I believe strongly in the impact of sales coaching on an organization’s success. In my almost 20 years of providing consulting services to sales organizations, I’ve yet to see a sales organization fail where a positive coaching culture had been established. On the other hand, I’ve seen spectacular failures where coaching was – at best – given lip service.
While I could probably come up with a couple dozen tips for creating a coaching culture, here are my top six.
1. Coaching isn’t just for frontline managers
Most cultural shifts start from the top down. If your executive management team is taking a “do as I say, and not as I do” attitude, your sales managers have no role models to emulate.
2. Sales training isn’t just for salespeople
There’s the old saying, “those who can’t do teach,” but selling may be the furthest thing from an academic exercise. Frontline sales managers need to have the methodology down cold, and sending them to a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling®
course is often the best way to ensure that. For those who have never held sales management positions (or those who need a refresher), Strategic Selling® Coaching
3. Your star performers may need the most training in effective coaching
First-time sales managers are often promoted into their role based on their performance as individual contributors. They may not have needed much coaching in their own sales careers, so understanding how to coach the average performer may not come naturally.
4. Coaching is a way of life
A basketball coach doesn’t wait until a time out to give the team direction. He finds little opportunities throughout the game, saving more intense strategic discussions for the huddle or locker room. The best sales coaches follow same strategy, finding ways to coach performance everyday, especially during account reviews.
5. Coaching is not a performance review
I quoted Coach John Wooden in an article I wrote for the Miller Heiman Sales Performance Journal
, and it bears repeating. “A coach is someone who can give correction without creating resentment.” A coaching session is not the same as a performance review – those annual meetings where management tells their direct reports “what’s wrong with them.”
6. Fear isn’t a great long-term motivator
With all due respect to a certain former head coach from Indiana University, fear isn’t usually the best motivator. It may work in the short-term, but in the long term, it can leave a team demoralized. Furthermore, many organizations tell me it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find and retain the right salespeople. If the number one reason people leave their job is because of a “bad boss,” motivating through fear is a strategy you can’t afford.
The fun thing about discussing coaching with customers is that I get to hear a thousand stories. It seems like everyone has at least one to tell, and I’d love to hear yours. Have you ever worked with a manager who was an exceptionally great coach? What was their secret? Or how about that manager who was excruciatingly bad at coaching – just leave the names out, please!