Are Your Great Sales Managers Great Coaches, Too?
Last week, sales leaders, along with leaders in HR, learning & development, and training, joined us for From Boss to Coach: Turning Great Sales Managers into Great Coaches, a webinar conducted in partnership with Training Magazine Network and SMMConnect, where we explored both the why and how of transforming managers into coaches.
As the title of the webinar implies, being a great manager or having a great playing history doesn’t automatically make someone a great coach. In facilitating the webinar, Integrity Solutions’ Mike Fisher, and Executive Partner Derek Roberts shared background from their own experiences as well as their coaching and development work with clients.
When Players Become Coaches
Using a football analogy, Mike said that promoting people into sales leadership roles can sometimes be like promoting your best running back to coach. Just because he ran for so many yards last year, it doesn’t necessarily mean he has the skills to be the best coach or knows how to do it well. Not only that, “You just took your best player off the field,” Mike pointed out. So there are serious questions and consequences that need to be addressed.
At the same time, it’s rare that someone who’s just been promoted is going to raise his or her hand and say, I don’t know how to do this job, or I need help. So they may be struggling with internal self-doubt that can further hamper their success. We can’t assume that just by putting someone in the role, they’ll be able to figure out how to coach well, particularly given that there are some many misconceptions about what coaching is, who benefits from it, what’s most important and how it applies specifically in the world of selling.
Sales Coaching From the Inside Out
Derek noted that to be an effective leader, you have to believe in yourself and see yourself as a leader because behavior follows belief. The same is true for your salespeople. While it’s important to do things like set goals and manage activity, one coaching piece that many managers overlook is actually the most critical: to coach effectively, you have to be able to engage your salespeople at an emotional, internal level.
Sales coaches who believe in, understand and develop their salespeople as people are able to engage them more fully and get their buy-in to take ownership, navigate through difficulties, capitalize on their successes and excel beyond their preconceived limits.
Participants on the webinar clearly agreed. When we polled them and asked what they think most impacts a salesperson’s success—product knowledge, selling skills, or attitudes and beliefs—nearly 75% of the respondents selected attitudes and belief. Yet too often, sales managers spend the bulk of coaching time on activity management: how many calls did you make, who’d you meet with, what information have you logged. Activities, Mike pointed out, aren’t the problem. When activities drop, that’s actually a symptom of the problem.
Here’s one more revealing statistic that came up during the webinar. Only 36% of the webinar participants said that more than half of their salespeople have a positive view of selling. You can just imagine how that negative perception of selling is likely influencing everything else they do. But unless a coach knows to dig deeper, this critical driving issue may never be uncovered or addressed.
Since behavior follows belief, sales coaches have to know how to coach to these internal factors. Bottom line, if a salesperson’s numbers start to drop, managers need to look at what the real cause is, because it’s not always the case that the person just needs to “work harder.”
Coaching Salespeople by Taking Them on a Journey of Growth
Derek and Mike had a lively session, with plenty of real-world examples and strategies for developing managers with the emotional intelligence to enable their salespeople—including their high performers—to succeed at entirely new levels.
The session wrapped up with a different coaching analogy, that of the coach as a vehicle that takes people from one place to another. Derek reminded participants that the role of a sales coach is to take people on a journey of growth, and to do that, they need to be able to build up the attitudes, beliefs and confidence to get them where they want to go.
Missed the webinar or want to revisit some of the key points? You can now access the recording and download the full webinar slide deck, which includes tips, strategies and statistics on the impact of effective sales coaching.