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01/03/2011

Why Do Sales Managers Avoid Personal Coaching?

In my experience as an interim executive and a coach to sales managers, I have noticed that many hesitate to accept coaching when sales are down.  To understand this, lets use an analogy, a football quarterback.  Say there is a QB who is self-coached and he takes the field and refuses coaching advice. He practices by himself, learns what he can from game films and judges his success or failure by the scoreboard.    He is on his own, sink or swim. 

Is this realistic?  Not really. 

Every quarterback has the need to improve, change his game and grow.  He may not grow stronger as the years pass, but he grows smarter.  If he lasts without injuries, he gets sneakier, not faster.  He becomes more accurate and that accuracy and wisdom will help him survive and win more games.  He can’t do it alone, he has coaches.   The coaches help him grow and improve, recover and change as the game and the players change. 

Every superstar athlete learns from his mistakes and seeks coaches who can help add to their wisdom, skills and game smarts. So why would a sales manager be any different? 

I find it interesting that salespeople are more open to coaching then sales managers.  The sales managers seem to take the attitude that they are the sales quarterback, but coaching isn’t something they need.  Many never read a book about management, attend seminars or webinar’s and if the president sees them fumble the ball a few times and suggests a coach, the sales manager often takes it as a personal affront and pushes back. 

A typical sales manager might say, "But a coach doesn’t know how WE sell.  They don’t have experience in OUR marketplace.  They don’t know OUR products."   And so it goes for many of them until they are losing so many games (sales), the team members are turning over (not making quota or quitting) and management is trying to decide if the sales manager is in a temporary slump or has he lost his or her touch with the team (salespeople, customers and management). 

I guarantee you that if a quarterback is in a slump, he seeks as much help as he can get.  He wants experts who review his game plan (sales plan), playing skills (training and hiring), and critique his performance.  After all, when the game is over, the QB gets praise, attention and kudos for his performance if he wins; credits the coach.   A QB doesn’t show weakness in asking for coaching to get him through a slump and a sales manager should show the same wisdom. 

Sometimes coaching comes from a formal coaching arrangement, sometimes from a trusted mentor or sometimes both.  Regardless, if the slump extends for more than a quarter, there has to be a change in the game plan; the sooner the better.

New Sales Manager’s Need Coaching!

So far we talked about seasoned sales managers who encounter a slump.    Yet, we can’t forget the new sales manager who has his first management position.    He or she is determined to "do it right" and not make the mistakes others have made.  And yet their inexperience in managing people, sales processes, skills training, incentive compensation and all of the other skills are new to the manager.    Maybe he or she can sell, but that isn’t what the new job is about.    Having a coach helps a new sales manager increase the likelihood of the manager being successful and reduces mistakes that everyone makes in the first year on a new job.

How can sales coaches perform if they don’t know the product category?

Sales coaches excel because they have had experience in coaching a hundred sales managers of all skill levels and every type of product.  Their job is to make sure the manager is the star.   The sales manager knows the product; the sales coach knows how to get the best from the manager and his or her team.  They understand the sales process, hiring, training, sales skills, goal setting, incentive compensation, motivation and negotiation.  They do this because they like to coach. 

So the next time you see your sales manager fighting a slump, consider finding a coach to help him or her work their way out of it.   If you are a sales manager, consider seeking a coach and mentor before the president taps you on the shoulder and asks what you’re going to do about sales.  It could be worse on many levels if you wait too long.

In the next blog post, we’ll discuss how to find the right sales coach for your sales manager. 

Comments

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Hi Jim,Remember me from Internet Products? :-)BP

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