January 10, 2018

Are you a sales coach, rescuer or non-coach?

When we’re invited to come in and work with a company to help their managers with their own professional development, coaching skills are usually at the top of the ‘opportunities for development’ list.

That’s great to see as it validates what most organizations know. If your business relies on people, then our biggest risk of failure and best potential to succeed all fall squarely on how well our entire staff executes in their roles. In other words, a manager’s job is to literally “get things down through other people.”

Many of us have had a strong coach as a role-model. Someone who nurtured our professional growth and taught us how to do the same for the people who we support and supervise. For those who find themselves in a position of wanting more growth in their own coaching skill set, here are a few things to consider:

What type of coach are you? Are you an “action hero” coach. That is to say, you can’t wait for your salespeople to get you in front of a prospect to not only wow the prospect, but your own people as well. Where you might feel that “taking over the sales call” ensures your company’s best chance to get the business, you may suffer a few unintended consequences.

The first problem is that you may rob your salespeople of any learning experience or their opportunity to grow through doing. If you get the business, your salesperson then develops on unhealthy dependence on you as in “I’d better get Karen to go on this sales call with me because I know I can’t close it on my own.” That might be OK if you have two salespeople on your team, but you’ve now created a monster; you must do their job and yours.

What if you aren’t able to sell the prospect in front of your salesperson? Now you may have fueled your own sales person’s head trash (self-limiting belief). It plays out like this in the salesperson’s head: “Wow, even Karen can’t sell our product. I’ve been trying to tell people around here that it’s no wonder I haven’t been hitting my sales goals — we have X problems with our product or service.”

Another coaching type is the “non-coach.” The non-coach may have every intention of spending time in the field with the sales team. He or she may even schedule coaching visits only to preempt them when other administrative duties come up. This kind of management behavior is destructive. It sends the not-so-transparent message to the salesperson that “you are not that important here, neither is direct client — management interaction.” The non-coach must ask: “Am I avoiding coaching — or is it really that low on the totem pole of priorities.” If the latter, don’t schedule time to do it.

We can call a third model of coach as “observer and teacher.” This manager commits a specific amount of time to being with their salespeople on sales calls, but also time not in front of prospects, specifically for coaching sales skill improvement. When on a sales call with a salesperson, these coaches will “bite their tongue ‘til it bleeds” rather than take over the sales call. They allow the salesperson to fail if need-be and use time after the call, in the heat of the moment, to coach on how to handle it next time.

Of course, if the salesperson is going to blow a multi-million-dollar deal, it’s OK for the sales manager to run the sales call — but they can’t all be deals like that. There must be calls set up when the coach and salesperson have a clear upfront agreement that the salesperson will be running the sales call and the coach will be simply observing and/or a resource when their expertise/input will be needed on the call.

Once in the sales call, if the prospect defers to the manager, she might politely say, “that’s a fair question Ms. Prospect, Bill (the salesperson) can share more about how we handle that at our company.” Without putting too much pressure on the salesperson, the manager skillfully kept him involved.

Before your next coaching opportunity, ask yourself which type of coach you’d like to be!

Bob Bolak is president of Sandler Training. Reach him at 303-928-9163 or [email protected].

When we’re invited to come in and work with a company to help their managers with their own professional development, coaching skills are usually at the top of the ‘opportunities for development’ list.

That’s great to see as it validates what most organizations know. If your business relies on people, then our biggest risk of failure and best potential to succeed all fall squarely on how well our entire staff executes in their roles. In other words, a manager’s job is to literally “get things down through other people.”

Many of us have had a…

Sign up for BizWest Daily Alerts