Tag Archives: leadership

Successful Coaching: How to Be a Better Manager

I’ll say it right up front.  I love coaching.  I’m very passionate about it, and the reason is that when coaching is done successfully, the coach can see the results as they happen.  My first real experience as a true coach came in my first sales management job, and in that experience, I realized that successful coaching is a partnership between the coach and the coachee.  My most recent coaching experience reminds me of that, and in this article, I’ll outline how to make coaching work.

First, I’d like to point out one critical aspect of coaching.  Coaching is an individual process and a collaborative process.  That means that coaching is not training (which typically is a group experience with a defined curriculum), nor is it discipline and dictation (which is a “do this or else” process).  Successful coaching requires investment of energy from both parties, and if either party drops the ball, their efforts will not be successful.

With that said, here is the basic coaching process:

  1. Seeing the coachee in action: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t coach from your desk.  The only way to coach sales behavior is to observe them live and in person.  That means doing ride-alongs, listening in on phone calls, or watching them on video calls (whichever is their main venue).  Only seeing them in action gives you the real-world perspective you need to be able to coach accurately and fairly.
  2. Identify a behavior (or behaviors) that, if changed, will increase the coachee’s success. Everyone has behaviors that can be improved upon.  Your job, as a coach, is to identify those behaviors and come up with a plan for improving them.  One word of caution here.  The rule of three applies – never ask your coachee to change more than three behaviors at a time; if you do, they will likely just shut down.
  3. Sell the new behavior to them. The best coaches are also salespeople; they understand that the best route to change is through selling the benefits, not dictating.  Explain how it benefits the coachee (not you) to change the behavior, how they will be more successful, have more fun on the job, etc.
  4. Gain the coachee’s buy in. Now, ask the coachee how they feel about the new behavior, and if they agree that it could help.  Failing that, ask if they at least buy in enough to give it a full-throated try.  If you’ve done a good job of selling the behavior to them, gaining commitment to give it a whirl shouldn’t be difficult.
  5. Role play the new behavior. Now, role-play the new behavior with them to see if they grasp the basics.
  6. Put them in a situation to implement the new behavior as soon as possible. Now it’s time to get real; they should be placed in a real-world situation ASAP to use that new behavior.  It’s even better if you are present to again use this as a coaching opportunity.
  7. Follow up periodically. Make sure that the new behavior is now part of their professional repertoire; also, make sure that the change is generating the results desired.
  8. Re-coach. A coach’s work is never done.  Now it’s time to continue the coaching process by finding new opportunities.  Remember, even your very best team members can improve.

If your coachee is open to change and improvement, trait-fit for the job (this is critical), and is willing to put in the hard work and effort, great things can be accomplished.  A client of mine recently had this experience.  We had identified two sales managers whose performance was marginal, and frankly, they were potential turnover candidates.  We made the decision to invest time in coaching them.  My client did a great job of coaching them up, and now, a year later, those same two sales managers are being groomed to be given more responsibility in a promotion to Regional Manager.  Those are the moments that make any coach proud.

People are not disposable.  Yes, sometimes we have to terminate substandard employees – but it’s usually worth the time investment to attempt to coach them up first.  I don’t have patience for employees who won’t do the hard work that the job requires, but I do have patience with employees who simply haven’t been given the skills to succeed yet.  Successful coaching is the most critical skill that any manager has, and the most gratifying.  Make sure you take the time to be the best coach you can be.  I do, and I love it.

How to Make Classroom Training Effective

A few days ago, I saw a post on LinkedIn asking, “Is classroom sales training effective?” Unfortunately, like most of these threads, it quickly devolved into post after post of sales trainers saying, “Well, no, most isn’t – but MINE is!” I honestly hate that, because some people are looking for real information about this topic. So, I’ll answer as best I can and I won’t mention my training; if you want to learn about it, you’re more than welcome to, but that’s not what this article is.

The truth is that classroom training gets a bad rap. If classroom learning didn’t work, why would we spend all those years going to school? And don’t give me that “but adults learn differently” stuff. They might – a little – but classroom training still can be very effective. But making it effective requires work – on the part of the trainer, on the part of the trainees, and on the part of management. I’ve been doing classroom training for 20 years, and here are the key elements I’ve discovered.


• The trainer should learn about your company, what you do, and what specific functions your people perform, and how that will impact the training.
• The trainer should prepare enough to be at least conversant with the language of the trainees. He/she doesn’t need to know as much about the specific work environment as the trainees – that is unrealistic – but at least the basic terminology; the trainer should incorporate this into the training materials.
• The manager should be open to conversation with the trainer. Sometimes, managers will want to hold back on their true impressions of their staff a bit to have the trainer ‘evaluate’ their people during the training. This is the wrong approach. The trainer’s job is to educate, not evaluate; if you want a second opinion on your staff, this should be a separate project. Sure, all trainers – myself included – will gain impressions and will probably share them, but this shouldn’t be their prime mission. If you want the best training experience, help your trainer help each person get the most from the experience.
• The manager should set expectations with his or her staff. Those expectations should include sharing the trainer’s bio, their agenda (the trainer should provide you with these items), and what the expectations for both learning and conduct will be. For instance, staff should know beforehand that phones should be silenced, side conversations kept to a minimum, etc.


