What does resilience mean to you? A few concepts probably come to mind when you hear the word—concepts like toughness, the ability to bounce back from struggles, flexibility, and an indomitable mindset. If you’ve come to this post, you’re not only interested in resilience: You’re interested in how to coach sales leaders to embody these traits.
Sales is a tough industry. Any salesperson who has been in the game for more than five minutes knows this to be true. It’s filled with rejections and challenges, and objections must be overcome at every corner. Resilience is a vital trait not only for your leaders but for every salesperson in your organization.
This post will cover my top six tips for coaching sales leaders to become effective and efficient sales managers who will create a culture of resilience in your organization.
The Importance of Coaching Sales Leaders
Let’s start by outlining the important differences between sales coaching and sales training. While both are important pieces of the sales development puzzle, they are different from one another.
When we train sales leaders, we provide them with the strategies, tactics, and frameworks to succeed in one of the more challenging roles in business. Coaching sales leaders is about helping them be more effective individually. Most of the time, the topics are about how they communicate with their teams and building the culture that ensures they generate results. You may want to use a sales coaching template when building your coaching program.
Coaching is essential for anyone who desires to become more effective and improve their performance. Because coaching is a process that explores the beliefs and behaviors that are ineffective, a coach can provide a conversation that elicits the challenge and helps the person being coached to identify new beliefs and behaviors.
However, many sales leaders actively resist sales coaching. Even though everyone needs coaching and salespeople ask for more coaching, most sales leaders make the mistake of spending time on internal issues that cause them to believe they don’t have time to coach their teams. This is never true; it’s simply a matter of priorities. There is nothing more important than the effectiveness of the sales force, individually and collectively. Coaching is a critical tool in improving results.
1. Outline the Sales Management Process
Before you can coach successfully, you need to lay out expectations for what you think a “good” sales management process looks like. Following this tip will help your managers self-identify knowledge and skills gaps and understand what they need to work on to be successful.
But the self-identification of skills gaps isn’t the only benefit of defining success before beginning your coaching program. To know what you want from coaching, you need to understand what success looks like.
Coaching is generally done on an individual basis. As a result, you’ll need a self-assessment to help your leaders and managers identify the areas they feel they want to improve. However, the nature of coaching will often surface additional areas of improvement previously unknown to the person being coached. Success in coaching is the behavioral changes that produce better results.
2. Customize your Coaching Plans
Coaching should never be one-size-fits-all. If you need your entire sales management to adopt a new competency, that is better achieved by training.
Because different sales managers have different challenges at different times, and because coaching is personal, each sales manager needs to do the individual work to change and grow on their own, which coaching provides the most effective way.
Resilient sales leaders need tailored coaching. A sales leader or manager will often have many issues and challenges. It can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially in this disruptive environment. Coaching can help the sales leader slow down long enough to take a more objective look and explore changes in the safest environment. Coaching provides a space to assess the sales leader's situation and time to think through their choices. Resilience means you bounce back from negative outcomes instead of being frustrated or paralyzed.
How can you build a coaching plan for each individual? You’ll use different approaches for different needs.
Most of the time, a non-directive coaching approach is the most effective, with the coach prompting the person being coached to respond in such a way that they identify what is blocking them and what they might do to improve their performance. However, a sales leader or manager with little experience needs a coaching conversation with a coach who can provide answers. Since every sales leader has their own challenges, a generic approach won’t produce the best results.
3. Focus on Building Leadership Traits
Developing hard skills is essential in coaching and training, but your coaching process for sales leaders should also focus on soft skills like building leadership traits. The mechanics of sales leadership is easier to enable than the soft skills. But soft skills are often an obstacle for sales leaders and sales managers.
In my upcoming book, Leading Growth: The Proven Formula for Consistently Increasing Revenue, you will find a chapter on leadership styles and an explanation as to how to be less of an autocrat, limiting the non-negotiables to a few essential activities and outcomes.
Teaching communication and the skills of holding people accountable using humane consequences provides for better relationships and better results. Coaching in these areas improves results.
Some of the top leadership traits every sales leader needs to focus on building include experience they can transfer, the ability to act as a model for beliefs and behaviors, and a focus on people and a vision for the future. Sales leaders also need to be excellent communicators and teachers. They should strive for a values-driven, generous mindset and understand the importance of building leaders beneath them.
The best way to grow these competencies is to start with a coach and tackle them one by one over time, prioritizing them by their impact on the leader’s performance.
4. Establish Priorities Together
You cannot have an effective coaching program without first establishing priorities. What do you want to accomplish first with your coaching efforts?
Your first priority is to uncover the primary obstacle that prevents better results. A good coach does this one of two ways, eliciting the obstacle or bringing awareness to an obstacle the person being coached hasn’t yet recognized.
Meet with your sales leaders one-on-one to establish priorities. You may want to ask for their input at this point in the process. However, it’s often better to allow the coach to help identify the real problem or issue, something the sales leader may be unaware of.
5. Focus on Every Level of Leadership
You need to build leaders at every level of your organization. Increasing the feelings of commitment and leadership at every level lightens the load on upper management.
A sales leader who wants to improve their results must recognize that the better and more effective their sales managers are, the greater their results. No matter how long or short a time a sales manager has been in their role, there are always areas where they can improve. By doing so, they improve their team's performance.
When you coach at all levels, you are also creating resiliency in your team members and your organization by building a pipeline of future leaders in your sales team. The best-performing sales organizations are the ones with the best leaders. A pipeline of people capable of leading in uncertain times is essential, even if too few understand the importance of growing leaders.
Unsure of how to find the best candidates for sales managers among your ranks? It can be tough to identify them. You are looking for someone who already has many of the attributes of a leader. Even though experience in sales is essential, the leader won’t be selling directly, so choosing your top salesperson isn’t always the best play.
6. People First, Deals Second
Coaching leaders regarding specific deals is possible, but be careful not to get too caught in the weeds. There aren’t too many conversations you can have in sales than strategizing on deals. The goal of coaching is to help individuals improve their performance and results. People should always be your first priority.
Great coaching goes beyond specific opportunities. Explore patterns and show managers how their behaviors, practices, and traits affect the salespeople on their teams.
Here is an example: One sales manager scheduled team meetings and ended up canceling them every week to work on internal tasks and duties, ignoring the needs of his team. Eventually, his team started missing meetings, and he lost the trust of his team. Coaching best addresses this issue, while deal strategy can be delivered in a different format.
Focus coaching around building resilient personalities and strong team relationships. The speed of the team is the speed of the leader. The leader sets the example for their teams. If they are overwhelmed, their team will be overwhelmed. A calm, effective leader undeterred by events or the environment will have a team that models that same mindset.
Related Read: The One-Up Mindset
The most important outcomes of coaching are mostly made up of human things, including communication, mindset and beliefs, relationships, and the change that always starts with leaders.
Finding the Best Program for Coaching Sales Leaders
By following the tips I’ve listed in this post, you’ll be able to coach your sales leaders to become resilient, effective managers and sales professionals that can help guide your organization to better close rates and higher revenue.
But tips alone aren’t enough. You must follow a proven program to level up your managers’ leadership skills to get maximum results from your coaching efforts.
To learn how you can accelerate your sales and help your leaders coach your salespeople to eliminate fear and friction from their sales processes, take my Sales Manager Challenge today!
In the Sales Manager Challenge, you’ll be able to identify your sales blockers and work one-on-one with a sales strategy expert to improve your sales performance.