I cannot impress enough the importance of sales manager coaching and doing it a bunch. I have stats to back me up. Check out this data curated by Objective Management Group on about 5,500 managers and their teams.

Ineffective coaching still yields significant improvement.

You can see, even if the manager isn’t effective at coaching their team, just spending 50% of their time doing it will increase seller effectiveness. And this increase is greater than what effective coaches can produce with their ability alone (without coaching at least 50% of the time). Crazy, huh?

So exactly what do I mean by coaching?

Think of sports coaches. A baseball coach doesn’t step into the batter’s box in place of the hitter and take swings. A football coach doesn’t step onto the field when the quarterback is throwing interceptions. These coaches are no longer players, and the sales coach should operate in the same way.

Be aware that there are differences between what we see coaches do on TV versus what happens when we aren’t looking. We do often see coaches talk, yell or use foul language with a player that has messed up. What we don’t see is the countless hours players practice, and practice, and practice the same drills. Not the coach, but the player doing it over and over again. What the coach provides is direction and correction.

What the best coaches do.

The best of the best, individually, coach individuals. They determine what will inspire each individual player and tailor their approach to help the player perform at their very best. It should be the same in sales as it is in athletics.

The best sales coaches help the individual plan out what they are going to do in advance of a sales meeting and help the individual practice their skills beforehand. Repetitive practice, just like in baseball or football.

Demand practice until it is subconscious. Demand preparation (a game plan if you will) and provide timely and focused feedback. Athletes don’t just show up for the game and make it up as they go along. Salespeople shouldn’t either (although they often do).

Finally, please, please refrain from telling salespeople what to do next. Rather, ask the individual what they need to change; what they should do next; how they should operate differently to produce different results. Far too many sales managers just tell their sellers what to do every step of the way, and then the organization becomes hamstrung by the manager’s ability (or lack of ability) to field all the issues. This is a recipe for disaster

What constitutes “effective” sales coaching?

Below is a chart. Interpret it this way: If an individual has at least two-thirds of these abilities, they would be considered a proficient sales coach. But there are some elements that are more critical than others.

Most managers we see are not actually proficient at the Coaching Competency. Still, until they become proficient, they can improve sales results by just coaching their team more.

Here are some other popular articles worth reading on this topic:

“Telling Ain’t Selling, Nor Is It Managing”

“Sales Leaders: Quit Telling. Start Coaching”

“Coach People. Manage Objects”