It’s a fact of life that many sales managers are elevated to their position based on strong individual sales results, with little to no training in leadership and coaching – the very skills needed to drive team performance. Let’s look at how the roles of Sales Manager, Sales Leader and Sales Coach differ, and how gaps in sales managers’ competencies can be filled.
The Sales Manager
A Sales Manager has the role of leading a team to sales success. The focus of meeting targets means that sales managers spend a lot of their time on data.
Pipeline chats with their sales team are about the data. The sales manager monitors quotas, incentives and forecasts. They meet with marketing and finance stakeholders. When the heads of businesses place the highest emphasis on short term results, the sales managers can get buried in the data and neglect the longer-term plans to Lead and Coach their teams.
The Sales Leader
A Sales Leader ensures that they jump out of the short-term data for at least some of their time. They use this time and space to be forward thinking and innovative. They have an impact that inspires their team to follow. Leadership skills can be developed but how often do the heads of business invest in building the leadership skills of their sales managers?
The Sales Coach
A Sales Coach improves sales by developing people. They build on training with an ongoing, systematic program of fine-tuning sales skills. Sales Coaching is arguably one of the most important and most difficult aspects of the sales manager’s role. Few business leaders hold sales managers accountable for team coaching. This is because these business leaders are so focused on short term goals and don’t understand the ROI of effective coaching.
All sales managers want their team to succeed and they will do what it takes to help them succeed. Very few though have been ‘trained/coached’ in how to coach their team.
The ROI on sales coaching
There are plenty of case studies and evidence to show the financial value of coaching. One of the clearest examples was the data from a large CEB study (Bertuzzi, Sales Development Playbook, 2016):
Coaching hours per rep monthly
Team % of quota attainment
Less than 2 hours
This study shows the dramatic impact effective sales coaching has on sales team performance. A 19% improvement in sales is a strong ROI.
If Leaders want to build the future of their businesses, they need to enable long-sighted coaching systems. Coaching has had a great impact on many sporting teams over the years and can play the same role in business success.
So, what is sales coaching?
– is asking effective questions to elicit understanding
– is facilitating learning rather than advising or telling
– is clear, planned and systematic
– means ongoing accountability, goals and follow up
– is regular development, not an occasional performance appraisal
– requires trust and open communication
– focuses on one or two priority skills at a time
– empowers individuals and reduces reliance on ‘management’
It is much easier to tell your team what to do that to lead them to their own ‘aha’ moments of understanding. The ‘aha’ moments though are more powerful.
Effective coaching takes effort, but results in improved sales, higher motivation, lower staff turnover and ultimately less time spent by the sales manager in reactive mode. It is well worth managers prioritising sales coaching or, in some cases, outsourcing this development of their sales team.
Connect with a professional sales coach – email email@example.com