Fire the Coach!

Just imagine what it would be like if we ran our businesses like a sports team. It’s the end of the fiscal year and the numbers are in. Despite three good quarters, in the end our competitor beat us out in total sales. It was close but when push came to shove, our sales team was outmanoeuvred on that last big sale. So the owners call in the sales manager, tell him what a rotten job he did in coaching and motivating the sales team and then fire him.

Still on the theme of running a company like a sports team, we move into the year-end draft where we can dump our worst performers from the sales team and reach into our competitor’s sales team and select a couple of potential winners. Or we go to are farm team (branch office) and move up a couple people who are showing potential at the local level and who may be ready for the “big time.” Nice thought!

The Game of Business

We all know that this isn’t the way it is in the game of business. There’s no draft system allowing us to swap poor performers for potential winners. We have to get the results we want with the team we already have. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prune or fine-tune our line-up.

The Players

If you’ve got a poor performer on the team, consider the three “R’s” — repair, retrain, or replace. If the person was a previous performer who has stopped performing, maybe something needs fixing (repair).

If he’s always been an “also ran”—the type of person who almost makes it but continually falls short—retraining may be the key to getting him on track.

On the other hand, if the person is a perpetual sub-performer—a dud—he may be a square peg in a round hole and replacement may be the only solution.

For me, replacing someone is always the last resort. I try the other two “R’s” first but when all else fails, giving the person a new career opportunity is the only option.

The Coach

And how about firing the coach? Firing the sales manager or VP of sales is something we don’t usually do in business, although it might not be a bad idea in some cases.

I’ve always felt that coaching the sales team is an integral part of the sales manager’s function. Unfortunately, some sales managers don’t even know how to play the game let alone coach the team. How can you coach someone if you don’t know the rules or haven’t played the game yourself?

You don’t need to be a super salesperson to be a good coach but you do need to have the ability to get the most out of your players. Many of the best sales managers weren’t barn-burning salespeople. They are the ones who understand what’s required to make a sale and can translate that information into terms their players can understand and action.

As I mention in my book The Sales Wizard’s Secrets of Sales Management, we often take our best salesperson and make him or her the sales manager with the sad result that we lose our best salesperson and gain our worst sales manager. Not everybody is well suited for this position.

The “A” Team

In sports, “A” coaches hire “A” players and “B” coaches hire “C” players. In business, “A” sales managers are confident enough to hire “A” salespeople while “B” sales managers hire “C” salespeople and then complain about how bad business is.

An “A” manager seeks to hire people who can be as good as or better in sales than the manager himself. A “B” manager’s ego won’t allow him to hire someone who may show him up. “A” managers strive to develop and empower their people while “B” managers go for control. Become an “A” sales manager.

Running a Sports Team like a Business

Now here’s an interesting concept. Instead of firing the coach, maybe we should fire some of the overpriced prima donnas who won’t allow themselves to be coached and who are only motivated by inflated incomes. Nice thought!