Sales Management

by Bette Price, CMC

   The best sales managers are great coaches. And let's not confuse coaching with mentoring. The original concept of mentoring supposes that an older, experienced individual shares knowledge of how things are done. Often it evolves to "telling" others how things should be done. Legendary research done by IBM years ago showed that when people are simply told how to do something their recall is only 70% after three weeks, declining to a mere 10% after three months. Coaching, on the other hand, stimulates individuals to maximize the potential already within them, thus strengthening their capacity to grow and perform better using the skills and attributes they already possess. Thus, when information is shared and they are persuaded to apply that information to their own situation and allowed to experience discovery and execution on their own, the learning is much more powerful and growth-oriented.
   Coaching is a powerful tool for generating momentum when it is executed properly and conveyed authentically. Here are some things to remember when you are coaching your sales people:

  • Devote time to growing your people through coaching. Telling may be the quickest way to get things done, but clearly coaching will result in the greatest learning and retention, so make time for this important learning tool.
  • Begin with creating an awareness of the growth area needed. One's own level of awareness is relatively low. Honest feedback, delivered in a style that allows self-discover is the most effective use of feedback.
  • Recognize communication styles and adapt when necessary. Not everyone communicates the way you do. Take the time to recognize the dominant communication style of each member of your sales team. Then adapt your style, to match theirs to develop greater rapport and trust.
  • Be attentive and a good listener. Remember, your role is to help individuals grow through self-discovery. That requires strong, active listening.
  • Be patient and supportive. Although tough to do when you're looking for quick resolve, only through patience and show of support will people develop trust in you.
  • Be self-aware. Remember, as the sales team's leader, it is very important that you model self-awareness and growth in your own life.
  • Be interested, yet detached. While this may sound incongruent, it is not. It's important to have empathy for an individual's thinking without becoming integrally involved. Then you become part of the problem rather than helping to resolve the problem.

   The final phase of consulting requires that the discussion be converted into a decision. Having focused on a specific goal and discussed possible options, execution is now necessary. What will the individual now do? Will this action meet the goal? What obstacles might be met along the way? What additional information will be needed and what support will the individual need? On a scale of 1 � 10, what degree of certainty does the individual have that he/she will carry out the agreed upon actions? What stands in the way of certainty being a 10? Once all of this has been determined, it is your responsibility to provide the individual with a clear, written record of the action steps agreed upon. Once the individual has read the document, fully understands it, and agrees that he intends to carry it out, it is supportive for you to then add additional support by reassuring the individual as to your accessibility should he need you. It's even helpful to initiate contact after a reasonable interval just to see how things are going.
   If you have handled your coaching in this manner, chances are the individual will leave the session feeling good about himself and positive about accomplishing the task at hand. When this happens, everybody grows.