Depending on the organization, the person leading a sales team may be called a manager, a leader, or a coach.
For many people leading a team and for their team members, the name doesn’t matter because the job description is the same. They are the person responsible for guiding their team toward hitting their sales goals.
But the difference between managing and coaching has become a hot-button issue. Why? Because Gen Z cares, and they are set to become the dominant group in the work force by 2025.
Hellosayge.com put it this way: “Research mentions apprenticeship programs, mentoring arrangements, and leadership training—highlighting Generation Z’s desire to be coached and not managed. Though closely related, and incorrectly used interchangeably, coaching and managing are not the same. The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires maximum personal and professional potential.” Conversely, managing is defined as “having executive or supervisory control or authority.”
Unlike managing, coaching is inherently collaborative—both the coach and the coachee must play an active role in the process.”
To attract and keep Gen Z, leaders must adopt a coaching mindset and focus on working with their teams toward common goals.
Collaborate, Don't Tell
The modern workforce enjoys collaboration and wants to be part of the process. The old school manager's “do it, do it now, do it because I told you to” mindset does not resonate with modern employees. When managers give orders without explanation and without taking the time to see if their orders make sense, workers tend to become resentful and often start looking for a new position.
While sales teams are not a democracy, being open to input from your team is important. Share the big picture, what’s in it for them, and the overall purpose of a change, a new initiative, or new goal. Then, invite questions and maybe even push back. Actively listen and acknowledge concerns and then address them. To increase communication on your sales team, practice the following:
- Be the subject matter expert – be a resource to your team and invite them to come to you.
- Improve your active listening skills - show the team that you are paying full attention to them and are interested and focused on what they are saying.
- Pay attention to body language, yours and theirs – what are they saying, and what are they not?
- Show empathy – sometimes, people just need to be heard and understood.
Hands-on learning is a must for all salespeople. Being a coach means getting in the field with your team and providing real-time help to your team. All sellers need in-field coaching. For inexperienced sellers, this coaching is vital to their success. Show them how it’s done, and then coach them to be successful.
Infield Coaching Check List:
- No sneak attacks – schedule time in advance so everyone is prepared.
- Be the coach – don’t jump in and sell for them.
- Prepare in advance with your seller.
- Take lots of notes - offer praise and feedback on the seller’s performance.
- Give immediate feedback.
- Ask for their input – what went well and what could improve?
Recent surveys of Gen Z workers have shown a thirst for training and development. Don’t assume that your “grew up online” workers have all the knowledge they need about technology. According to LinkedIn, Gen Z employees see “opportunities to learn and grow as a top driver of work culture.”
Survey your team and ask them what training they would like to see available. Recent graduates grew up using PowerPoint, Excel, and Office, but surprisingly, most feel like they could be better and would like additional training.
Build a Trusting Relationship
To be an effective coach, your team must be willing to come to you for help and trust you. How can you build a trusting relationship with your team and coach them to trust each other?
- Do what you say you will do – Follow through on promises and deliver results on time.
- Strong communication on your team – Have each person share their communication style and pay attention to verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Be transparent - As a coach and as a team, honesty and transparency are vital to keeping trust. If the coach makes a mistake, they own it and encourage team members to do the same.
- Show interest and get to know each other – managers keep a distance; coaches show personal interest.
- Always be willing to help others – Coaches are ready and willing to help the team, and the team knows it.
Be a Coach
Lou Holtz sums it up best. “Coaching is about helping people have a chance to succeed. There is no more awesome responsibility than that. One of the greatest honors a person can have is being called ‘coach.’"