The Coaching Effect Blog

Sales Leaders: Are You the Teacher or the Student?

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

February 21, 2013

Bill EckstromWednesdays at 4:00, Will and I spend at least an hour together.  Since he is EcSell’s Director of Business Development it shouldn’t be unusual that we meet, and he would likely communicate that it is a coaching session, which would be accurate.  Challenge is—who is being coached?

  • 20% of sales reps researched, whose sales leaders are EcSell members, say their manager is “very strong” at coaching.

  • 7% of sales reps researched, whose sales leaders are non-members, say their manager is “very strong” at coaching.

  • When we asked sales reps to rank 10 skills they wanted their manager most to possess they responded with (drum roll please…)

    • #1 Product knowledge

    • #2 Industry/market knowledge

Huh?  Really?  Thank goodness I work with some very smart colleagues, for they figured out that even though sales reps stated the above, when correlation analysis was done as to “what motivates sales reps to sell more”, “coaching” took top honors and 2nd place was “helping them progress towards career goals”. 

So, yesterday was Will’s turn to help me understand why reps would say that product, industry and market knowledge were most important.  Our hypothesis is that the position of the sales manager is so misused that 80%-93% of managers don’t know how to coach.  Further proof--a recent conversation with a colleague in a very large, well known organization called their front line sales managers “spread-sheet jockeys who want to coach, but the structure of their role doesn’t allow for much interaction with sales reps”.  This statement was made after research was done as to how their managers were spending their time. 

Based on all the above and more, here is what Will and I concluded: 

  1. Most sales leaders don’t know the coaching activities, tools or behaviors that drive sales increases, and/or

  2. Organizations only want to look at what is measurable, and because the impact of coaching isn’t measurable (yet…) according to Will, managers then become metric “compliance officers”.

The above pontificating aside, my point is that during our weekly meetings there are times I feel like I am being coached more than I am coaching.  Will is not the only one asking questions, probing for understanding or asking for insights.  I am the teacher and the student.

Driving home yesterday I thought about how boring work would be without being surrounded by amazing talent.  As a sales leader, if you are not also the “student” when with your team then there are two reasons that come to mind as to why this is occurring.

  1. You have selected lower level talent

  2. Your ego is in the way.  You are more concerned with telling versus understanding

Think about the time spent with those on your teams and remember—great coaches make sure they surround themselves with the right talent so they can also be coached.

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