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Can you coach a result?

We often find ourselves coaching managers and helping them clarify what their true role is in sales management. Sometimes they look puzzled when we say: "Your job is not really managing sales or even growing sales." The sales manager's highest value comes from developing people.

See, if we can grow the skills, effort and activity of people, then growth and an increase in the products per client naturally follow. Too often the fixation is on the end goal. It's understandable. Targets are highly visible and we're all accountable to hit them. But the end goal is a result. By the time we get the reporting in that tells us if we hit goal or not it's too late to change anything. We can only manage and impact skills, effort, and activity. Those are daily things not just something to focus on at month-end, or heaven forbid, at the annual performance review meeting.

Effort and activity

Let's talk about effort and activity. Breaking down the end goal into the little steps or activities it will take to hit that goal can be a powerful motivator. It's logical we know, but so many coaches try to motivate with numbers. I've never really understood how simply telling a team over and over again that they need to sell more because they are behind on goal could be inspiring. An analogy we like to use in training to point out how ineffective this strategy can be is the role of a coach in hockey. Imagine the coach coming into the dressing room after the team lost another game and saying, "We really need to win more games. I'm getting a lot of pressure from the owner for you guys to win. We are behind in the race to make the playoffs so if you guys don't step it up we're in trouble. I need you to play harder, score more goals and win!" Insane right? Even a reasonably knowledgeable coach knows that they have to figure out which player is not doing what they need to do in order to score more goals. They need to come up with a plan. They need to change the strategy - the plays the team runs or the execution of those plays in order to affect the scoring opportunities. To be of value to his team, the coach needs to identify what they can each do a better job of, coach them in that process during practice, and then help give them feedback during the game. It's all about coaching skills, effort and activity.

Is selling really any different?

Why should it be any different in sales? We know that the truly successful sales managers see their role as a developer of talent. They don't just point out the glaringly obvious - that the team is behind on goal and need to sell more. They help the team identify the specific activities they each need to fine tune or start engaging in that will lead to more sales. Now lots of you might say: "my manager has never talked to me about that - they just tell me to hit my target or else!" Well that may be true, but what's stopping you from determining your own activities? If you are honest with yourself, you probably already know of a few habits you could polish up on to improve your results. Could you dust off that sales training manual and pull a few ideas out from there? What are the daily activities that will help you to hit your goals? What will you have to do differently then you have done in the past? Be specific. Don't just write down "I need to make more calls". Write out how many calls, when, to whom, and most importantly, what will you ask/say to the client? When you are specific in your goals it gives your brain something to focus on and you'll be surprised how much easier things get.

Don't wait!

Don't wait for your manager to do it for you. Is it their job to lead the team? Yes. But if they are not, take charge of your own destiny. "Coach up" by going to them and asking them for feedback on how you can improve sales skill. If they don't know ask them to help you get some resources that will help. Chances are your desire for change will light a fire under them but regardless, you will be able to have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing everything in your power to improve and help make your team more successful.

"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."