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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

You Can't Coach Talent from the Locker Room


Can you imagine Bill Belichick, head coach for the New England Patriots, calling the plays, encouraging his players, and developing star athletes like Tom Brady from inside the locker room? Of course not! So, why do sales managers try that approach?

The NFL has a serious recruitment and selection process. Each team works hard, scouts often, and adheres to strict recruitment guidelines to ensure a team with the highest level of talent possible. 

I imagine that you probably have a process for scouting, recruiting, andhiring talent as well. You want your unfair share of the performers out there just like Coach Belichick. So far, you are evenly matched.

It’s not enough to simply bring talented people on board, though, right? Once the NFL draft is complete it would be ridiculous to think that the Patriots coaching staff would announce to their players that they’ll see them again on game day. These players are talented or they wouldn’t be there, but it would be crazy to think that even the most experienced in the league could just show up and win.

Between the day of the draft and the first game of the season, there are loads of scheduled practices designed to improve skill development, spot areas that still need work, and repetitively run through drill after drill to maximize the natural talents that the players bring to the field. There are even some unscheduled practices that are called when necessary to make certain that the players are ready for game day. During each of these practices, the coaches keep a close eye on the players; the more important the player, the closer they keep their eyes on them! A coach may even film a practice so that he can more thoroughly evaluate individual performance later. There is a lot going on but they don’t miss a thing!

Your sales organization probably provides plenty of opportunities for skill development as well. You may have weekly sales meetings, individual meetings, a variety of scheduled sessions with sales trainers, cutting edge on-line training programs, and scores of other occasions for improvement. The question is, are you on the field with your front line during these practices? You could sure learn a lot about their progress and their potential if you were out there with them on their trial runs with your eyes peeled.

The Patriots, with countless practices behind them, put their program to the test every game of the season. Armed with both talent and experience, these players are sure to perform, but they are not on that field alone and their techniques don’t go unnoticed. Their coach is right there, on the sidelines, still coaching during the game. He can’t make the play for them and he can’t score the touchdown, but he watches every step, makes detailed notes, and prepares for the next coaching opportunity.

Practice, perform, and review, practice, perform, and review.

Bill Belichick can’t do that from the locker room and his star performer wouldn’t want him to. Neither do yours!

Follow these 8 steps to improve your in-field coaching today!  

1) No sneak attacks. Schedule time in the field with each of your salespeople in advance—weeks in advance. And, stick to your schedule.

2) Be the coach. When you are in-field with a salesperson, remember you are there to coach.  Resist the temptation to jump in and sell. 

3) Prepare in advance. Ask the seller to define the goal of the call for you - before you show up.

4) Take lots of notes. And make sure those notes are about the performance of the seller – not about the client. The salesperson should be handling that. 

5) Give immediate feedback. Schedule time right after the call, while it is still fresh in your mind, to discuss their performance.

6) Seek their input first. Begin your feedback session by asking the seller to share her thoughts on what she did well and the areas in which she might improve. Then share your own observations.

7) Never stop with just one. Tag along on many calls with a seller to get a more complete picture of their skill development. Better yet, devote an entire day to this type of coaching

8) Put it in writing. Keep a separate log for each of your salespeople so you can review often and recognize their improvement.

Talent Resources 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published September 23, 2011 and has been updated.

Topics: Sales