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Five best practices of effective sales coaches

Five best practices of effective sales coaches

Chris Peterson

One of the largest gaps I see in sales managers' performance is their lack of coaching. I don't mean formal sales training, but coaching done by one's boss—the roll-up-the-sleeves and show-you-how-to-do-it type of coaching. I'm referring to the field rides with 45-minute debriefs at Starbucks, working on a solution in a closed conference room together, and running through role-playing scenarios in the car, just before heading in for the presentation. That's coaching.

I've observed that sales managers either feel they don't have the time or knowledge to coach. Refreshingly, many admit that they don't know how to coach. So, I've listed five best practices below to help sales managers understand how easy it is to become a great coach, how manageable the time requirement is, and hopefully inspire them to step up and be the coach that your team needs.

1.    Realize that your people want your coaching. As a young sales manager in 1999, I assumed my seasoned team didn't want me in the field with them. After all, they were older and more experienced than me. Thankfully, the most arrogant one of the six sales people on my team asked me: “Hey man, when are you going to visit me? I'm beginning to think you don't like me.” After that one statement, my eyes opened to the fact that all performers are looking for help—it's just a matter of how they express themselves. Your people, no matter how great they're doing and how cocky they are, want you to work with them; but most sales people won't admit it or ask for the help. Trust me, they want your coaching.

2.    Get in the field. About 10 years ago, my friend Rick Leighton told me: “If you're not in the field managing your people, then you're not managing your people.”  Brilliant. Get out there—ride in the passenger seat, listen to stories about high school and marriage and vacations, watch how they run a meeting, spend time debriefing after every session, and, if appropriate, buy them a cocktail at the end of the day. Get out there and coach—you'll both love it.

3.    Document and show progress. We like to see progress. Look at all the apps we have—there are bar graphs or gas gauges for everything from calories eaten to steps walked to airline miles earned. Establish and document a baseline with your sales people on some basic skills like presenting, designing solutions, and working efficiently. Every month or quarter, review their progress. 

4.    Work on opportunities together. The Sales Executive Council, a business research company, determined that the No. 1 skill of great sales managers was the ability to creatively close deals with their sales people. This wasn't an anecdotal study—the results came from a multi-year study of business-to-business sales organizations. They admitted that this answer was unexpected, but it makes perfect sense after thinking about it. For one, great sales managers are usually very good at designing creative solutions that win. Secondly, since they're working with their sales people, they're spreading their knowledge to the entire team. Pretty soon, they have a team of professionals that are excellent at creating winning solutions.

5.    Make this your No. 1 priority. I know—you already have about 12 No. 1 priorities.  However, this one must be your No. 1 priority above all else. If you become a great sales coach, the numbers take care of themselves. SSN

Chris Peterson is president of the Vector Firm, a leader in helping security companies improve their sales and digital marketing performance.


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