A Sales Coach Primer for Rookie Sales Managers

You want to be a great sales coach to your team—but what if you’ve never had a role model? Here are three great tips to get you started.

One of the most common complaints from salespeople is lack of attention from their sales manager. Often, this derives from the fact that sales managers, who are expected to coach, have never been properly coached themselves.

Most people learn tasks best by watching someone perform the task successfully and then attempting it under observation by someone who can help identify and address gaps. How, then, can you learn to coach your reps successfully if you never had such a role model to follow?

To those who have never done it, coaching may seem dauntingly complex. You can simplify it by remembering three simple guidelines.

1. Be consistent and patient when coaching your sales reps.

As a new sales coach, schedule time on your calendar to develop your sales reps every week. People develop skills incrementally – consistent effort over time. Don’t allow any roadblocks to prevent you from coaching.

Identify one skill needing development for each sales rep. Then focus on that one skill until they demonstrate competency when selling.

For example, don’t coach on prospecting. Instead, coach on a specific part of prospecting, such as the talking points with a gatekeeper to get passed to an influencer or decision-maker. Help your rep develop the words, skills, and confidence to engage gatekeepers effectively. Role-play extensively for a few weeks until they can speak effortlessly and handle pushback and objections. Once they develop that competence, then move on to the conversation with the buyer. Take your time because it’s worth it. So be patient.

2. Learn to say “No” to your sales reps.

Being a sales coach means helping your sales reps help themselves. Don’t do everything for them. Once trained, if they want you to join them on every sales call to help them close the deal, say “no”. Your job is to help them close sales on their own. Of course you will help on difficult or complex sales. However, the day-to-day sales should be handled by your reps… without your involvement.

Focus on helping them develop their skills within every step of the sales process. This also includes the personal skills required for success. Create conditions for them to figure it out by thinking through the problem. By asking them pointed questions, you can help them develop a solution on their own. For example, you might ask your sales rep in a coaching session after a sales call:

  • Why did you ask that question?
  • What were you attempting to learn from the prospect?
  • How could you have advanced the conversation to get more info?
  • What questions would you ask now that you didn’t during the call?
  • What is your plan for a follow-up call?

Redirect your sales reps to do the work and learn from their experiences. Remember, you can always jump in and help when they are really lost.

3. Understand your sales reps’ personal motivation.

As a sales coach, ask your sales reps what they really want: What motivates you? Tell me about your aspirations. What do you need from me to help you attain your goals? People do what they want to do – not need to do. Needs get fulfilled if their wants drive them.

Consider this: If a sales rep wants to buy a new home, help them calculate the sales required to make the down payment. If they want to pay for their kids college, partner with them to set that goal. Make it a part of your regular coaching to help them earn enough for their college savings plan.

Like many activities, sales coaching is both an art and a science. You can learn the basics easily enough, but you’ll only get better by doing it, evaluating the results, tweaking your process, and then doing it some more.

If you’ve never been coached, mastering the fundamentals may require a little more time. But there’s no reason why, if you follow these three tips, you cannot become a better coach than you—or your team—ever thought possible.