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Know the Difference Between Coaching & Managing

In order to be a great leader you have to understand the difference between managing and coaching.  Every salesperson has, to some degree, a desire to succeed, productivity levels to achieve this success and the competencies to achieve goals.  But often times, sales managers confuse these terms at the peril of their forecast. Here’s a breakdown of the issues:

  1. desire equates to Leadership -  Leadership is all about setting an example to drive high desire.  Yes, a sales team member either has desire or not, but how the manager acts has a direct influence on team members’ desire.
  2. Productivity equates to Managing - Managing is about KPIs that the company wishes to measure to drive optimum results.  Managers talk about KPIs such as pipeline analytics, number of qualified leads, average deal size, close rates, time-to-close, number of calls.
  3. Competencies equates to Coaching -  Coaching is forward looking; looking at all competencies within the forecasting process to identify those areas, that if improved upon, would change results.

Often these teams are misused. Case-in-point: I witnessed a sales leader speaking with their team members to review and assign KPIs.  The sales leader used phrases such as, “This is how you have done,” “This what we need to do,” and  “This is your average order value.” At the end of the meeting, the sales team felt that they have had a great coaching session.  In reality, they have not had a coaching session at all--they had a management session.

The Best Sales Coaching Advice--Coach Often

While working as a manager for a consumer software company, I needed to hire a country manager for Canada.  I decided to hire a young, rather inexperienced, sales rep who was very good, enthusiastic and driven.  When placed in Canada the results were fantastic! Accounts were growing and anytime the manager came to me with a problem, he would articulate 2 to 3 options for a resolution. He virtually needed no coaching I thought the key to a good salesperson resided in a hands-off approach. Boy was I wrong.

Several of my direct reports, whom I left alone, were not delivering the performance I needed and certainly were not tracking to the right forecasting results.  A mentor of mine pointed out my first impression of coaching to establish a hands-off approach was a mistake.  He emphasized that constant coaching is the only way to diagnose and develop competencies in order to ensure desired results.

In conclusion, there are several basic steps for better sales coaching. The first is to make sure you have a system in place to measure all three leadership characteristics; desire, productivity and competency. Next you need to know where your team members fall in a grid of achievers, strivers, independents and detractors. Once you know this, you can identify the four barriers to change and create a strategy to address if needed. Finally, focus on the 1+1+1 (1 Competency + 1 behavior at 1 time), it’s a winning formula for a more focused sales force.

Contributed by John Ferguson, Senior Consultant, ASLAN Training

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