Coaching: The Number One Success Strategy for Sales Management

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Since my early days of managing sales teams, I have noticed that many sales managers have either not been trained or have not learned the skill of coaching.  The number one objective of all sales managers is to improve the quality of their sales force.  This is done through coaching.  Far too often, I encounter sales managers whom either lack of knowledge and/or environmental circumstances force to be nothing more than a business administrator.  When you stop to think about it, that is a tremendous waste.

First, the man or woman selected as a sales manager was probably selected because of their sales ability.  I am confident that they were not selected because of their administrative or paperwork-shuffling abilities.  However, many companies have incorrectly eliminated this valuable resource of sales support from their organization.  Consequently, the most talented, most productive and most profitable sales representative is promoted into a position of being an ineffective, and frequently very frustrated, paperwork administrator.

These managers should take heart and have a meeting with their bosses in order to negotiate a different deployment of their job.  I would love to see all sales managers involved in very consistent and proactive coaching of their sales teams.  Without doubt, the team performs better when managers coach.  Following is a coaching structure that I have laid out for you.

The first step to implementing a successful coaching program is to identify which one of your employees needs the assistance.  Sales managers who try to work with the entire team to dramatically improve the performance of their entire team frequently encounter a “top stop” on their ability to impact the organization.  This is due to the simple fact that today’s sales manager has so many things to do that they may be able to only barely squeeze some coaching into their life.

So, take it easy on yourself and identify your worst performer.  After you have done that, identify the causes of their performance problem.  Then, you need to develop a coaching program to help that individual start moving towards higher levels of productivity and profitability.  Before you do that, however, make sure that you have a genuine conversation with your employee.  This conversation should focus on how the employee feels about his/her performance.

If the employee feels that they are doing a fantastic job, then you have the challenge of synchronizing your evaluations.  Coaching will not work under any circumstances where the employee feels that they do not need or, worse, don’t want any coaching.  However, assuming that the employee does want the assistance and/or feels that they can benefit from some coaching, then you are ready to launch the program.

An intensive coaching program should last for anywhere from four to six weeks.  I have labeled this an intensive program because you will be working with one employee for a short period of time to address a few weaknesses.  Don’t try to fix everything all at once.  After all, I believe it is virtually impossible for an employee to do <u>everything</u> incorrectly.  Consequently, let’s focus on the biggest issues first.  Once you have diagnosed the cause of the problem, you then must write a “prescription”.

The prescription could include time in the field with you, time at their cubicle (in the event that you are a telemarketing company), sales practice with you and/or conducting role-playing sessions with other members of the team.  Regardless of the prescription, once it is written, you owe your employee a commitment of time to make sure that the prescription is followed.  Assuming that that is moving forward properly, then you will be in the great position to monitor their progress.

At each step along the way, you may have to give your employee some verbal encouragement.  Remember, they are working through a process of change.  Frequently, any progress can be retarded or eliminated in the event that the manager isn’t cognizant and/or doesn’t acknowledge the effort and progress that the employee is making.  Conduct regular plan-and-review sessions with your employee during this four- to six-week period.  Again, make sure that you distribute an appropriate number of “atta girls” or “atta boys” to your employee.

If you were to look in a dictionary back in the 17th century, you would find that the definition of a coach was “a vehicle intended to move very important people from one place to another”.  In that regard, I think your employees are the very important people and that you, their sales manager, should be the vehicle that moves them to sales success.


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