There is a reason that an outside coach can often be more effective than a sales manager that coaches their sales team. The reason that an external coach can be more effective is that the external coach is a stakeholder in a different set of outcomes.
What a Coaching Sales Manager Wants
The coaching sales manager needs his salespeople to make their number. She needs them to produce the results for which she is being held accountable. It’s easy to focus all of your coaching efforts on making the number when your quota as a sales manager is the sum total of your team’s individual quotas. That makes it easy to view everything you do through the lens that is making the number.
But being tied to the outcome only of making the number, coaching less effective. It makes it easy to focus always on pipeline coaching, opportunity coaching, and deal strategy—all of which are critically important. But focusing only in these areas misses one of the primary outcomes of coaching: the salesperson’s personal and professional growth.
Coaching is about the growth that helps the salesperson to make their number.
The Benefit of Being Divorced from the Number
An external coach has the great benefit of being divorced from the outcome of making the number. Instead of coaching only to the numbers, the external sales coach can more easily and more naturally focus on the development of the salesperson, personally and professionally.
Honestly, the indirect approach is often far faster and far more effective in producing the results that produce the numbers. Those results are an improved salesperson, a better salesperson.
How to Coach as a Sales Manager
Even though an outside coach can more easily focus on the salesperson instead of the number, a thoughtful sales manager can easily adopt a few practices to make their coaching more effective.
Remember the outcome: The first and most important way to improve your coaching is to focus on helping the salesperson get the outcomes that they need from coaching. Instead of focusing on what you see as the sales manager (which is really a performance review), you focus on the areas in which the salesperson wants to focus. Good coaching skills will allow you to get to the root cause issues that prevent them from succeeding, but it is easier to make an improvement when the salesperson gets what they need from coaching, not a performance review.
Build the salesperson: The goal of coaching is to help the salesperson improve and to perform better. You can’t get the “perform better” without first getting the “improve.” A good coach helps the salesperson understand their blind spots and helps them identify new possibilities, new choices, new beliefs, and new behaviors. You’ll know you’ve got this right when the salesperson is empowered and when they exercise their resourcefulness to improve their results.
You want coaching to provide salespeople with the ability to grow and to know how to improve their own results.
Learn to use non-directive coaching: If you find yourself telling your salesperson what to do, you aren’t coaching. There are times when you need to use directive coaching, but it should not be your primary coaching approach. When you use non-directive coaching, you require the salesperson to do all of the heavy lifting. They have to do all of thinking about how they will change and how they will make improvements. This also means they make the choices about what they are going to do and, because it is all theirs, they own it. They don’t have to buy-in because the decisions are theirs.
Your role is to help them take the decisions they need and hold them accountable, not to tell them what to do. If you find it difficult to not direct your salespeople, you aren’t alone. You will learn a lot about yourself while learning to get out of the way.
Remember that to make the number, you first make the sales rep: A sales manager only has one set of assets to produce results, and that is their sales force. If you want to improve your results, you improve your sales force. If you want to make your number, you make the sales rep.
This is one of those cases where slow is fast and where fast is slow. The more time you invest in coaching and developing your sales people, the faster they will improve in their performance.
When you need to manage, manage. When you need to coach, coach. They are different outcomes, and they require different approaches.
What are some of the obstacles to effectively coaching salespeople when you are also their manager?
How do you focus on the real outcomes of coaching?
How do you invest in building the salesperson that performs at a higher level?
How do you help salespeople to grow? How do you challenge them to find the resourcefulness within themselves?