What is the most important part of any sales manager’s job ?
To give their salespeople what they need to succeed.
This can include anything from setting up an external Sales Coaching or a Sales Training Program to firing a salesperson who just doesn’t cut it (because in that case, what he needs to succeed is a different job!). That’s because when something goes wrong, it’s often easier for someone outside the problem to figure out what caused it, instead of opting for internal sales coaching by the manager himself.
A salesperson who is suddenly not making enough appointments might not realize that his script has gone stale and he sounds like a robot when he makes his cold calls. In these situations, the sales coach is ideally placed to both identify the problem and help to fix it.
The sales manager normally have to help the sales team also, but not all sales managers are good at coaching. Some prefer the administrative side of management, while others like to spend as much time as possible on the front lines selling. Fortunately, coaching is a skill anyone can learn on the job. It might not come as naturally to some managers, but anyone can become a competent coach with practice.
In many ways, coaching is like selling. The coach must figure out what is holding the salesperson back and then guide him into realizing it for himself. As with sales, this is often best accomplished by asking questions rather than coming out and telling the salesperson what he must do.
In the above example of the salesperson who is struggling to make appointments, I ask questions like, “What is your cold calling process?” and “What exactly do prospects say when you call them and they turn you down?” These questions help salespeople to identify the problem and the solution instead of cramming it down their throats. Ideally a sales manager should shadow each salesperson at least once or twice a year.
Good coaches take time with every salesperson, not just the top and bottom performers. Each member of the sales team has areas where they’re doing well and areas where they need improvement; sales coaches should applaud the former and help with the latter. Often the best way to evaluate a salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses is to go into the field and watch him operate with prospects, and I do this with great pleasure.
While me as a sales coach spend time with each member of the sales team, realistically most of the sales manager’s time will be spent with the salespeople who are having the most trouble meeting their goals. A salesperson who is trying hard but just isn’t able to succeed may need an intensive sales coaching program. Such a program involves several weeks of observation and assistance by both the coach and the sales manager.
However, Sales Coaching won’t do much good with a salesperson who doesn’t realize that he has a problem. Any salesperson who blames his poor performance on outside factors simply won’t take a coaching program seriously. In this situation, it may be necessary to let the salesperson fail or even get rid of him before his attitude contaminates the rest of the team.