In recent years, sales managers have become increasingly aware of the need to have sales reps who are coachable, who will listen to advice and continue learning and improving. I’ve discussed the topic several times, such as here.
Think of it this way: most likely, you were put into your position as a sales manager because you have demonstrated great skills in the art and science of selling. Why would you want someone on your team who wasn’t interested in learning from you (or from others)?
What may come as a surprise is that to improve the coachability of your sales reps, you should demonstrate that you are coachable!
Discovering a hard but important truth
When I was a relatively novice sales manager, I asked my sales team to respond to a confidential survey to evaluate my skills. To say I was surprised by what I learned would be an understatement!
Prior to the survey, I had a mindset that the last thing I wanted to do was micromanage because I’d once worked for micromanager and hated it. But from the survey I learned that my team interpreted my reluctance to get involved as unwillingness to coach them. They thought I didn’t care about their success.
The feedback wasn’t easy to hear, but I completely changed my management approach. That helped me become a much more effective sales coach—and my team’s results proved it! By being open to learning and change, I demonstrated the importance of listening to feedback (even when its hard to hear), and that everyone can get better through coaching.
How to get feedback
There are many options for getting feedback from your sales team. You can conduct a confidential survey asking about specific areas, such as I did years ago. Or you can use a method I learned about much later when I read Samuel Culbert’s great book, Get Rid of the Performance Review!
Culbert suggests that managers ask their employees three questions:
- What are you getting from me that you like and find helpful?
- What are you getting from me that limits your effectiveness?
- What are you not getting from me that would help you produce more? Why do you think that would help you at this time?
At a minimum, I think all sales managers should ask these questions at the end of the monthly reviews, or any other regular conversation they have with a rep.
As I said, it’s not always easy to hear the responses, but I guarantee you’ll gain insights that will help you become a more effective manager and coach. And your changes and ongoing improvement will demonstrate to the team the importance of coachability.
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.