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A Coachs Handbook For Sales Managers

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This article may be reprinted in its entirety with express written permission from Nicki Weiss. The reprint must include the section "About the Author".

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 the future.

Here are the best practices of sales managers who lead through coaching and teaching:

CLARIFY GOALS 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 support.

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 passionate about.

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 late.

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 conversations.

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.

CHEERLEAD 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 . You can email her at or call 416-778-4145.

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