5 Ways to Gauge Your Sales Managers’ Coaching

5 Ways to Gauge Your Sales Managers' Coaching

Recently, I had lunch with a vice president of sales. He was unhappy that his sales team was so focused on the results that they forgot to care for their salespeople.

This executive views the role of the sales manager as a way to help his or her employees reach their full potential. I share his longer-term view. By developing your people, you can improve performance and retention. You also create a pool for succession candidates.

How do you determine if your managers make effective coaches?

1. Asking vs. Telling

Watching the interactions between salespeople and managers can reveal a lot about their coaching abilities. Your manager may be in “tell mode” if the majority of interactions include the words “do that” or “why don’t you do that?” These highly directive and subservient communications make salespeople feel like robots and produce mediocre performers. It strains their relationship with their manager, which is quite frankly.

Coaching is all about asking questions. Coaching is about asking thoughtful questions. It is based upon the belief that each individual has the answers to his or her own sales problems. Managers are there to support individuals in their ability to solve their own problems and self-direct. Coaches would ask the majority of their clients, “How can you best achieve this goal?” Or “How would you like to address that opportunity?”

You’ll quickly see if your manager is in “coach” mode or “tell” mode if you spend 15 minutes with them in a sales meeting.

2. Spend your time in the field

Managers, like many others, tend to focus their time on what they enjoy the most and are good at. Managers who are too focused on administrative tasks, such as submitting time-consuming reports, will likely be less comfortable coaching. Managers who find creative ways to reach out to sales reps and spend more time in the field will likely see the value in this time. The administration doesn’t help you grow your salespeople. However, time spent in the field will improve your reps’ ability and productivity.

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Do you keep track of the days each manager spends on the field? The most consistent coach is likely to be the best.

3. Accountability

Coaching is about helping sales reps grow and achieve their personal goals. It involves four steps: (1) identification of opportunities for improvement; (2) gaining commitment; (3) developing a plan; and then (4) setting up an accountability meeting to review progress. You should set aside an hour each month to review the manager’s field visit reports. You can also follow up on four or five field visits with the same rep to determine if your sales manager is reviewing the reps’ self-improvement plans. You want to see progress in one or two areas of the rep’s development.

4. Sales Rep Engagement and Turnover

Two metrics are often tracked by companies. One is an annual engagement survey. The key to this is to drill down to sales managers. This gives insight into the differences between managers and the effectiveness of managers in coaching their reps. A coach who is effective will be able to increase sales rep engagement. Turnover is also an indicator of the reps’ relationships with their managers. According to statistics, 70% of top performers will leave based on their relationship and with their manager.

5. Get out on the Field

Spend a few days out in the field every month to get to know your reps. Ask your reps about the quality and level of their coaching. The dreaded “cowork with” is another approach. This involves spending a day with the sales manager or rep. The coach is observed at work, giving you a firsthand view of the effectiveness of coaching. Although I have not tried this method myself, I know of a sales manager who has, and I admire, his determination.

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Here’s to great coaching!