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Why Sales Managers Don’t Coach

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It’s not that some managers willingly don’t coach and try to avoid this role. I see three main reasons that sales managers fail at coaching — two related to time, but one that’s the worst of all: they think they are coaching, while they spend the quality time with the members of their team doing anything but that.

The Cause

Generally, there are three main reasons things go wrong:

  • Sales managers are not coaching (properly) due to a lack of time.
  • There is no company policy and time schedule for coaching as such.
  • Sales managers aren’t sure how to coach properly.

The first cause seems pretty valid, considering the amount of work that an average sales manager has on their shoulders. However, coaching should be one of the biggest parts of their work, because only then will their team genuinely improve. You don’t have enough time to coach? Well, maybe if you did coach instead of getting involved in the sales process too much, you’d understand the true value of good coaching.

The second reason is related to the lack of time, but it actually goes deeper to the corporate level. When sales managers themselves don’t receive coaching and training from the upper level, and when no other managers are expected to work as coaches, it’s hard to carve the path yourself. Hard, but not impossible.

The last cause is probably the easiest one to fix. The lack of knowledge on how to coach a sales team properly can be easily dealt with by, you guessed it, more coaching — either from outside the company from outsourcing coaching and training courses, or from better-trained, higher-level managers.

The solution

Establish a company groundwork. That means requesting and contributing to creating a coaching network within the company. It’s in the company’s own best interest to support and pursue a consistent and high-quality coaching structure throughout the departments. It plays a significant role in the overall success in the market, and every good CEO and CFO should be aware of that.

Try reaching out to your direct superior, your fellow managers, the HR department. Get as many people for your cause as you can. It’ll be much easier to get things into motion with more people backing you up.

Distinguish training from coaching. Let’s clear out the difference first. Training is about teaching a specific skill or behavior. Coaching, on the other hand, is a continuous, personalized, face-to-face effort of both parties towards steady and long-term improvement of individual results based on individual skills, weaknesses and needs.

If you struggle with your coaching techniques or see little to no results whatsoever, try to do more coaching and less training, and concentrate on the people, and not the general issues.

Don’t mix inspection with coaching. Sitting down with each of your salespeople once a month and going through their numbers with them — even if you give them some sort of feedback — is part of coaching, but it’s definitely not the only part. It’s as if you tried to explain to the football player how his game would’ve been better once the second half is over and all the points have (or have not) already been scored, but then never showed up to coach the game itself.

No – you have to jump in before the action starts, and then continuously pop-in during each quarter to update and tweak their game. To leave the football jargon aside, it’s simply important to be present during the sales process and guide your salespeople through it, rather that have them bring last moth’s folder to your table and scold or praise them afterwards. Coaching needs to happen on the go.

Re-build your schedule. The fact that you don’t have enough time on your hands for coaching very likely means that you’re spending it on doing something that a well-coached salesman could do themselves. There are very little immediate effects in coaching, which, to a fresh or overachieving manager may seem frustrating and fruitless. But a good manager is not a nascar driver that would need to make decisions in seconds, effective immediately. A good manager is more like a chess player, who understands that a seemingly small move now can have enormous effects in the months to come.

That’s why it’s much more advantageous to re-build your schedule around coaching, rather than leaving it out completely because you can’t immediately see the results.