• The training should be as interactive as possible; nobody wants to listen to a talking head all day. The trainer should break up the lectures with exercises, role plays, and other ways to get staff involved.
• The manager should be in the training session. I can’t emphasize this enough. Talk to any trainer – myself included – and they will tell you that the worst and least productive training sessions they have ever done have been those where the key manager is absent. This means that the manager doesn’t know what’s being taught and doesn’t know how to follow up later, and it means that the conduct of the staff can be unproductive.
• Which leads me to this. The staff’s conduct should be professional and they should participate. It’s okay to have fun – good training should be fun – but the primary mission is to learn. On a (fortunately very) few occasions, I’ve had training programs that felt like Romper Room. The trainees just basically played around, talked among themselves, etc. “But it’s the trainer’s responsibility to control the room!” Not really, to be honest. I’m there (and other trainers are there) to help staff learn important techniques to help them succeed. I’m not there to babysit, and frankly, if your staff needs much “controlling,” you have deeper problems than a training program.


• Most training fails to affect behavior because the training ends when the trainer walks out of the room. To make sure that the training bears fruit, the manager (who was in the training, remember) should reinforce what is taught with follow-up exercises, role plays, and on-the-job observation. Most of the time, less than 20% of what is taught makes it into the actual workplace. Good follow up can radically raise this number.
• The trainer should give some tips or guidance on how to follow up with staff. This can be written or verbal, and it can be as simple as showing the manager how to use the workbook to create future training and dialogue. If the trainer has an advanced program, milestones can be set up to trigger when that program is appropriate.

As a trainer, the most gratifying aspect of my work is when a trainee tells me that they have used my training to make money. The worst aspect of my work is finding out that the training died in the training room. In either case, proper preparation, in-training conduct, and follow up makes all the difference in the world. You’re investing the time and money in training. Invest just a little bit more and make it stick in the workplace.

Seven Core Competencies of Today’s Sales Manager

Seven Core Competencies of Today’s Sales Manager

Many years ago when I was a salesman, one of my greatest ambitions was to become a Sales Manager.  I figured that I’d love the job.  You’ve heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for?”  This was not one of those times.  I loved being a Sales Manager.  I loved leading a group of salespeople, developing them, watching them grow, and watching the results come up.  In fact, I still love it – it’s just that I get to love it now with many companies at once, rather than one at a time.

It’s been over twelve years since I’ve led a sales force, and the most amazing aspect of those twelve years is how much the job of Sales Manager has changed.  Some of those changes are due to technology, some are due to changes in people, some are just due to changing times.  What is disturbing to me is how many Sales Managers aren’t changing with the needs of the job.  Today’s Sales Manager has different requirements than even twelve years ago.  Let’s talk about the core competencies that will make a Sales Manager successful in today’s world. These are presented in no particular order.

  1. Training and Development. This is still the prime skill set of Sales Management.  The ability to contnue to train and develop salespeople – both initially and on an ongoing basis – is the core of Sales Management.  If you’re a Sales Manager, your job on any given day is to ask yourself, “How can I help my salespeople – or even one salesperson – to be better and more skilled at the end of this day than they are at the start?”  And then, by the end of the day, have an answer to the question.
  2. Understanding of Process. Yesterday’s Sales Manager did things on gut feel; today’s must understand the value and execution of processes and road maps.  Whether we’re talking about hiring processes, sales processes, or coaching processes, the top sales managers understand that good processes (continually refined) are key to increasing productivity in every phase of their sales force’s development.
  3. Talent Acquisition. Note that I said “Talent Acquisition” instead of “Hiring.”  There’s a difference.  Today’s sales manager is always working to upgrade his or her sales force through finding and acquiring new talent and skill sets.  This means being open to the approaches of other salespeople at networking events, trade shows, and even when being cold called.  Although sales managers will excecute hiring processes when needed, they’ll always have their ears and eyes open.
  4. Understands the Science of Hiring. This goes along with talent acquisition, as I mentioned above.  This is a relatively new development.  Fifteen years ago, our primary hiring was on our gut and instincts – and we were wrong more than half the time.  In today’s world, we have scientifically valid psychometric assessments that can bring our hiring accuracy to 80% and above – IF the manager understands how to use them.  Too many managers don’t; many are unwilling to even try.  If that’s you, you’re behind the times.
  5. Is CRM Savvy. By “CRM Savvy,” I don’t mean that the Sales Manager can program CRM, but that the Sales Manager knows how to0 use CRM as a tool for getting the most out of his or her sales force.  That Sales Manager also knows how to manage the sales input into CRM and makes sure that the CRM system is working well.
  6. Is Social Media Savvy. Like it or not, social media is part and parcel of selling and managing salespeople.  It’s a conduit for learning about the competition, about the industry, and disseminating your message to your customers.  One of the best sales managers I know spends the first 20 minutes of each day on social media, on the topics that I mentioned above.  Some days he learns things that turn into sales, and some he doesn’t – but the ones where he does pay for the ones that don’t.
  7. Is Constantly Learning. Here is the scary part for some.  What I’m talking about here are the core competencies of a sales manager TODAY, and as far into the future as I can see.  And you know what?  There could be some Earth-shattering development tomorrow that could change everything….and as a sales manager, you absolutely must be able to change with the times.  I meet many sales managers where my only question is WHEN their learning stopped.  1980?  1990?  2000?  2010?  Whenever it is, if your learning has stopped, you’d better start again.    Your company and your team depend on it.

You might think that I wrote this column for the Sales Managers out there, or for the business owners who employ them.  And, partially, I did.  But I also wrote this for those of you who maybe were where I was in 1997 – working toward that first Sales Management job.  I got it in 1998, but nobody told me what the core competencies were.  I had to figure them out.  Hopefully this shortens your path.