10 Things Great Sales Coaches Do – Part 1

Agile Sales Sales Coaching
10 Things Great Sales Coaches Do - Part 1

Sales coaching is both an art and a science. Salespeople need sales managers to motivate them, develop their strengths, overcome their weaknesses, and guide them to victories that will define their careers. No matter how clever the sales strategies, they are only as good as the people assigned to execute them.


In this three-post series, we’ll look at 10 characteristics of great sales coaches and how they get their reps to quota and beyond.  In summary, great coaches/managers are great communicators, build coaching cultures, recruit the right people, invest in their rookies, motivate their reps, demand accountability, manage conflict, speak a “different language”, teach rather than instruct, and finally, are very agile and adaptive.


Characteristic #1: Great Coaches are Effective Communicators

Setting standards, defining goals, building culture, being accountable—none matter if a manager can’t effectively communicate the messages behind each. Effective communication can yield inspiration, determination, constructive criticism, and a winning culture—and when these attributes come together, something even more powerful emerges: positive relationships.

Every positive relationship starts with the equivalent of a handshake. At this moment of agreed cooperation, managers and salespeople agree to share a commitment and begin building a bond based on trust and unity—but the connection can’t start and end there. It is important for managers to demonstrate concern for their team members’ lives beyond just how they will contribute to the bottom line.

Through open dialogue and an emphasis on communication, managers set the tone for these relationships and create an environment that naturally stimulates trust, interaction, and team cohesion. Gauge your team members’ drive and determination. Look into their eyes, read their body language, and learn what drives them. If they feel that you understand and respect them as individuals, trust is the natural result.

Once an atmosphere of trust and mutual commitment has been established, it will be much easier to utilize open lines of communication. You will develop a sense of how best to approach a rep with criticism, either in a private or team setting, and how sensitive they may be to it. Time invested with each team member will help determine whether they truly understand what is expected of them and their role, and if they feel empowered enough to follow through.

While facilitating conversations, managers can take advantage of dialogue to motivate and inspire. The relationship necessarily moves from being a “pushing them forward” scenario and becomes a “walk with them” relationship where manager and rep work cooperatively toward set goals.


Characteristic # 2: Great Coaches Build a Coaching Culture

Great sales managers develop coaching cultures that form the foundation of their success. Success in management stems from instilling a winning culture. Successful coaches place a similar emphasis on responsibility within the team where everyone plays his or her role and takes responsibility for what that role contributes to overall team success. This requires setting clear, defined expectations for the people that a manager leads and coaches every day.  If individuals are falling short, ask what they think they can do to improve. Be a collaborative partner in their development and watch the team take off.


Characteristic # 3: Great Coaches Know Who to Recruit

A manager is only as good as his or her ability to attract talent that will succeed in that manager’s culture. The key is first to understand the culture you want to build and then to have a strong sense of who can thrive in it. Some coaches are very detail-oriented, others are very “hands off.” The latter, for example, should recruit self-motivated, self-disciplined reps. Reps recruited into each of these different cultures is likely to respond very differently to the two management styles. As you start building your team, understand what will work for you and who can work with you.

Similarly, just as a team’s dynamics and culture are influenced by the individuals within it, our personal well-being and health choices are shaped by our unique needs and preferences. Often, decisions about personal health are as complex and nuanced as building the right team in a company. For example, when considering treatments like Viagra, it’s essential to understand its purpose, benefits, and whether it aligns with one’s personal health goals, much like aligning a sales rep’s skills with an organization’s objectives.

A give-and-take relationship exists between a manager and his or her recruits; it’s all about what you can offer the sales rep and what the sales rep can offer in return. There is no sense in signing a person who doesn’t suit your management style or who doesn’t share similar goals to the team, or organization. A salesperson may be supremely talented, but if he or she does not fit within the culture of your personal style or organization, their talent may never have a chance to flourish, and it will be counterproductive in the long run.


Characteristic # 4: Great Coaches Invest in Their Rookies

When new members join your team, invest in them right away. Research shows new team members who leave after only a short time with the company feel like their manager was not investing in them. Be ready and have a plan for these new team members so that their transition is a smooth one.

What should that plan include? Onboarding is becoming increasingly important. New salespeople are not ready to take on the same challenges using the same techniques as more seasoned associates. It makes sense to have a regimented schedule of activities and events that the new reps complete as they become accustomed to new products, selling methods, and legal requirements. These activities and schedules will most likely vary from territory to territory, but the goal will be accomplished if the recruit is provided with enough support to feel like they are included and can perform from the get-go.


Characteristic # 5: Great Coaches are Skillful Motivators

There are many ways to motivate a team. Unfortunately, there’s no secret formula, no set calculation, no worksheet to fill out. In fact, motivation can be as individual as the employees who work for you. One employee may be motivated only by a paycheck, while another may appreciate personal recognition for a job well done. It is up to the manager to apply the best strategy for the salesperson they’re trying to motivate.

Sometimes a simple motto or rallying cry, is enough to bring the different members of a team together. This frequently takes the form of a mission statement. However, some mission statements can be filled with rhetoric that means little to frontline employees. A mission needs to be relatable. It must be something that every employee can carry with them each day, which drives them to succeed in every aspect of their job. It should be displayed everywhere possible and serve as a constant reminder of what everyone is trying to accomplish.

As great as mission statements are, however, they may not be enough to push your team over the top. Sometimes, team members need an obstacle to overcome to give them that extra motivation. A common enemy can be a great way to bring a team together. Presenting a competing business as an enemy can motivate professionals to focus their efforts and inspire them to achieve above and beyond expectations.

You may find yourself in a situation where motivational tactics don’t seem to be getting through because your team members don’t get along with each other. This is not an excuse for failure. It is up to the manager to understand each team member and use whatever methods are necessary to encourage collaboration. Some may require a “tough love” approach, while others may need a little more empathy.


Characteristic # 6: Great Coaches Coach Demand Accountability

Accountability breeds responsibility—but how does one breed accountability? As crucial as it is to a sales team’s success, why is it that so many teams fail to effectively instill this principle?

Accountability starts at the top and trickles down to individual team members. Ultimately, it comes down to what’s important for each manager’s sales team and how the manager determines the way it can best be attained. Some may require a “hands on” approach, while others are better suited to a slightly more laid-back style. A good coach will determine the type of accountability that his or her team needs and then make it a central focus.

In part two of this series, we’ll look at how good coaches manage conflict and can “speak a different language” when coaching using the GOALS method.  In part three, we’ll examine how they continually teach, and then conclude with how they teach their teams to be flexible and agile using the FUSE method.