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Should Sales Managers Coach?

by David Brock on May 19th, 2016
Coach with diverse young team of soccer players

Perusing my news feeds this morning, an article entitled, “Should Sales Managers Coach” caught my eye.  My knee jerk reaction was , “Duugggh, isn’t the answer obvious?”  However, I respect the author and decided to read the article to understand the point of view  (or perhaps it was one of the provocative titles to get someone to read).

I reread the article 5 times.  I think the author’s conclusion is “Yes, but……”

Upon reflection, I think perhaps the points of view addressed in the article are more indicative of the confusion we have about the sales manager’s job.

Is it a coach/teacher?

Is it a super closer/sales person?

Is it a report generator/task master to keep people focused on the numbers?

You probably can come up with a few more alternatives, and there is probably some truth to each item—but do these really get to the core of “what’s the job of the front line sales manager?”

I’ll take a stab at it.

The job of the front line sales manager is to maximize the performance of each person on the team!  (Exclamation point, period, end of sentence, no if, ands, or buts.)

Implicit in this idea is developing the capabilities and capacity of each person on the team, and the organization, to achieve the goals of the organization.

How does the front line sales leader do this?

Well, coaching their people on a day to day basis is the highest leverage use of the manager’s time in helping them perform at the highest levels possible.  But the problem is too many managers don’t know it’s part of their job, too many don’t know how to coach, and most think of coaching as something different from the business management aspects of the job.  As a result, very little coaching gets done.

And much of what gets done, gets done poorly!

As a consequence, it’s fair to pose the question, “Should Sales Managers Coach?”  But the answer to this has to be a resounding, YES!

Outsourcing it, at least for the long term, is wrong.  It’s management forsaking a key responsibility.  Yes, to help managers develop coaching skills, engaging outside resources to help managers learn how to coach effectively is powerful, but outsourcing as a permanent solution is wrong.

Top executives have to set coaching as a key performance expectation of managers, they must reinforce this by coaching managers who report to them.  If they don’t set the example, it simply won’t get done.

There are more aspects to the sales manager’s job.  Finding, hiring, onboarding the right talent is critical, managing performance and problem performers, business management, providing tools, systems, processes, training are all critical aspects of the manager’s job.  Getting things done for their people, protecting and promoting their people are critical as well.

Making the numbers is critical–but the only way the manager makes the numbers is my making sure each person on the team is performing and hits their goals.

But all of this is in support of the sales manager’s basic job:  Maximizing the performance of each person on the team.

About the only thing that isn’t part of the manager’s job is Super Closer/Sales Person.  If that’s what a manager wants to do, then the manager should be a sales person.  Closing business as effectively and efficiently as possible is the job of a sales person.  Providing the sales person the capabilities, tools, etc. is the job of the sales manager.

There is a lot of confusion about sales management, and perhaps that’s a reason the majority of sales people and organizations fail to achieve their goals.

But look at top performing organizations, there is absolute clarity about the job of sales managers.

Afterword:  This is a crucial topic.  It’s one I wrestle with in great detail in the Sales Manager Survival Guide.  The book is being launched through Amazon on May 24.  Mike Weinberg, author of Sales Management Simplified, has said this about the book, “This is THE go-to resource for sales managers!”

Book Cover

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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One Comment
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    “The job of the front line sales manager is to maximize the performance of each person on the team!”

    AGREED. This is, simply, the most important thing to say about Sales Management, all the rest is commentary. Thanks Dave.

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