Developing Salespeople by Coaching on the Run

One of the biggest casualties in the battle to “do more with less” is developing salespeople. With fiercer competition, shorter deadlines, and the urgent replac­ing the important, sales managers are starting to view developing salespeople as a luxury they just can’t afford.

Although common, this approach to manage­ment is short-sighted and can lead to long-term disaster. Even with more demands on their time, sales managers must realize that developing salespeople isn’t something they do instead of their job. It is their job!

Instead of looking for large blocks of time to develop their people, sales managers should look for small but more frequent opportunities to “coach on the run.” This means finding opportunities to make a difference as they present themselves.

The key to coaching on the run is the “hand in the bucket” test. When you put your hand in a bucket of water, the water level rises. This is the case when a manager spends time with a sales­person. While the manager is present, the sales­person’s level of perfor­mance is elevated. The real test occurs when the manager is no longer present. Does the salesperson’s performance return to the previous level, or does it stay elevat­ed? In other words, did the manager leave something with the salesperson to make a real and lasting difference?

Before we discuss some of the specific aspects and techniques for coaching on the run, let’s review what it takes for salespeople to perform at their optimal level. Use the checklist below to decide if you’re giving your salespeople what they need to win.

Coaching Guidelines

Do your people have a clear understanding of what they are expected to do?
Do your people have clear standards for ac­ceptable performance?
Do your people have the authority and re­sourc­es to perform effectively?
Do your people meet little task interfer­ence (e.g., conflicting goals, objectives, procedures, etc?)
Do your people receive prompt and accurate feedback on their performance?
Do your people receive positive conse­quences and reinforcement for performing the job effectively?
Do your people experience negative conse­quences when they fail to perform?
These guidelines apply to performance in general, as well as specifics tasks and assignments. Use the questions to assess your coaching abilities and to analyze performance problems.

Each “no” represents a potential performance problem. Taking action to convert your “no” respons­es to “yes” will go a long way toward developing your salespeople and improving their performance.

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