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Even though leading-edge, web-based technologies have done a lot to increase the speed and efficiency of prospecting activities in recent years, the basics of prospecting haven’t changed in decades: analyze your territory, create an account plan, identify high probability targets, qualify prospects, set appointments, begin discovery and keep doing that regularly and relentless day after day, week after week until the good opportunities rise to the top and you get them closed. However, in spite of the proven effectiveness of this simple formula, many sales reps seem to have lost their touch when it comes to prospecting. 

Any sales organization that wants to jump start the prospecting process will likely have to launch what amounts to a prospecting boot camp to get everyone back into shape, and you can’t have a boot camp without a drill instructor to coach and drill those reps in the basics of prospecting until they are instilled as part of the culture of the organization. In a high-growth, highly successful prospecting organization, the roll of the drill instructor is filled by the sales coach, who must design and implement an effective coaching strategy. 

However, because sales managers have become burdened with many other responsibilities, they often resort to “managing” their team members, i.e., giving orders and measuring performance, instead of coaching team members to help them develop the skills and confidence to succeed. To put a fine point on it, managers need to manage less and coach more, if the team is to become a highly successful prospecting unit. 

The chart below helps spell out the difference between managing and coaching:

As the chart above indicates, sales managers who take the “manager” approach tend to be reactionary and unstructured in their coaching. They view it more as a task or a distraction rather than as a mission and an opportunity. They tend to reserve coaching conversations for scheduled evaluations or when it is necessary to fix a major problem. Not only is this not efficient, it is also not effective if the goal is to foster exceptional performance and growth within the team.