Who's Coaching the Sales Coaches?

Who's Coaching the Sales Coaches?
October 8, 2015

Sales coaching is crucial to sales reps’ success. In fact, recent data from Brainshark and Forbes Insight show that coaching and mentoring is the most important role that front-line sales managers play.

It’s a coach’s job, according to Andy Paul, “to monitor calls or go on ‘ride-alongs’ to provide real-time coaching and reinforcement of classroom teachings. These should occur until the reps have become self-sufficient.”

On whose lap does coaching fall? Does being a great sales rep make someone apt to take on the role of the sales manager and coach? Do front line sales managers (FLSMs) know what to look for when they are monitoring sales activities? Do they know what real-time coaching entails? It’s not unusual for the answer to be “no.” 

During Brainshark’s Sales Readiness Panel during the week of Dreamforce ‘15, sales experts were asked why organizations are still struggling with coaching. And how does it relate to the role of the FLSM in preparing salespeople to have [valuable sales] conversations? Walter Rogers of CloudCoaching International broke it down into two issues: the enablement of the coach and the need to give FLSMs time to actually perform the coaching function.

On the issue of sales coach enablement he remarked, “We expect managers to be good coaches after a one or two day training program. If people forget 90% of what they learn in a workshop, how are managers expected to magically become a coach when it’s not naturally a skill for them to begin with?” In other words, “Who’s coaching the coach?” Walter maintained that organizations need to have a formal coaching program for any FLSM that is expected to coach their sales team.

He continued onto his second point: “And you’ve got to give them TIME to actually perform the coaching program… If they have a team of 15 reps, [coaching is] not going to take precedence. If you want them to be an effective coach, you’ve got to take some stuff off of their plate.” Sales managers are given a sizeable load of responsibility; the mandate to coach their reps is just squeezed in there. As Walter explains, if coaching is as important a task as sales organizations make it out to be, it deserves its own line item with adequate time carved out to execute.

Alternatively, it may be that even with the proper training and the time to commit to the task, some sales managers just are not cut out for the sales coaching job. SiriusDecisions panelist Sharon Little pointed out that FLSMs are usually the top reps who get promoted, but they don’t necessarily have the natural skills to be a good coach. Sure, they can swoop in and close the deal, but can they develop a sales team to effectively close deals on their own?

When all is said and done, the “A” players aren’t necessarily the best coaches. Thus, the “A-players-turned-managers” aren’t equipped for the ever-important sales coaching responsibility, and your sales teams are hung out to dry when it comes to actionable advice and strategic development. Depending on your organizational capacity, consider coaching your coaches, or hiring candidates with the core competencies to provide your sales teams with the support they need.

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