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Every sales manager wants to have a high-performing team. Yet too often I’ve seen sales managers who are their own worst enemies when it comes to reaching that goal. Making some simple changes in what they are doing as managers can go a long way toward creating a better sales team with stronger sales results.

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.

One of my former employers had a strict rule: All managers were to receive their annual performance review from their boss no later than February 15th. So every year around February 12th, I would get a message from my boss, the area VP, instructing me to meet him at the Delta Crown Room at San Diego International Airport. He’d fly in, meet with me for about an hour, complete my review, then jump back on the plane and head off to another airport to meet with another one of his managers, hoping to meet the CEO’s deadline.

During the meeting, he would proceed to tell me all the things that he wished I had been doing differently the previous year. And every time, it was like he had been saving up all his opinions, waiting for this moment to render judgment. As I’d listen to his evaluation, one question would always keep popping up in my mind: Why didn’t you tell me this earlier when I could have done something about it? I always felt alienated and angry. It was very de-motivating.

These kinds of backward-looking performance reviews are standard fare in sales departments. The manager and rep sit down and talk about what happened last month or last quarter. While I agree that some sort of performance discussion is needed, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that this discussion is actually coaching.

To be more effective, you need to balance performance management with proactive sales coaching. When you spend more time observing each rep in action, the quality of your coaching will improve immensely.

To be more effective, you need to balance performance management with proactive sales coaching.”

Kevin F. Davis | Award-winning author, president of TopLine Leadership
 
 
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