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It is no small challenge to be a useful sales manager or sales leader. Useful in the sense of being of value to your salespeople.

The textbook says that sales management is all about coaching and mentoring, but if you ask salespeople they will largely tell you they hate having coaching done to them. That doesn’t mean they don’t need it; they just don’t benefit from it because it usually takes the form of talking and preaching.

What salespeople actually find useful are things that work. Stuff that works. Approaches that work in the real world. Things they didn’t think of, but someone else who is a critical thinker has thought of, tested and proven i.e. their (sales) manager. The reason “things that work” are so valuable is that they help the salesperson to find commission cheques. One of the most valuable things you can do as a sales manager is to help your salespeople find commission cheques. Everything else you do is commendable but not as useful.

What salespeople actually find useful are things that work. Stuff that works. Approaches that work in the real world.

Stop Coaching and Start Modelling

“Coaching” is a nice word and sounds like a nice pursuit, but it’s not nearly as useful as modelling effective selling behaviours. No one can argue with performance and producing better outcomes. Sales managers just don’t have to be very good salespeople; they have to be good enough to model the very best behaviours. These can include cold calling (or some version of “warmer” calling, if cold calling frightens you), or meeting planning, or opening a meeting, or handling difficult push-backs or managing a room. These are the skills that a lot of salespeople struggle with and they will be more likely to try and adopt better approaches when they see them and hear them in action and see the better outcomes they produce.

“Coaching” is a nice word and sounds like a nice pursuit, but it’s not nearly as useful as modelling effective selling behaviours.

Modelling is not the Same as Doing Someone Else’s Job for Them

Modelling effective selling behaviours is not doing the salesperson’s job for them. It’s showing them how to get better results, faster and more predictably without them having to go through the learning, testing and failure curves. If for example, you have just taken on a new hire, why let them make the same predictable mistakes, when they could have learnt the better approaches within the first couple of weeks in the job?

Sales Managers should not Bow to Experience

As a sales manager you will sometimes not want to model behaviours for “experienced” salespeople. Why would you? Didn’t you hire them to hit the ground running? Only to an extent. Every selling role has a unique situational context that requires the salesperson to execute specific approaches and techniques. And the fastest way to get that across is to model the behaviours. Of course, when one of your team can model an even more effective behaviour, including an evolution of what you have modeled, then it’s time to include that in your enablement armoury.

One of the most valuable things you can do as a sales manager is to help your salespeople find commission cheques.