Being a sales coach is tough

  • 2001-06-07
  • By Paul E. Adams
"Management's principal job is to get the herd heading roughly west." - Lee Walton.

Some salespeople are difficult to supervise. They only respect fellow salespeople. They do not like management; they do not like production managers; they do not like credit managers; and they do not like anyone who says no to them – including some of their customers. They make their living by talking other people around to their way of thinking. When they cannot do so, they may become negative – blaming company policies or products for their failures. The more aggressive they become, the more difficult they are to manage. You may find coaching a sales organization a challenge to you, especially if your background does not include any sales experience.

As you build your business, it is important you establish your style of leadership as soon as possible. If you want your people to take initiative – but not control of your business – you must find a balance between latitude and autocracy. If you have little or no selling experience, do not let any employee or representative intimidate you by claiming you do not understand the market. If you do not know how to deal with a sales situation, go visit some customers – you will have the answer.

Eventually you will come across a salesperson who can only sell if you give them special deals – do not fall for it. That person is not a successful sales representative. He or she survives by substituting special deals for selling skills.

When you travel with your sales people, do not take away your representative's authority by making special deals during sales calls to prove you can sell. If you do, you will embarrass your salesperson and force customers to deal directly with you. Do not undermine your company structure and polices to prove a point or impress an employee. It is not wise to let your ego run your business.

Some salespeople will think their customers belong to them. They get unrealistically possessive and believe that without their efforts the customers will go elsewhere. If a salesperson threatens to quit and take with him your customers, do not believe it. It has been my experience, and will be yours as well, that most customers deal with companies not individuals. If you have a productive sales representative that leaves or that you must terminate for some reason, do not worry, at most you may lose a customer or two, but you will not go out of business. I do suggest, though, that you protect your business in such a situation; immediately phone your customers, thank them for their business, explain the change in personnel, and assure them they will not be neglected. Your calls will be welcomed and you will keep your customers.

As you coach your sales organization to success, remember your representatives are an extension of you and your company. They are your living advertisements. Hire the "best" you can find. You will run into fewer sales problems if you hire motivated individuals who share your approach to business.

It is wise to remember that most of us love to be recognized and appreciated. Special awards, plaques, club memberships and the like are ways of acknowledging accomplishment and saying "thank you." When you find a way of thanking a representative for a job well done, it boosts the morale of all. Everyone wants to feel important. I think you will find that if you reward and recognize your sales team's accomplishments, they will respond with loyalty and dedication. Such efforts will help your business prosper.