How To Transition From Sales Manager to Sales Coach Blog Feature
Dan Fisher

By: Dan Fisher on February 19th, 2014

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How To Transition From Sales Manager to Sales Coach

sales coaching

A study conducted by CSO Insights found that a group of under performing salespeople had a win rate of 41% of their FORECASTED deals.  NOT pipeline, but deals forecasted to close.  Indeed, that is under performing and a great example of a sales team not understanding their customers or where their deals stand with those customers.  Another sales team, a team that was meeting expectations had a win rate of 57% of FOECASTED deals.  Again, these are not just deals in their pipeline but deals the salespeople are forecasting to close.  And these folks are "meeting expectations." 

The moral of the story? Each study is telling us that there is a major gap between the skills salespeople possess, and the sales skills they need to possess in order to be successful.  Simply put, salespeople need sales coaching.

Studies show salespeople can achieve a 19% boost in sales performance when they receive good, consistent sales coaching.  But if you're a sales manager you may be wondering, how do I make the transition from sales manager to sales coach?  What is the difference between manager feedback and sales coaching?

Below are three tips highlighting how to transition from sales manager to sales coach.

Start By Getting Your Own Personal Coach
Where does any professional go to get the coaching, guidance, encouragement and support that they need to be successful?  Professional athletes including Tiger Woods, Tom Brady and Steph Curry have all found coaches to develop their skills and coach them throughout their careers.  Why don't sales managers and salespeople have sales coaches? The can and they should.

To begin to transition from sales manager to sales coach, I suggest you seek out the best leader and coach within your own organization ask them to be your mentor.  Tell them why you want to receive coaching from them and what you hope to learn and accomplish (your journey begins with developing the essential sales coaching skills).  Trust me, anyone on the receiving end of this coaching request will be flattered and delighted to have the opportunity of supporting and coaching you.  Even if this person is an executive in your company, ask them.  Don't let their title, role or responsibility intimidate you.  When I was a Branch Manager at Kelly Services I reached out for coaching from two different people.  One individual was a Senior Vice President, three levels above me on the organizational chart.  I also reached out to a Vice President (two levels above me) from a totally different division based on their reputation.  In addition to that, I also found and hired a coach off of LinkedIn.  I paid for her coaching services out of my own pocket. Those experiences have served me well but if you need more convincing read my blog, the case for hiring a full time sales coach. 

If for whatever reason you feel there is nobody in your organization to play that role and coach you then extend your search for a coach outside of your organization. Talk to friends and colleagues for referrals to find a coach who can coach you.  Once you find your coach pay attention to how they structure their coaching with you. Listen carefully to the questions they ask you and how they go about supporting you. 

This is the quickest and easiest way to get started with transitioning from sales manager to sales coach. 

Stop Acting as the "Chief Problem Solver" 

coaching2For most sales managers, the biggest challenge with transitioning from sales manager to sales coach is to stop acting as the "chief problem solver."   Many sales managers feel that it is their job to solve every problem that arises in their office and with each and every person that reports into them.  Here is a little secret, this is a fallacy.  Sales leaders do NOT have to have, nor can they have all of the answers. 

As with parenting, mom & dad eventually have to learn to let their kids solve their problems on their own, otherwise they will never make it through life.    The same is true with leading people including sales coaching.  If you continue to act as the "Chief Problem Solver" you will end up with a sales team that has "answer dependency."  Answer dependency is when your team members become robots and rely on you to tell them what to do and how to do it.   Sales managers who do this rob their people of their decision making ability and their ability to solve problems and create solutions.  They also rob them of their creative thinking and most important of all, their self accountability

True leadership including sales coaching is not about managing out of power or authority, it is about empowering your people. To do this you will need to learn to let go of control and empower your people to make decisions on their own.  This is also means you will need to learn to live with your people making mistakes. Making mistakes is how people learn. 

Set Sales Coaching Expectations With Your Team 
I remember I took over a sales team years ago and that was a big hot mess.  We were about $10M behind budget and there were issues everywhere I turned.  The entire sales culture needed an overhaul.  I knew that in order to turn the region around that I would need to upgrade my sales coaching skills and have a much different leadership style than my predecessor's. 

The first thing that I did was I communicated to my team what my leadership style was and how it was going to be different from the past leader.  I gave specific examples.  I also communicated why there was a need for change and how the change would benefit each member of the team.  Mind you, I shared this with the group as well as in one-on-one conversations.  In my one-on-one meetings I made a point to establish a mutually agreed upon definition and framework for sales coaching.  To establish a mutually agreed definition for sales coaching and coaching framework, I asked my salespeople questions like:

  • How would you define sales coaching?
  • Have you ever had a coach before?
  • What did you like and dislike?
  • Tell me about the best coach you ever had.
  • How would you define my role as your sales coach?
  • How would you like to be coached?

This communication laid the foundation for establishing clear sales coaching expectations between myself and each of my sales reps.  They knew exactly what to expect from me as their sales coach and I knew exactly what they needed and expected from me as their sales coach.

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If you're a sales manager want to transition to a sales coach, you can share with your team members that you recognize that the role of sales manager continues to evolve and that you are trying to evolve with it.  As such you can simply share with your team members that you are trying to change your style to be more of a coach.  Explain to them why you're making this transition and how it will benefit them. Also explain to them how it will affect or impact your relationship with them.  You want to set the tone and expectations for how your interaction with team members as a sales coach will differ from what is has been like as a manager.  This prepares them for the change.  If you don't do this it will catch team members off guard and confuse them and/or send a mixed message. Take it from me, a confused team usually means a team with very inconsistent sales results.

What do you find most challenging as you try to become less of a manager and more of a sales coach?  What help do you to transition from sales manager to sales coach? 

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About Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.

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