m talking about motivation that generates long-term results. It’s like a meat-and-potato meal, something that sticks to your ribs and lasts.

This is called self-motivation and the best sales managers create an environment where self-motivation can flourish. These managers are prepared to mentor and coach their people to success.

What Stands in the Way

Unfortunately, in this busy age of too much to do and not enough time to do it in, the thought of coaching the sales team can drive a sales manager into serious overload. That’s probably the main reason sales managers don’t work at getting the best out of their sales teams.

Other reasons are:

  • They don’t particularly like to do it.
  • They’re not quite sure how to do it.

I can empathize with the first reason because I feel much the same way. And I’m going to give you a simple six-step system to help with the second reason.

Building the Right Team

Before you concern yourself about being a coach, it’s best to be sure you’re working with coachable material. Building the right sales team is a bit like building a sports team in that you need the right kind of people if you’re going to have a winning team.

Just because a bunch of guys are interested in throwing a football around doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll make it to the big time. Even at the professional sports level, trying to coach or mentor baseball players to be good at football isn’t likely to work.

Having the right people to coach is important and that’s why we recommend the use of a  sales assessment  to assess your existing team as well as make even better hires in the future.

Mentoring vs Coaching

Mentoring means showing them the way, it doesn’t mean carrying them there! This is where coaching comes in. Mentors provide direction and inspiration while coaches observe, comment, correct, and encourage.

Here are six keys to being a good sales coach.

1. Know the sales process. You can’t coach if you don’t understand the rules. Good coaches have not only played the game, they continue to learn. Do the same.

If you haven’t got formal sales training, get some. Good books are no substitute for good training and good training is no substitute for experience. You need all three to excel at the sales manager’s job.

2. Learn how to criticize and correct. Use the tried-but-true sandwich method when correcting poor technique. Start with a positive comment on something the salesperson did right, discuss what went wrong, and end with another positive. Your encouragement will motivate the person to improve.

Coaching needn’t be a process of criticizing and correcting. If there is nothing to criticize or correct, compliment. A compliment from the manager is hugely motivating.

3. Make joint sales calls. Don’t be an armchair coach. Get out in the field with your people. See them in action. Celebrate their successes and help them learn from their failures. Show them you care.

4. Help them set goals. Help your people define achievable goals and then show them how to reach those goals. And when they do, shine the spotlight on them. Nothing self-motivates like success.

5. Plan to coach. If you don’t plan to make calls with your people to coach them, it won’t happen. You should go out with your salespeople at least once a quarter, if not more often. I know you’re busy but this is an important part of your job. Plan to do it.

6. Know your people. Everyone is different. Get to know each person on your team — their interests, their dreams, and their goals. Then show them how they can achieve them.

The Bottom Line

Caring, coaching, and sincere encouragement are the keys to building an environment where your salespeople will be self-motivated. When your people know how much you care, they’ll want to do their best for you. This is more than sales management. It’s sales leadership.