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3 Tips to Transforming a Sales Manager into a Sales Coach

 
Even a coach needs, well, coaching. There’s an increasing focus on coaching in sales teams, but how do sales managers and leaders actually learn how to coach their teams? There are definite techniques and skills required, but too often, we expect sales managers to magically gain these skills. Here are a few ways they can start to take their coaching to the next level.

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.

Deal coaching is one thing. But when you hire people, you hire them for skills, experience, and behaviors. Something that is often neglected are the “behaviors of success,” which are very coachable. If you have a junior rep who is underperforming, one of the core issues could be that they are not preparing adequately. They may have recently joined the company and really don’t know the answers, attitudes, and actions to get the most out of a call. Getting this rep’s perspective and explaining how to better prepare for calls is a very coachable moment — and it goes way beyond the deal. Sales managers as coaches need to think about the whole person — not just next month’s forecast or the state of the pipeline today. It’s a pretty natural thing for managers to do deal coaching; it’s quite another to make that fundamental mental shift to coaching the individual.

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.”

Matt Cameron | Founder, SalesOps Central

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