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5 Sales Coaching Tips from a Successful Player-Coach

Jul 23rd, 2018

Some days, I wonder how Ed Reed, Grant Hill, Jim Thome or Mia Hamm must have felt before retiring from their respective games. All were star athletes, and as veteran leaders, they were challenged to mentor teammates while still performing at the highest level.

Being a “player-coach” on a sales development team comes with similar challenges. You have to consistently provide thoughtful feedback. You have to foster a strong team environment. On top of that, you must manage time effectively and hit your quota.

I’ve had a successful run as an SDR and an even better run as a team lead for the account development group at Brainshark. Below, I’ve outlined a few tips and strategies that have helped me along the way. Hopefully they help you or someone you know. 

Related: What’s Missing from your Sales Development Training?

1. Listen to “The Gambler”

“The Gambler” might be about a song about a young man’s gambling tips, but his advice also describes the type mentality you need to be a successful player-coach (PC). A PC may receive fewer “at-bats” while working toward the same quota as other reps – or a slightly reduced number. This means player-coaches have to be even more efficient than the typical SDR. Knowing how to navigate your conversations, when to let your prospect talk, when to lasso them back on track, when there’s not a fit and how to progress the conversation when there is a fit are all must-have skills for a PC. Being strong in those areas will set the right example for your reps.

A famous line from “The Gambler” also tells us to “never count your money when you’re sitting at the table.” As a PC, it’s important to have a general idea of where your numbers stand each month, but don’t dwell on it. That time can be spent finding more opportunities to help your SDRs.

2. Make Turducken

Turducken – a duck stuffed with chicken, which is then stuffed inside a whole turkey – might be one of the hardest dishes to make in the world. You must ensure the chicken is fully-cooked while preventing the turkey from becoming dry, and remove small bones without damaging the birds’ appearance. It takes confidence and attentiveness to make a Turducken, and it takes a similar levels of confidence and attentiveness to effectively coach your reps.

This is because PCs face a tricky balancing act: improving the team’s overall effectiveness by sharing best practices, while still helping each individual rep shine. The task can seem like a tall order – and it is. But as a PC, you must remember that every member of your team is unique. A coaching approach that resonates with one rep may not work as well with another. Stay patient, stay committed, and remember that you’re the best time-manager on the team.

3. Training an Australian Shephard

Owning a dog has taught me more about sales training in 6 months than I’ve learned from reading any book. Cubby, my Aussie, was a challenge to train from Day 1 because of his high intelligence. He seemed to question my commands, but he could always be incentivized (I’m very thankful for treats).  

I’m now coaching 14 SDRs, all of whom are extremely intelligent and thoughtful. And like Cubby, they sometimes question my ideas and recommendations – not to be difficult, but to better understand them. As a PC, you’ve already proven that you can find a way to hit your number. But it takes resolve and great habits to help your reps do so every month. Taking the time to create contests around selling activity and effectiveness, with simple prizes, is a nice way to steer your reps in a consistent direction. Consistency breeds consistency. PCs might know that, but most SDRs don’t. Instill in them the habits that helped you find success.

4. Watch Extreme Couponing

Extreme Couponing profiles shopaholics who save thousands of dollars with coupons. They spend hours searching for deals online and even go dumpster-diving. This is some serious commitment, and if PCs were even half that dedicated to searching for fresh ideas, they’d foster great chemistry and learning mentalities on their teams.

Take time each week to find learning assets that provide insight to your team, whether they offer inspiration, best practices, new approaches or simply something interesting that’s related to their role. When sales thought leadership is all over the web and resources are literally at your fingertips, you should feel compelled to constantly shop for new ideas. Stay ahead of the learning curve so that your team stays ahead, as well. You want that edge against your competition.

5. Find the Edge of the World

Many movies have moments – often set in a place of tranquility after a major event – when the main character is gazing far into the distance, trying to look past the horizon. There is often reflection and clarity in all of those scenes.

My last piece of advice is to find your “edge of the world” – the type of place that allows you to unwind, clear your head and recharge your batteries. Being a PC isn’t easy. You’re asked to have a positive impact on your peers, guide them, always be available to them and still find a way to continue hitting your number. Get away from it all for a bit so that you can focus on being the best PC you can be during the week. My edge of the world is the beach, and I find one on as many spring, summer and early fall weekends as I can.

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