We all have made mistakes as sales managers. Yet, there are certain sales coaching mistakes that I hear about time and again in my sales management workshops, mistakes that are damaging to team performance.

Sales managers make these costly mistakes because they lack an understanding of how managing and leading a sales team requires a completely different set of skills than those that they perfected as salespeople. To learn more about the range of skills needed to become an outstanding sales manager, download my free whitepaper “Holistic Competencies for Effective Sales Team Management.”

Here are three of the most common mistakes an uninformed sales manager makes – mistakes we would all be well served by eliminating from our behavior patterns today.

  1. Waiting Too Long – Sales managers often confess to me that their coaching strictly involves touching base with their team members either right as a deal is about to close or, worse, after a deal is lost or a bad result is obtained.

What would you think about someone who only ever showed up after you’d made a mistake and offered only criticism? Would you wonder why they weren’t there to help you fix the problems before it was too late?

Waiting too long in the sales process before you start coaching sets a confrontational tone to the meetings from the start. Plus you are constantly in the position of having to react to issues rather than proactively shape your reps’ performance.

Effective sales coaching is an ongoing process that should span across the sales process from first contact to close. In particular, pay close attention to what your reps are doing during those very first calls because that’s where the size of the deal is determined!

  1. Dwelling on the Negative – Your team members shouldn’t only hear about what they are doing wrong and where they need to improve. While this is important information, it is also disheartening if that’s all they hear. It is important to remember that it is just as useful for your team members to know what they have done right and where they have shown improvement.

Focusing on the positive can be harder than it sounds. In one experiment, experienced sales managers were asked to watch and comment on a video carefully crafted to contain equally good and bad points. Yet 82% of the comments were about bad points. We sales managers are obviously biased towards finding the bad in our reps.

Starting today, make it a point to catch the right, not just the wrong in your reps. That will help you provide more well-balanced, effective, and encouraging sales coaching.

  1. Taking on the Monkey – We as sales managers pride ourselves on solving problems and putting out fires. When people come to us with their problems, we naturally want to prove that we can solve them. But by doing so, we can quickly find ourselves overwhelmed by having to deal with everyone else’s problems—which takes up valuable time we could use for coaching our teams and seeing to our other responsibilities.

The next time someone comes to you with a problem, picture a monkey sitting on their shoulder. Don’t take the monkey from them. Instead, teach them how to resolve their own problems by asking two questions: “What have you done about it so far? What do you think you should do next?” Over time, each rep will learn how to think through problems themselves. And while they may want to get your opinion on their options, you won’t be taking a monkey off their shoulder and putting it on yours!


Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness.” To learn more about the range of skills needed to become an outstanding sales manager, download Kevin’s whitepaper, “Holistic Competencies for Effective Sales Team Management.”