Are Your Sales Managers Prepared to be Great Coaches?
By Derek Roberts
Sales coaching is a topic that gets a lot of attention today, but that doesn’t mean companies are actively investing in developing coaches. In fact, many managers are given the responsibility as part of the job, without much in the way of preparation or support.
This is a shame, because effective coaching doesn’t just happen, and yet, the impact of great coaches can be far-reaching. By not only lifting productivity and performance but also building bonds of trust and loyalty, a strong coaching culture can quickly become a company’s key strategic differentiator. Talented employees will want to work there, and top performers will want to stay. After all, when you have a good relationship with a manager who’s invested in growing and developing you, that’s a risky thing to leave; you may not find it with the next manager.
But here’s the hard reality: Being a good sales manager doesn’t make you a good sales coach.
While the managerial role requires tactical, analytical and operational business skills, the coaching role is different; it focuses on the human side of the equation. It requires managers to be able to reach into the relationships with the people on their team, find out what their strengths and goals are, and then help align those to the job that needs to be done.
Fundamentally, a manager’s job is to get things done with and through other people, so this coaching responsibility is an essential piece of the puzzle. It’s why great leaders are often both good managers and good coaches. They’re complementary roles, not mutually exclusive ones.
Building Coaching Confidence
Again, this doesn’t happen simply by adding “sales coach” to the list of the manager’s job responsibilities. In many cases, it’s not even a question of whether the manager has specific coaching skills. Confidence and mindset have a huge influence on both a manager’s coaching effectiveness and a salesperson’s selling success. Just like the most successful salespeople have an internal drive to sell, the most effective sales coaches have an internal drive to invest in other people.
This is something that can be developed and nurtured, but the organization has to recognize it and make it a priority. If managers don’t understand and know how to address these “EQ” issues, including potential negative perceptions or limiting attitudes about coaching and selling, they will struggle in the role, regardless of their skill level.
Deepening Sales Performance
Of course, an investment in sales coaching isn’t just for the manager’s benefit. It’s ultimately about improving individual sales performance and committing to the ongoing success of top performers. But one of the questions I often hear is, isn’t training enough?
While it’s true that a single training event may be able to provide an immediate performance lift, in most cases, the improvements are going to be limited and short-term at best, particularly if the world around that individual doesn’t support new behaviors and attitudes.
The salesperson needs to come back to an environment and a culture that says, we see potential in what you’re doing and we want to help you grow. As such, the coach plays a big role in sustaining and accelerating those new behaviors. When you invest in sales training without coupling it with effective coaching and a process to support it, it’s not going to get you the same kind of results.
Sales Coaching Pays Off—Many Times Over
Why invest in sales coaching? Because it’s an investment that delivers in multiple ways, from increasing the return on your sales training investments to enhancing trust in the organization. And as trust grows, so does productivity—people want to show up and do more.
In other words, when you invest in coaching and make it a priority, you’re building a wall of protection around your greatest people. And that’s how coaching can become your best strategic defense.