Athletes Need a Coach, So Do Salespeople…


Sales leadership is analogous to football in the sense that medium-to-large-organizations tend to have two or more “layers” of management—comparable to coaches and assistant coaches in the NFL. Every team has a head coach, who oversees the entire program, and assistant coaches, who specialize in running backs, quarterbacks, linebackers, and so on.

Likewise, the typical sales hierarchy consists of a CEO or VP (head coach), supported by several sales managers and account managers (assistant coaches), each with their own “players” and specific realms of responsibility. Sales leadership training, then, could be described as “coaching the coaches.” A sales manager might be considered a “sales coach“.

Sound leadership training recognizes the fact that sales managers are charged with a task shared by coaches: that is, to draw out of sales reps the talents and skills those individuals are capable of contributing to the team effort—which in this case, is sales, rather than tackling the ball carrier or scoring touchdowns.

In order to achieve maximum performance from his team, a coach must know his players, just as a sales manager must know her reps. She must objectively analyze her talent pool. Does each individual have the skills prerequisite to and compatible with the job? The sales manager should know this prior to hiring a new rep; if she inherits the personnel, she must quickly assess her players.

Does Joe know how to prospect and how to develop trust? Does Susan know what questions to ask to uncover a client’s needs? Does Steve know how to present an on-target solution, finalize transactions, and follow up with customers?

Once the sales director has determined the strengths and weaknesses of her players, she can inform them of the areas in which they excel, and the areas in which they may need to improve: “These are the skills required in order for you to meet your quota, and I, as your coach, am going to help you through role-playing, observation, and feedback.”

Having completed the individual assessments, the sales director now transitions to sales training and development, which is what the NFL coach is doing when he leads his team through drills and scrimmages.

Legitimate leadership training teaches sales managers how to be sales coaches; how to coax peak performance from every individual player, thereby building a team eager to compete in the marketplace.

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