A Coachs Handbook For Sales Managers
Quote of the month: "A leader is the relentless architect of thepossibility that others can be."Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic
Sales organizations have access to more or less the same resources. They can draw from the same pool of salespeople in their niche orgeographic area, and they can all learn the same sales ormanagement tools and techniques.
Yet some organizations perform at a high level and other stay atthe bottom of the heap. What accounts for these gaps? I believe twowords answer the question: effective leadership.
Too many sales managers are bosses, technicians or even bullies. They kill team spirit, arouse mediocrity and suck the energy out ofcompanies. The results are poor morale, loss of talented peopleand low performance.
Effective leaders, by contrast, define themselves as coaches andteachers. Rather than constantly dealing with problems and tellingpeople what to do, strong leaders empower and enable others tosolve problems on their own, take risks, make decisions, tackle newchallenges, and learn from their experiences. They don't just seetheir salespeople as who they are today, but who they could be inthe future.
Here are the best practices of sales managers who lead throughcoaching and teaching:
CLARIFY GOALSResearch shows that only about 20% of managers write down theirgoals. If you don't have any written goals, how do you know if youhave accomplished what you set out to do? Telling team members,'Okay everyone, go make the numbers' doesn't provide guidance andsupport.
A more effective goal for the sales manager/coach would be alongthe lines of: "By the end of March, I will have completed adevelopmental plan for each salesperson in our division. It willfocus on how to help each salesperson meet their sales targets andincrease their leadership skills. Each person will have threereasonable goals, and one superhuman goal. After collaborativelysetting these goals, I'll ask each of them to complete a planoutlining how to reach these goals. I'll follow up with eachperson by having a monthly one-hour coaching conversation to helpovercome any problems and track their progress. I will not cancelthese coaching conversations - they are business meetings."
Strong leaders invest in coaching for themselves so that they stayon track and explore what else is possible.
MATCH INDIVIDUAL GOALS TO ORGANIZATIONAL GOALSEffective managers ensure that the plan each individual draws upreflects the needs of the organization, customers, and sales teamwith their own desires.
They work with each salesperson to clarify their goals, askingquestions such as:
· Does your performance reflect the organization or team mission?
· What stretch goal would foster your performance and development? What is important about that to you? What do you love about it?
· What would be a meaningful role for you in the future? How wouldyou need to develop to reach it?
· What's missing that would make a difference to you?
Strong sales coaches give people a chance to develop what they arepassionate about.
CONFRONT POOR PERFORMANCEGiven the rapid pace typical in today's organizations, salesmanagers can get so bogged down with their own work that they missthe opportunity to correct a performance problem before it is toolate.
It's also tempting for sales managers to ignore "borderline" cases, hoping they will quit or move to another department. However, procrastination rarely helps. Team members need to know whatmanagers expect of them. They can't read minds.
Confronting performance problems is generally more humane thanletting the individual and their co-workers suffer. Anunderperforming team member is often unhappy and likely mismatchedto the job.
Many problems can be headed off through regularly scheduledcoaching conversations. Adopting this strategy will encourage teammembers to bring up problems early, when they are easier to solve.
STAND BACK AND SEE CLEARLYSales managers whose identity and income is too tightly wrapped upin the successes and struggles of their team may not be able todisassociate themselves enough to clearly see what each memberneeds to thrive. Those who act as coaches and teachers start bybuilding agreement with their team members on roles and goals, thenguide them to reach their full potential. Conversely, strong salesmanagers acknowledge when they are can not detach themselves enoughfrom a salespeoples' performance, and help that salesperson find amore appropriate coach.
This process of serving the well-being of team members is called"stewardship". Leaders who use a stewardship approach regard theirteams as separate from themselves and their identity. The oppositemethod of staying involved in every detail of your team'sfunctioning might be termed "smothering." Managers who smother makeit difficult for people to get their work done.
ASK AND LISTENMany managers feel that the members of their team have misguidedviews, and they need to straighten out their thinking. This strongneed to be right can sabotage any attempt at meaningfulconversations.
There is an 180 degree difference between coercing people to accept yourideas, and collaboratively talking through issues to come up withthe best solution. A strong leader deeply believes that otherpeople are naturally creative, resourceful and wise, and their jobis to help uncover the answers, not dictate them.
Mediocre sales managers do all the talking; those interested inacting as coaches and teachers ask probing questions and listenattentively to the answers.
CHEERLEADIt has been said that there are only two types of people who thriveon being recognized for their achievements: men and women. We haveall experienced the incredible energy of getting recognition orappreciation from people whose opinions we respect.
A common complaint of people in low-performing organizations isthat they don't get recognition and appreciation from their boss. They feel like a piece of furniture. It's a huge contributor todeclining levels of morale and self-motivation.
Strong sales coaches understand the power of sincere recognition, genuine appreciation and celebration. These are what provide theatmosphere of encouragement that develops confidence and builds onstrengths. Have fun with it!
About the Author
Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Sales Management Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. Since 1992, Nicki has trained, certified, and/or coached more than 6,000 business executives, sales managers and salespeople.