Turning your managers into effective coaches

In many companies, the sales manager is an employee who showed a high level of performance and a solid track record, and was consequently promoted from agent to manager. However, the skill sets of an effective sales agent and an effective sales manager don't always overlap. This can create instances where top-line sales reps aren't always the best managers.

"Managing a sales team is probably the most challenging position in any company requiring a unique set of skills," the Sales Readiness Group explains in a white paper. "Sales managers are responsible for a range of diverse tasks, including managing a sales pipeline, coaching their team, forecasting, hiring new sales representatives, strategic planning and sales administration. In many cases, sales managers are also asked to carry sales quotas or held responsible for a target list of accounts."

At the same time, the skills necessary to be a successful sales manager are hard to learn. Few colleges have sales management degrees, which means representatives frequently have to rely on their experience in the field. This means they may not naturally learn the skills they need to become effective sales managers.

Companies need to realize that training is an important part of nurturing sales managers. Providing front-line managers with the training they need to succeed can generate a significant return on investment by enabling them to become both coaches that can bring the best out of other representatives and managers that can run a team.

Teaching managers how to coach their sales representatives is a crucial business move that can have a significant impact on return on investment. While there is a slight initial investment in sales coaching, that cost can quickly be paid off – the more agents managers train, the more value companies drive from that initial investment.

"Effective sales coaching can potentially increase top-line revenue by up to 20 percent," the report adds. "With such potential benefits it is no wonder that many sales organizations recommend that their front-line sales managers spend 25 percent to 45 percent of their time sales coaching."

It's also critical to remember that the quality of coaching training is important. By providing managers with excellent coaching training to begin with, businesses will be better off in the long term. Companies should consider hiring third-party coaching specialists to give their managers the best training experience.