Sales Manager, Leader or Coach?

To be effective, a sales manager must be both a leader and an manager – doing the right things, and doing things right. But what happens when your staff are struggling to do things right. This is where sales managers become coaches.

Many may argue that not all sales people require coaching but as roles and circumstances change, what is needed to ‘do things right’ also changes and often even the best salespeople can falter. This is where the manager needs to adopt the role of coach. Think of the best athletes. I know of none who have achieved greatness without the support and guidance of a great coach. Even pro-golfers and tennis players at the peak of their careers will often look for specialist coaching to help with small flaws that have crept into their game and are negatively impacting their performance.

When your sales staff have the basic and essential skills but struggle to apply them in a changing environment, this is when your role as coach is needed. You help them develop and apply their skills both for their own benefit and that of the team – this is your skill.

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be”
Tom Landry Dallas Cowboys coach 1960 – 1988

Coaching needs to be embedded as an on-going, formal process that is tailor-made for each member of your team; it includes:

  • helping team members to identify areas for improvement, which includes building on their strengths more than addressing their weaknesses
  • helping team members to define the coaching objectives, strategies and the levels of coaching they acknowledge and accept
  • helping team members to develop winning habits that move them closer to achieving their goals
  • providing guidance primarily in the form of powerful questioning that leads team members to identifying their own development gaps, finding their own solutions and taking ownership of their own on-going learning
  • supporting team members’ access to other developmental opportunities that they require to gain the knowledge, skills and competencies that they need to be successful
  • motivating team members to sustain high levels of focus, energy and action in pursuit of their goals, so that they are challenging themselves to succeed
  • sustaining the coaching process through formal sessions, on-going coaching conversations, agreed interventions and timely, thorough follow-ups

The aim of coaching is to make the most of your valuable human resources by encouraging and supporting each of your team members to reach their highest potential.

Coaching is not about making wholesale changes to an individual. Successful coaches understand the benefits of incremental improvement. British cycling coach turned a team that had enjoyed little (almost no) success in nearly a century to a powerhouse at the London Olympics by breaking down every aspect of competitive cycling and aiming for a 1% improvement in each area.

“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.”
Bob Nelson, Author & Motivational Expert

Coaching is about development – regardless of the individuals current skill set. It is about sharing expertise. It is about guiding and holding the individual accountable. It is not leadership and it is not ‘management’, but it is an essential role of any successful sales manager. Coaching is a distinct role of the sales manager, and the lines between leading your team, your performance management duties and coaching activities should not be blurred.

This article by Wayne Moloney was originally posted on Linked In