Can a sales manager be an effective sales coach?
However, to be an effective sales coach your people must experience you as a support in helping them achieve higher performance and not a hindrance. Often people experience performance improvement initiatives as ‘threats’ or ‘aimless chats’ leaving people feeling negative, intimidated or that their time has been wasted.
For coaching to work at its best the relationship between coach and coachee must be one of partnership with trust, safety and minimal pressure. The pay cheque, promotion and performance axe have no place in a coaching relationship. Often, sales managers don’t know the difference between managing and coaching and find it hard to change hats when required. So can a sales manager reconcile the roles of manager and coach and can a manager really be an effective coach especially given time pressures and other competing priorities?
Barrett’s newly appointed Head of Coaching, Robyn Creed says, “Yes, managers and especially sales managers can be fantastic coaches, however coaching demands the highest qualities of a manage.”
“Qualities include active listening, empathy, integrity, honesty, detachment and effective questioning. Coupled with this is a willingness to adopt a ‘performance enhancing’ mindset to staff development along with the skillful use of best practice coaching tools and frameworks. True coaches help people liberate their talent to realise mastery. Being able to set yourself apart from your managerial duties, ie. the KPI agenda, delivery of strategy, results, and firefighting and instead, approach each staff member as an individual when coaching, allows you to build a genuine coaching relationship. Creating a coaching climate can be a challenge for many managers mainly due to time constraints, competing priorities which often relegate coaching to ‘nice-to-have’ status, and the lack of proper training in effective coaching tools and strategies,” Robyn says.
So how can a sales manager reconcile the roles of manager and coach? Knowing the difference helps. Review the following checklist on managing and coaching and see where you fall in relation to these roles.
- Do most of the talking and directing.
- Tell people how things should be done.
- Fix problems – sometimes preventing staff members from developing necessary skills.
- Presumes and makes assumptions (not having delved deeply into what is going on for an individual).
- Seek control.
- Order people, provide directions.
- Works on.
- Keep distant.
- Assign blame.
- Spend most of the time in a coaching discussion listening to their staff member.
- Ask people how they think things should be.
- Prevent problems – when appropriate, skill people up to develop skills to manage situations effectively.
- Explore, providing staff with in-depth insight around a particular situation or what is going on with an individual.
- Empower team member and seeks commitment.
- Allow people to develop their own path, but challenges when necessary.
- Work with (partnerships to develop skills and improve performance).
- Make contact.
- Take responsibility (those who understand the importance of coaching appreciate the direct link between their coaching of their staff and their staff's performance).
Many sales managers we work with have reviewed this list and realise they are not coaching at all. At best they have chats over coffee which is not the same as coaching. Yet they are ever concerned that their people may not be performing to the standard they require.
In 2005, the Sales Executive Council conducted a survey of over 3,000 sales professionals and their sales managers. Some of their findings clearly demonstrate the difference in sales professionals’ performance based on the effectiveness of coaching. In this study there was at least 19% improvement in sales performance as a direct result of one-on-one coaching http://www.barrett.com.au/coaching/one-on-one-coaching.html which meant the difference between people achieving their sales quotas or not.
Recent results from ICF Consumer Global Awareness Study reported that more than 42.6% of the respondents who had experienced coaching chose "optimise individual and/or team performance" as their motivation for being coached. This reason ranked highest followed by "expand professional career opportunities" at 38.8% followed by "improve business management strategies" at 36.1%. Other more personalised motivations like "increase self-esteem/self-confidence" and "manage work/life balance" rated fourth and fifth to round out the top five motivations.
Coaching is key to performance improvement in any role. So why isn’t coaching prevalent in the daily lives of sales leaders and managers?
Lack of time is usually the issue. Finding time to coach is a real issue for these managers. Too many managers find themselves firefighting, unable to devote sufficient time to long-term planning, visioning and most importantly coaching and developing their people. The paradox here is that if they coach their staff properly the staff will be capable of shouldering more responsibility, freeing the manager from firefighting and allowing them to be available to manage and coach their people and grow and develop the business.
So how do we get managers to engage in coaching?
Help sales managers see the real value in coaching including the dollars and sales it can return to the business. We need to help managers see that coaching delivers far more than the effort put into coaching however, if you have never experienced effective coaching you are unlikely to value it. One solution is for managers to experience professional coaching themselves and see how it helps them achieve excellence in their own role. Engaging an independent coach to work with a manager, ie. a ‘coach-the-coach’ experience has great benefits. Ideally sales managers would be trained in best practice coaching tools and strategies to give them the confidence and competence to coach. Another solution some managers are resorting to is outsourcing the coaching of their team members to independent coaches or internal people specifically trained and assigned to a coaching role thus leaving managers to manage. This is a trend in some industries such as call centres.
Robyn Creed says that outsourcing authentic coaching can really help people experience an agenda free environment helping them to shift and move to higher levels of performance without the complicated relationship of their managers. However, she does warn that abdicating coaching responsibilities as a manager is dangerous.
“Managers should not avoid coaching,” says Robyn. “The skills and mindset of coaching need to be ever present in a manager’s tool box, especially in sales. The opportunities to coach present themselves at any time and you have to be ready to seize the opportunity and know what to do.”
Robyn’s advice is to adopt a blended approach: “train your sales managers and other managers how to be effective coaches and then, when needed supplement this with highly trained external coaches. These coaches are best used to coach the managers who are coaching their own teams as well as for high performing sales people who need that to move to a higher plain.”
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett practices as a coach, advisor, speaker, facilitator, consultant and writer and works across all market segments with her skilful team at BARRETT. Sue and her team take the guess work out of selling and help people from many different careers become aware of their sales capabilities and enable them to take the steps to becoming effective and productive when it comes to selling, sales coaching or sales leadership.To hone your sales skills or learn how to sell go to www.barrett.com.au.