One of your salespeople walks into your office saying, “Boss, we have a problem.” (Notice the use of the pronoun “we.”) The sales rep blurts out the problem. You say, “Sales rep, let me look into it and I’ll get back to you.” And in the blink of an eye two things have just happened that are typically associated more with a subordinate than a manager: 1) you accepted a delegation, and 2) you agreed to provide your sales rep with a progress report.
This kind of pattern is so common that I’m never surprised when sales managers tell me that the number one problem they face is not enough time. What they mean is not enough time to do the job they think they should be doing because they’re spending too much time on doing everyone else’s job. And less support, less coaching, and less attention to developing reps is a surefire recipe for having an underperforming team.
In contrast, sales managers with great teams have conquered their number one problem so they can focus on their number one opportunity: developing more great salespeople. They know that they are the only person on the team who can fill that role. By teaching reps to solve their own problems and being more deliberate about managing interruptions from people not on their team, great sales managers are showing that their priority must be on making the coaching contributions that will have the biggest impact on their team’s future performance.
Where do you currently spend most of your one-on-one coaching time? Lots of sales managers tell me that they spend their coaching time on the A players, helping to win the biggest deals, or on the C players because those people need the most help.
Both of those are great strategies if your goal is a mediocre team. Think about it: By spending your time with A players, you’re working with the people who are least likely to need your help. And by working with C players, you’re guaranteed that their results will go from poor to medium at best.
The far more effective strategy for improving overall results is to coach one or more of your B players and turn them into stars. Using your coaching time to turn a moderate B player with an eager attitude into an A player pays off in many ways. First of all, you’ll have another rep who produces great results. Second, and perhaps more important, you’ll create competition for your current A players and spur them on to even better results. Third, you’ll have a great example for other reps on what happens when they pay attention to your coaching advice and work on raising their skill levels … and that can transform the culture of your sales team.
“To be more effective, you need to balance performance management with proactive sales coaching.”