Contrary to mostly popular opinion, a Sales Manager’s job is not to hire great people and then get out of their way. If it were, and I was a CEO, I would simply hire a great talent and acquisition staff, train my sales people, and eliminate the sales management layer entirely because they would be rendered mostly useless. At best they would be sales compliance officers and at worst they would be an in-house ask.com for sales reps. This is a bold statement, however as a talented sales producer it pains me at my core to listen to executives in sales leadership undermine the importance of the greatest resource I have – my sales manager. My sales manager’s main responsibility is to coach me, and those on our sales team to higher levels of performance that we could not attain without him or her in that management role.
For some reason this responsibility gets lost, likely due to the long staring contests with P & L sheets and pipeline metrics that have little to do with motivating sales people to sell more, although important. Or perhaps they are busy answering sales reps repetitive questions or putting out fires that could have been extinguished had they spent more time coaching and teaching their reps on an on-going basis so that they are pro-active in providing recommendations and solutions rather than reactive. And don’t get me wrong, today’s sales managers are busy, but they are busy doing things that don’t have much impact on motivating sales reps to sell more. The number one item that motivates sales people to sell more is coaching – click here to read an intriguing white paper on rep motivation.
So why does this fallacy exist? Why do so many managers “believe” that top performing reps want to be left alone? Below are four recurring themes that continue to arise which can begin to explain this type of thinking.
- Sales reps say they want to be left alone. However, what they are truly saying is that my manager is not bringing me value from a coaching perspective.
- Coaching top performing reps is challenging and sales managers do not know how to coach these high producers. This is not always the manager’s fault – see points 3 and 4.
- Top sales performers continue to be promoted into sales management roles regardless of whether they have the talent and skill sets to be a great coach. This is problematic because often times these new managers are victims of their own strengths which allowed them to get promoted in the first place; strengths that they cannot teach or communicate effectively to those on their team.
- Sales departments do a lousy job of bringing the same clarity, discipline, and structure to their sales management teams that they do to their sales people. Sales managers are often left to their own devices when it comes to getting their sales teams to achieve their number. Too often this leads to sales managers becoming super salespeople and doing the work of seven reps instead of coaching seven sales reps to become great.
The good news for sales departments is that the highest payoff activities that sales managers need to be executing against are not overwhelming. In some cases they are not even new to organizations, but that is not the challenge. The challenge is breaking the bad habits that are listed above. The challenge is committing to a coaching initiative that over time will weave great sales coaching into the fabric of your organizational culture. The challenge is not stopping at saying coaching is important for increased performance, but by executing against it!