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“Sales Management vs. Sales Coaching”—and Other Falsehoods
Blog / Sales Management / Aug 30, 2016 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 2346 

“Sales Management vs. Sales Coaching”—and Other Falsehoods

I recently heard a sales podcast that put forth a concept I was very surprised to hear: that sales coaching is more important than sales management.

I asked myself: Did I really hear that? Then I recalled that in the last year or so I’ve been seeing this same kind of message said in different ways—that basically pigeonholed sales management as one task, and separated out other functions such as sales coaching as others.

This is complete, in polite terms, horse pucky. Sales coaching is not more important than sales management. Sales coaching is part of sales management—it is only one of the many roles of this job you have to perform.

An Analogy

Let’s take an analogy outside of sales: parenting. A parent, at different times, must perform in different roles:

  • sometimes as a teacher
  • very often when the kids are younger, the role of nurse or doctor
  • in sports and other activities, a coach
  • often when they grow older, a role like that of a policeman
  • when they grow to be young adults, you very often slip into the role of a judge
  • and sometimes, to comfort your child, you even take on the role of a priest

Parents out there reading this may actually come up with a number of other roles they play quite in addition to these! But at the end of the day they, I and any other parent will tell you that they are purely being a parent, and all of the above roles are combined in parenthood.

The Truth of the Matter

The podcast I was listening to basically said that a sales manager is doing nothing but issuing quotas and making sure numbers are made. That’s all they do, and coaching is much more important than that.

Here’s the truth, known by veteran sales managers the world over: coaching is part of sales management! Any great sales manager knows that—and also knows that those numbers aren’t going to be made unless efficient and excellent coaching is also done on members of the sales team.

Hence, any competent sales manager has effective coaching as part of their skillset. This was true yesterday, is true today and will be true until the end of time. The sales manager might hire others to do this coaching work, or possibly outsource it—but they will still be very aware of the coaching being done, and quite willing to step in and do it themselves if need be.

Management vs. Sales Management

It’s not just an issue of coaching split off from sales management, though. What’s really fascinating, at least to me, is that sales management is considered a completely separate subject from management.

The truth is that great management is great management, whether it be company management, department management or sales management. There are basic principles of management that apply in every single case.

Stated simply, there are only 2 kinds of management: good or right management, and wrong management. There is nothing else.

Focus on Strengths

Part of being a manager is being a trainer or a coach, no matter the area being managed. Why? Because one of the vital principles of management is to focus on strengths. When a sales manager is focusing on the strengths of a sales rep, for example, the manager is making that rep more skilled and valuable.

Focusing on strengths is a far more effective form of management than trying to prop up or fix weaknesses. You’re already half the way there—the person is already good at it.

For example, if you have someone in a sales team that’s a great closer and a lousy cold-caller, why pound on that person to become a better cold-caller? Pick what that person is strong in. They’ll probably never be good at cold calling if you coach them from now until the end of time. But great closers are always needed—and you’ve got one right there.

I believe that everyone has some kind of real talent, a strength, and a manager has to build on that. It’s usually what the person really likes to do.

Coachability

In that podcast stressing that “coaching is more important than sales management,” the podcaster also stated that they would never have anyone on their sales team that “wasn’t coachable.”

This was something else I couldn’t make sense out of—and once again it ties back into holistic management.

What if you have a salesperson that’s a real star, that’s making their numbers, that’s selling the product and the company vision—but isn’t coachable? Are you really going to dismiss such a person?

This salesperson is probably arrogant and missing humility. I personally may not like such an individual. But as long as he’s bringing the result, and helping the company to the next level, coachability is not the issue. Management is the issue, and management in that sense is: Is he violating trust? Is he doing something wrong from a compliance point of view? Is he not reaching his goals? If he’s on target and he’s succeeding, but isn’t coachable, then I have to learn to work with that.

Otherwise a manager (and I use the term loosely in this case) is trying to turn the members of a sales team into a bunch of uniform puppets, that will all do only what the manager wants. I don’t know about you, but that certainly is not the kind of world I want to live in.

Getting Back On Track

Let’s all return to the correct standpoint here: coaching is an integral part of sales management, and sales management is nothing but great management with some specialized functions.

The sooner we do that, the better our sales efforts will be!

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    About Author

    A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

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