I’ve asked thousands of sales reps to tell me about the best sales manager they’ve ever had. And I’ve heard many different answers, including “she cared about my success,” “he made me feel important,” “she had high expectations of me,” “he always listened to me,” “she inspired me to get better,” and “he was a great teacher.”
What these answers all have in common is one thing: A rep’s favorite sales manager is always someone truly committed to their success, someone who dedicated time and coaching to help the rep improve. They remember how those managers interacted and communicated with them and the effort they put into connecting with their team.
The analogy that always occurs to me when I explain the need for this commitment is an experience I had when I lived in a dry, hot California town for many years. My next-door neighbor had a good-sized front yard. During the summer, he would wait until the lawn was sickly looking and then put out his portable Rain Bird™ sprinkler and let it spew water for two hours. Clearly that water was either evaporating or running off because his lawn remained brown.
My yard, by contrast, had a built-in sprinkler system that would pop up every day and water my lawn for maybe five minutes. I used less water than my neighbor but had a much greener lawn.
I think about sales coaching the same way. All too often we delay a coaching conversation until a sales rep produces a bad result. Then we plant what I’ve come to think of as a portable “rain bird of coaching” next to the rep, crank it on full blast, drench them in “advice” (likely interpreted as criticism), and expect them to flourish.
I once had a client admit that his company does a lot of rain bird coaching. And he recognized the fatal flaw in that approach: it’s like telling a rep, “If you’re bad enough, I’ll coach you!”
Waiting until problems are severe then drowning your salesperson in a flood of feedback isn’t helpful. That’s not how people learn or improve, and it doesn’t help the rep or your company get better results in the future.
Instead, be consistent and regular in how you work with reps. Observe them in action so you can more accurately diagnose their developmental needs. Provide coaching aimed at helping them improve specific skills and wills.
Over time, their skill level will improve, their results will improve, and you’ll have a very loyal following.
Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is now available on Amazon.com here.