Sales Managers: How Do You Rate Your Coaching Skills?

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: February 23, 2012

Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, once said, “I don’t believe in team motivation.  I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.” 

This attitude and approach is probably the reason the Cowboys enjoyed 20 consecutive winning seasons, competed in two NFL championship games and five Super Bowls.    

So what do good coaches and trainers have in common?   Many sales organizations focus only on the hard skills required for effective sales management.  These might be skills such as forecasting or selling skills.  (After all, most top producers get promoted to leadership positions.)

In the training and coaching world, soft skills are equally important.  Emotional intelligence skills  such as self awareness, delayed gratification and empathy can make a big difference in building  high performance cultures.  Here are three traits that good sales managers possess. 

  1. They are self aware and practice what they preach.  Self awareness is knowing how your actions affect others.  Effective coaches model the attitudes, behaviors and skills they require from their team.  They know their sales team watches what they do more than they listen to what they say.

For example, if the leader can’t demonstrate the company’s value proposition flawlessly, the sales team will follow suit.  They will stumble and bumble over messaging statements that are supposed to open up conversations and opportunities.  After all, if the boss doesn’t think it’s important enough to learn, why should they bother?

  1. They practice delayed gratification.  Delayed gratification is the ability to put in the work in order to earn the reward.  I am fairly sure that Tom Landry had his team run the same plays over and over to insure perfect execution.  Running plays over and over can be tedious; however, good coaches know it’s the only way that people attain mastery of skills. Sales managers often display the opposite behavior of delayed gratification.  They subscribe to instant gratification expecting instant results.  Here’s how it plays out. The sales manager teaches his team a skill once and then expects them to execute it perfectly during the next sales meeting.  He doesn’t take the time during sales meetings to review content, set-up role plays or run drill skills.  As a result, the salesperson ends up practicing in the wrong place—in front of the prospect.

There is science behind this mastery formula called self directed neuroplasticity.  Here’s a very simplified explanation.

The brain is composed of millions of neurons.  When these neurons make a connection, they form a new neural pathway.  With repetition, this neural pathway strengthens and new skills start becoming habits or automatic responses.  On the other hand, without repetition, the neural pathway atrophies as does the newly learned skill.

Practice makes perfect is based on science, not just motivational rhetoric. 

  1. They are good at holding people accountable.   Strong sales leaders practice the principle, “What gets measured improves.”  They set key performance metrics around sales activity, sales results and sales skills.  They build cultures that manage results not excuses.

These sales cultures set the bar high because winners like hanging out with winners.  Salespeople that don’t like accountability often self select out of these environments.  They join sales teams that use the “wing it” sales approach.  This team is often led by the sales manager that says, ‘I hired veterans…. I don’t to train or coach.”

Now, the last time we checked, the NFL hires veterans.  And these veterans are expected to workout, learn new plays and execute.  I wonder if there would even be a Super Bowl if these winning coaches subscribed to the “I hired veterans” philosophy. 

How would you rate yourself as a trainer and coach for your organization?  Show me a good sales leader and I will show you good sales team.