Start a Grassroots Movement.
If you ask an executive leader what they think their sales managers need, they’ll tell you that they need deal support — often because that leader actually wants to get in on the deals. And if you ask the manager what they think they need, they’ll most likely say it’s support around building culture, leadership practices, vision, and help for their team. These managers have been individual contributors; understandably, they just don’t know how to do these things. But they now have responsibility for a team, and it’s an entirely different game.
If an organization doesn’t have a coaching culture that includes guidance on the process, it may fall to the front-line managers to make it happen. I often work with managers to create a consistent experience via a grassroots movement if there is not a prescribed approach from executives. It’s all about finding the formal context and cadence for coaching in one-on-ones, team meetings, quarterly reviews, and more. Of course it’s also aligning overall plans for personal development and annual goals, too. For personal development, I always suggest that sales managers go to HR for their support and for potential frameworks and resources used in other areas of the business.
Move Beyond Deal Coaching.
Be Less Prescriptive.
It might seem counterintuitive, but sales managers actually need to be less prescriptive. They’re often very directive: “Do this. Do that. You need to do this next.” However, if you’re really going to build the skills and the “sales muscle” in the individual, you need to be a little bit more contemplative. You might say something like “Oh, okay. Have you thought about this outcome? Have you thought about that outcome?” or “How could you attack this problem?”
Take this example of many reps’ common challenge. Oftentimes, they have a deal with one contact, and this is a gatekeeper they can’t seem to get around. The usual sales manager response is diving in and saying, “Right. I’ll phone his or her boss, or I’ll do this, or I’ll do that.” Instead the sales manager as coach should say, “Let’s think about how we might bring value to a broader audience. How might we draw in stakeholders? How might we connect the dots with our executive and theirs? What do you think?” It’s a totally different approach — and one that helps to sets up reps for future success as they learn how to actually solve this problem themselves.
Coaches aren’t born; they are made. By learning and recognizing what makes a great coach and shifting into that new mindset, sales managers can truly start to make a difference. It makes an eye-opening impact on not only effectiveness and growth of their teams, but also revenue and pipeline.
“Sales managers as coaches need to think about the whole person — not just next month’s forecast or the state of the pipeline today.”