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Quote of the month: "A leader is the relentless architect of the
possibility that others can be."
Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic
Sales organizations have access to more or less the same resources.
They can draw from the same pool of salespeople in their niche or
geographic area, and they can all learn the same sales or
management tools and techniques.
Yet some organizations perform at a high level and other stay at
the bottom of the heap. What accounts for these gaps? I believe two
words answer the question: effective leadership.
Too many sales managers are bosses, technicians or even bullies.
They kill team spirit, arouse mediocrity and suck the energy out of
companies. The results are poor morale, loss of talented people
and low performance.
Effective leaders, by contrast, define themselves as coaches and
teachers. Rather than constantly dealing with problems and telling
people what to do, strong leaders empower and enable others to
solve problems on their own, take risks, make decisions, tackle new
challenges, and learn from their experiences. They don't just see
their salespeople as who they are today, but who they could be in
Here are the best practices of sales managers who lead through
coaching and teaching:
Research shows that only about 20% of managers write down their
goals. If you don't have any written goals, how do you know if you
have accomplished what you set out to do? Telling team members,
'Okay everyone, go make the numbers' doesn't provide guidance and
A more effective goal for the sales manager/coach would be along
the lines of: "By the end of March, I will have completed a
developmental plan for each salesperson in our division. It will
focus on how to help each salesperson meet their sales targets and
increase their leadership skills. Each person will have three
reasonable goals, and one superhuman goal. After collaboratively
setting these goals, I'll ask each of them to complete a plan
outlining how to reach these goals. I'll follow up with each
person by having a monthly one-hour coaching conversation to help
overcome any problems and track their progress. I will not cancel
these coaching conversations - they are business meetings."
Strong leaders invest in coaching for themselves so that they stay
on track and explore what else is possible.
MATCH INDIVIDUAL GOALS TO ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS
Effective managers ensure that the plan each individual draws up
reflects the needs of the organization, customers, and sales team
with their own desires.
They work with each salesperson to clarify their goals, asking
questions such as:
? Does your performance reflect the organization or team mission?
? What stretch goal would foster your performance and development?
What is important about that to you? What do you love about it?
? What would be a meaningful role for you in the future? How would
you need to develop to reach it?
? What's missing that would make a difference to you?
Strong sales coaches give people a chance to develop what they are
CONFRONT POOR PERFORMANCE
Given the rapid pace typical in today's organizations, sales
managers can get so bogged down with their own work that they miss
the opportunity to correct a performance problem before it is too
It's also tempting for sales managers to ignore "borderline" cases,
hoping they will quit or move to another department. However,
procrastination rarely helps. Team members need to know what
managers expect of them. They can't read minds.
Confronting performance problems is generally more humane than
letting the individual and their co-workers suffer. An
underperforming team member is often unhappy and likely mismatched
to the job.
Many problems can be headed off through regularly scheduled
coaching conversations. Adopting this strategy will encourage team
members to bring up problems early, when they are easier to solve.
STAND BACK AND SEE CLEARLY
Sales managers whose identity and income is too tightly wrapped up
in the successes and struggles of their team may not be able to
disassociate themselves enough to clearly see what each member
needs to thrive. Those who act as coaches and teachers start by
building agreement with their team members on roles and goals, then
guide them to reach their full potential. Conversely, strong sales
managers acknowledge when they are can not detach themselves enough
from a salespeoples' performance, and help that salesperson find a
more appropriate coach.
This process of serving the well-being of team members is called
"stewardship". Leaders who use a stewardship approach regard their
teams as separate from themselves and their identity. The opposite
method of staying involved in every detail of your team's
functioning might be termed "smothering." Managers who smother make
it difficult for people to get their work done.
ASK AND LISTEN
Many managers feel that the members of their team have misguided
views, and they need to straighten out their thinking. This strong
need to be right can sabotage any attempt at meaningful
There is an 180 degree difference between coercing people to accept your
ideas, and collaboratively talking through issues to come up with
the best solution. A strong leader deeply believes that other
people are naturally creative, resourceful and wise, and their job
is to help uncover the answers, not dictate them.
Mediocre sales managers do all the talking; those interested in
acting as coaches and teachers ask probing questions and listen
attentively to the answers.
It has been said that there are only two types of people who thrive
on being recognized for their achievements: men and women. We have
all experienced the incredible energy of getting recognition or
appreciation from people whose opinions we respect.
A common complaint of people in low-performing organizations is
that they don't get recognition and appreciation from their boss.
They feel like a piece of furniture. It's a huge contributor to
declining levels of morale and self-motivation.
Strong sales coaches understand the power of sincere recognition,
genuine appreciation and celebration. These are what provide the
atmosphere of encouragement that develops confidence and builds on
strengths. Have fun with it!
About the Author
Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Sales Management Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. Since 1992, Nicki has trained, certified, and/or coached more than 6,000 business executives, sales managers and salespeople.
Nicki guarantees increased sales performance when sales managers become better sales coaches. Sign up for her FREE monthly e-zine, Something for NothingTM, which has powerful tips and techniques for sales managers who are ready to make this transformation at http://www.saleswise.ca . You can email her at email@example.com or call 416-778-4145.