• August 17, 2021
  • By Jason Davis , senior director of sales and marketing practice, BTS

Why Your Sales Managers Lack the Coaching Skills to Drive Results

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Good selling doesn’t always translate into good managing, yet most organizations will reward the best of the best on sales teams with a team of their own. This makes sense: When a salesperson excels at their business, they should earn a promotion. Problem is, not everyone has managerial potential—nor do they always possess the critical competencies for success in such a role (i.e., recruiting, coaching, inspiring, and so on). Once promoted, that shining star on the sales team is often unable to drive results at the same level.

This isn’t to say great salespeople are unable to become great managers. Successful sales-reps-turned-managers likely come to the table with innate abilities, many of which help in the task of leading a team. It’s just that even though preparing sales leaders requires a multifaceted approach tailored to each individual, most training programs simply focus on the skill of leading.

Positioning (or repositioning) great salespeople to become great sales managers requires a more comprehensive approach to training and often entails three distinct pillars. Here’s what your company should focus on when moving a salesperson to a managerial role:

1. Have them develop an external (rather than an internal) mind-set surrounding success. Mind-sets can sometimes limit a sales manager’s ability to successfully lead a team. Years of sales conditioning can place all the focus on personal performance—not others’ results. Managers can’t operate with the mind-set of a seller if they want to be a really successful sales manager. They have to shift their mind-set to believe that their success comes from others and learn how to coach and empower employees to achieve their own individual success.

When trying to change a mind-set, it’s also important for sales managers to assess their initial thoughts or knee-jerk reactions to situations. If they find themselves considering or taking actions intended to resolve the situation on behalf of the rep, they need to stop and rethink how that would help the rep grow—or not grow. Instead of fixing things for the rep or reprimanding them for failure, it’s best to teach the rep how to resolve the situation next time. In general, managers need to find ways to empower their sellers to be successful on their own. That’s a very different mind-set than what is required to be a successful seller.

2. Have them experience great sales coaching from seasoned mentors. More often than not, sales managers entered into the position without experiencing great coaching themselves. They might be experts at selling, but do they know what successful sales coaching looks like? Without examples and firsthand experience, there will always be a disconnect regarding how to impart their sales knowledge to the people they were tasked to lead. And if a manager has only experienced ineffectual coaching in the past, you can expect that cycle to continue. This lack of experience regarding excellent, empowering coaching puts new managers at a disadvantage.

To break the cycle of ineffective coaching, managers must experience great coaching from professional coaches—those who have the necessary training and experience. Coaching must also be grounded in reality, so the best coach should possess a background in sales or marketing to make any session applicable. In short, coaches must bring together the “what” and the “how.” If you’re considering coaching firms, look for ones that require extensive training and upskilling of their coaches, and see if those coaches track metrics for clients.

3. Ensure they understand when they can make the most impact. In order to meet the individual needs of sellers, managers must find the pivotal times in the sales process when coaching is most effective. Managers know which leads have been assigned to which reps, and they also know when leads are closing. But what happens between those two points? Where are the entry points for empowering and guiding? There are three key opportunities in the selling process that are ripe for coaching:

  • Preparation: Managers can help sales reps prepare for client interactions and set them up for success.
  • Execution: The times when managers are called upon to sell alongside their sales reps are excellent opportunities to provide coaching.
  • Reflection: After the client interaction is over, it’s vital to help sellers reflect on what went well and what they might try differently next time.

Each of these moments provides an opportunity to guide the team member to employ ideal selling behaviors. Still, great coaching goes beyond timing. Sales managers must learn to assess each employee and tailor their coaching approach to the individual’s learning needs. Every person learns differently: Some need visual representation for information to sink in, and others benefit from kinesthetic, hands-on learning. For example, sellers who learn best visually need to see the sales manager demonstrate a skill as part of their learning process, which would occur during the preparation or execution phases. Sellers who learn better kinesthetically benefit more from trying out a skill either on their own or in partnership with their manager and then getting feedback on it—this is most effective during execution or reflection.

When combined, each one of these pillars can not only equip sales managers with the skills to lead a team but also help with the necessary transition in mind-set. Of course, it will take time, effort, and a little bit of money to ensure sales managers fully grasp what an organization is asking of them—but it will be well worth it in the end.

Jason Davis is the senior director of the sales and marketing practice at BTS, a consulting company that works with coaches and leaders to help businesses across the globe. Davis brings more than 17 years of sales experience enabling sellers and leaders in different industries to build sales capabilities, leadership skills, business acumen, and customer understanding. Davis co-leads the U.S. team to provide service and experience to clients globally. He’s passionate about driving performance through training and enablement solutions for sales leaders at every level.

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