Sales managers are masters of wearing multiple hats. You’re a leader, a sales rep yourself, a recruiter… and a coach?
If you played sports growing up, I’m sure you can remember the name of a favorite coach or two, but for every coach you remember, there are probably half a dozen who have turned into vague, ball-cap-wearing figures in your memory.
Why is that? What made the truly incredible coaches stand out from the crowd while the rest faded into the ether—and how can you leverage that knowledge for your own coaching efforts? How can you be a good sales coach that stands a cut above the rest and truly makes a difference for your team?
Consider this post your primer on how to be a good sales coach. I’ll cover coaching in general, then dive into my top five skills that every sales coach needs to have to succeed.
How To Be a Good Sales Coach: Why Sales Coaching Matters
Let’s start with a foundational question. What does it mean to be a sales coach? Every high performer regardless of their domain has a coach or coaches. This is true in sports, the arts, and business.
Your responsibility as a coach is to see something in a person that they can’t yet see. You also help, encourage, prod, and push the person you are coaching to do the work to become the person who comes after the person they are now.
It’s important to remember that coaching is not training. It’s a conversation that helps the person being coached to recognize their potential and to develop it and grow as a sales rep and as a person.
When you coach, you are not managing the individual. Instead, you are developing the salesperson. The only thing you will hold them accountable for is making the behavioral change they commit to in the coaching.
If you think you don’t have time to coach, it’s important that you make or find that time. Why? Because coaching is the best and most effective way to improve your sales force’s effectiveness.
1. Relationship-Building Skills
Coaching can help you build rapport with your sales reps. The foundation of building rapport is getting to know the salespeople on your team.
You want to know what they care about. Recently, a salesperson told me they quit a job after five years when his manager didn’t know he had three children. The best way to build rapport is by asking the salesperson what they want in the future.
Coaching also helps you adopt a people-centric mindset—you are coaching your team to help them succeed as individuals (and, ultimately, help the team succeed as a whole). As a coach, you want to people first.
When we’re talking about relationship-building, the best approach is to be human. To do this, you should not believe the salesperson needs what you would need. You need to treat the individual based on what they need.
2. Data Tracking and Analytical Skills
Let me be clear: You don’t need to be a data scientist to be an effective sales coach.
Still, you should be able to set up systems to track your staff’s performance in a manner that provides you with meaningful metrics to help scale their improvement and growth.
When your salesperson chooses to improve some character trait or skill, you want to do your best to measure their progress, something that is difficult to recognize on your own. This is how you go from strength to strength, building a highly effective salesperson.
The best metric you can use to measure growth is the salesperson’s win rate, as that is a reflection of their effectiveness. You don’t need a lot of reports, but you do need notes on the commitments the salesperson committed to in coaching so you can follow up.
3. Collaborative Skills
Coaching is more of a partnership than a teacher-student relationship.
The best way to think of this relationship is that you are helping the salesperson gain awareness of the things that prevent success while recognizing their potential. It’s also a way to help them recognize the behavioral changes they need to make and the strategies they need to succeed.
Work with sales reps to set their own targets and identify their own weaknesses in addition to providing your own insights. You can improve your collaboration skills by making more room for the person you are coaching.
Most of the time, it’s better to allow the person being coached to choose the area they want to explore, even if you originally had another goal in mind for them. Work on nurturing and motivating each team member as an individual.
4. Prioritization Skills
As much as you may want to coach your team on everything at once, you can’t. Unless the salesperson is at a loss for an area where they need coaching, you should let them choose the area in which they want to improve their results.
If you don’t let the rep choose their focus area, you should ensure you’re picking one skill or tactic to improve tailored to that individual.
RELATED: Prioritizing Sales Tasks
You want to make your salesperson’s priority your priority unless you need to help them make a major change to something that will continue to harm the salesperson and their results.
5. Set and Communicate Clear Expectations
No matter how good your relationship skills are, how well you track your numbers, how collaborative you are, or how well you prioritize things, you will not hit targets that you do not explicitly (and clearly) communicate to your team.
Ensure you clearly communicate due dates, goal metrics, and other expectations to your reps throughout the coaching process.
If you don't communicate expectations clearly, you cannot hold your team accountable for not achieving them. Ultimately, if you haven’t told them what’s expected, it’s your fault when they don’t meet those goals.
How To Be a Good Sales Coach: Follow This Blueprint
Being a good sales coach is about more than just knowing the sales industry inside and out. To truly succeed as a sales coach, you need to take the time to take a human-centric, individualized approach to each rep’s growth.
Collaborating closely with your team will help you to identify perceived strengths and weaknesses, set priorities, and build trust with your reps. Your coaching efforts will only succeed if all these pieces of the puzzle are in place.
Before you can truly nail your coaching efforts, however, you first need to identify your team’s blockers and gaps. This knowledge will give you a solid starting point for your coaching efforts.
Check out my Sales Accelerator program to learn more about sales coaching and leadership and level up the skills you need to help your team.