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Is Coaching Salespeople Different than Managing Them?

As Sales continues to be the lifeblood within an organization, companies look to their sales force and sales leaders to ensure feast over famine. However, many fail to realize the importance of developing their frontline sales managers and not just their sellers. Many of those same companies also assume that sales representatives can transition from a position of selling to one of managing seamlessly, despite the requirement of a considerably different set of skills between the two functions. Training frontline managers is not only essential for generating a compelling return on investment, but also a vital aspect of sales success. One of the most useful skills that a sales manager can acquire is sales coaching. When managers learn how to coach, organizations can easily leverage them to enhance the sales performance of their whole sales force. But would it not be easier to learn how to just manage sales professionals and achieve the same result? At Janek, we don’t think so.

Coaching can be described as challenging and supporting an individual to achieve a greater level of performance, while allowing the person to bring out the best in himself or herself, and those around him/her. Sales coaching is personalized and offered at the individual level, in a one-on-one manner. This is different from sales management, which tends to focus on the metrics of the operation and team as a whole. Sales management examines factors such as the selling operation of the company, marketing orientation, and changes taking place in the business, and formulates relevant metrics. These metrics include: the number of opportunities in a sales pipeline, number of proposals presented, number of deals closed, monetary value of the sales pipeline, and the monetary value of closed business, among others.

What it takes to manage a company’s sale force is quite different from the requirements of coaching the same team; and the two yield different results. The term “sales coaching” has been thrown out by many organizations, but there are a few organizations that actually deploy a sales coaching strategy and methodology.

Management focuses on telling the work force what to do, without necessarily micromanaging, or drilling down to the nitty-gritty of how the person should achieve the outcome. Sales coaching, on the other hand, revolves around getting people to identify within themselves, whatever else is possible, in terms of improvement. Sales reps, which are unable to hit their numbers, usually come up with all sorts of excuses for their poor performance, like “it’s the economy, not me.” As such, it is the role of a sales coach to assist in enhancing performance, with the objective to yield better sales results for those individuals who are underperforming.

Sales coaching typically takes place behind closed doors so that the individual can open up. The discussion is centered on assisting the individual personally to develop the right skills, habits, behaviors, and routines that are critical to achieving their personal sales or income goals. This involves observation, motivation, and offering developmental feedback to create a sturdy foundation. A coach combines elements of a counselor, teacher, guide, facilitator, and even a cheerleader.

That said, you should note that effective sales coaching requires knowledge of each individual sales rep’s major performance metrics as well as a clear understanding of the skills they are coaching against. Since sales is as much art as it is science, sales professionals must coach their team by analyzing their key performance indicators in order to support the validity of their coaching efforts. All coaches, regardless of the field or industry, have the same requirement: drawing from your own experience. To be truly successful, however, the sales coach must be analytical and data-driven. This way, the coach can keep track of the reps’ successful performances, by measuring hard data, which also allows them to measure progress after the coaching sessions.

Sales coaching is arguably the “new form of sales management.” Nobody wants to be told what to do. With sales coaching, it is possible to enhance the development of individual reps and the overall team while improving sales performance and overall team morale.