There are several resources readily available with information on what it takes to be a great sales coach and manager of people. We often talk with managers who want to hire top-notch sales coaches and the list of their requirements is usually a long one—including experience, past successes, and “must have” talents. It’s definitely a hire you want to get right!
There are many natural behaviors and characteristics that make a sales coach great, and it's important to uncover the intensities of these talents before you hire someone.
8 Characteristics of a Winning Sales Coach
1. Take Time to Teach
Even with busy schedules and full checklists, winning sales coaches set aside time for teaching salespeople. They understand that in order to grow and develop their salespeople, they must look for opportunities to teach them and regularly spend time in-field with them so they can let them know what they are doing well, and how they can improve. Winning coaches are invested in the success of their salespeople and always look for ways to improve performance.
2. Individualize Their Approach
Top coaches get to know each salesperson they manage and are able to individualize their approach to each unique person on their team. The very best managers know each person’s strengths and weaknesses and build customized coaching plans for each salesperson. They know what motivates each person, what their personal goals are, and how they like to learn information.
3. Keep People Challenged
Great coaches set high goals and move the benchmark up over time. They are competitive and set their team up to win by providing them with clear goals and expectations and by holding them accountable.
4. Give Feedback on Performance
They frequently provide feedback on performance so everyone knows exactly where they stand at all times—but it's not just negative feedback and criticism. Top managers give out plenty of positive feedback. They let people know what they are doing right and review winning plays so their salespeople will repeat those positive behaviors.
5. Keep Salespeople Focused on the Right Things
Good leaders have a great deal of energy and focus, and they are able to keep their people focused on the most important goals. They always have a clear plan of action and make sure they clearly communicate that plan to their team. They increase productivity by maintaining their focus and delegating responsibilities to the right people. They do not delegate based on who is available—they delegate based on talent and who is naturally equipped to do the task.
6. They Care
Winning sales coaches truly care about the success of their direct reports. They're able to build good relationships with their salespeople and demonstrate empathy. In turn, each individual feels personally cared about and knows their manager always has their best interests in mind. The best managers enjoy helping their people and do so regularly.
7. Give People a Sense of Purpose
They share their vision often and give people a sense of direction and a reason to work hard. They are decisive and able to move people forward in a way that makes them feel good. The best coaches constantly strive for improvement , and they are able to use both emotion as well as facts and figures to gain buy-in and move people to action.
8. Share Ideas and Make Good Decisions
Great coaches think a few moves ahead and are good at anticipating events. They have a strong sense for business and a trustworthy gut instinct but rely on measurements and data to ensure they are making the best long-term decisions. They always consider the many consequences of any action before committing to a plan. They are able to troubleshoot and willing to help their direct reports do the same. They are also very outcome-driven and focused on the Key Performance Indicators that will confirm that they are on the road to success.
Think about these characteristics before you hire a sales manager so that you hire the right person for the position. Some of these behaviors may be more important than others, depending on fit and what type of coach you are looking for. But knowing that these characteristics separate the best from the rest in sales management makes them essential to the success of the manager and his or her team.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated.