Why Sales Managers Must Coach – And Why Many Aren’t

April 14, 2016 | Molly Buccini
Why Sales Managers Must Coach – And Why Many Aren’t

“When was the last time anyone learned something and became a master immediately?”

The answer, of course, is never. That’s the reason sales coaching is a must.

There’s broad acknowledgment among sales leaders that coaching is the best tactic for driving sales effectiveness. But there’s also widespread agreement that it’s not done enough – and training on its own can’t do the trick. 77% of sales managers blame their lack of coaching on time constraints, but beneath the surface, they also admit:

  • They don’t know how to properly coach
  • They aren’t being held accountable for coaching

These secondary challenges indicate that even with proper time allocations, managers are still presented with a coaching challenge. Not necessarily time, but instead a disconnect within the entire sales coaching process.

Coaching isn’t training

“We have to get out of the business of training people and then walking away and expecting they’re going to do something differently.” Mike Kunkle, Brainshark senior director of sales enablement.

How often have you “zoned out” or forgotten something that you learned in a training course? If you’re like most of the population, training content doesn’t necessarily stick the first time around, and if you’re not fully bought in, it likely goes unused.

More effective than one-time trainings, continuous coaching creates a learning system where knowledge is sustained over a longer period of time. Kunkle explains it simply that “the learning curve doesn’t drop off quickly because it’s reinforced.”

Another reason coaching lends itself to long-term success is the plan it sets for transfer and application. Because we don’t always immediately transfer what we’ve learned to what we do, recurring coaching allows for people to integrate what they learn into their workflow in a way that doesn’t feeling overwhelming.

Related Article: Experts Discuss Using Video For Effective Coaching

Effective coaching starts with a strong organizational foundation

Here’s why sales managers often aren’t on the hook for coaching: their company hasn’t fully bought into the idea. Successful coaching requires a strong foundation that’s set by the organization as a whole.  

To achieve this, consider:

  • A common language or approach to how coaching should be done. Because many organizations leave this to the manager to determine on his own, the result is a disconnect among sales reps and their colleagues.
  • Established coaching expectations. When managers are aware of exactly what they are being held accountable for, they’ll be more likely to complete their tasks.
  • A strategic plan for coaching that isn’t just “in the moment.” Decide on appropriate times to have sporadic coaching conversations versus planned, recurring sessions. Either method can be effective, but take note: If you only rely on more spontaneous coaching, it’s more likely to be overlooked and fall to the wayside. 

Why sales managers miss opportunities to see real performance lifts

Once onboarding is complete, continuous learning falls to the sales manager. And all sales managers must feel confident in their ability to coach. When the idea of coaching makes managers a bit nervous, perhaps hesitant to leave their comfort zone, they don’t fully commit – and they miss the opportunity to lift up potential A-game sales reps.  

Here are a two important traits of successful coaches:

  • They help reps reflect on their own performance, which builds their self-awareness and ownership of their portfolio.
  • They can easily offer guidance. Most sales managers are very good at identifying and telling a sales rep what he or she is doing wrong – but they have difficulty leading that rep to a solution.

Here’s what it boils down to, according to Kunkle: Sales managers should be expected to coach: Frequently. Well. And Purposefully.

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