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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

When Managers Think They Are Coaching (but they are not)


I think most sales managers would agree that coaching their salespeople to get better at their craft is a good investment of time. I talk to scores of managers in my practice, and there seems to be near universal agreement that coaching is important, and most sales managers do invest some time and energy to make it happen. That said, what constitutes coaching?

Coaching or Selling?

Managers say to me, “Oh, yes, I get out with my people on at least five or six calls every week.” And, I know it’s true. The problem is, when you peel that back a bit, it’s obvious those are calls where the salesperson asked the manager to go along. Now, why do salespeople ask their manager to go on a call? Because they really want the manager to observe them in the field and provide meaningful feedback on what they do well and where they still need to improve? Maybe, but not likely. What is far more likely is those calls are on big clients or prospects where the salesperson wants the manager’s help to close a big deal or iron out a problem. That activity is legitimate, but don’t confuse it with coaching. You sales managers out there know full well what you will be doing on the call if big bucks on the line, and it’s not coaching. It’s team selling. Again, that’s legitimate, but you won’t be directing your full attention to the salesperson and their skill. You’ll be focused on the customer and trying to close the deal, right? By the way, I hope you CAN close the deal or your salesperson will surmise “even my manager couldn’t close it.”

Schedule Regular Field Days

So, how do you fix this? It’s simple. Instead of waiting for your salespeople to come to you with one-off calls, go to them and schedule time in the field for a half day or even full day when you will be making all sorts of calls — most without big bucks on the line. Then you really can focus more on the salesperson, reinforce what they did well, and suggest areas where they can improve. That’s coaching, and that will increase their skills which is the only way you can make your department numbers. 

When they come to you, that is your sales development plan. When you go to them, that is your skill development plan. Big difference. Both important. But, don’t confuse the two or your salespeople will not grow.

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