Coaching and Accountability

Coaching and Accountability - two of the most important responsibilities of the sales manager role; and yet, they are two of the most misunderstood.

Picture yourself coaching a salesperson on your team. You are in a one-on-one setting, in-person, virtually, or on the phone. Perhaps you're debriefing an opportunity in the pipeline. Maybe you are reinforcing a tactic they have learned in training. Or maybe the salesperson is experiencing a self-limiting belief that is hindering their results. Do you have the scene laid out in your mind's eye?

What is your role in this scenario? Here is what it should NOT be:

Explaining. Educating. Convincing. Telling.

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An elite sales manager spends 50% of their time coaching their salespeople. The most common issue we at Lushin see amongst managers is that they are spending most of their time trainingtheir salespeople instead. Training is the teaching and telling of “how to”.

Coaching consists of asking questions that enable the salesperson to shift their own paradigms, realize their own mistakes, and develop their own paths to growth. Notice these realizations, ideas, and lightbulb moments are not the sales manager’s.  

This should sound familiar - ideally, it is what your sales training is teaching your team to do in their sales process with their prospects. A chief complaint of sales managers is that their people aren't asking enough questions in their conversations with prospective clients.

How many questions are you asking in your coaching conversations? How many questions challenge your salespeople to think in new ways? How many get to the heart of the matter? How many are designed to help a salesperson unlock their hidden potential?

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Accountability. Many sales mangers perceive the act of holding others accountable as an uncomfortable one.

If the act of holding others accountable makes you feel uncomfortable, here are some reasons why that may be:

  • You want your team to like you, above all else. You're worried that addressing lack of effort or effectiveness will cause your team members to resent you or dislike you or your management style.
  • Your belief is that you shouldn't have to hold your people accountable. You were a Rockstar unicorn salesperson who always hit above quota with little to no management, who often wonders why your people won't just do the same.
  • You don't like to be held accountable. This could be due to imposter syndrome - making you feel as if you are constantly failing, and you don’t want to be found out; this could be driven by overwhelm - feeling as if you're doing a ton of things at the level of mediocrity, but not a single thing at the level of excellence; or, in rare cases, this could be driven by ego - the inability to take responsibility for one's' mistakes.

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As for what to hold your salespeople accountable to - What do your conversations center around? If they're centering around how much they have sold to date, you're attempting to manage the past. Those deals are closed, over, done. You are asking your salespeople to run forward, while looking behind them.

If you're focused on a current pipeline and if/when those deals are going to close, you are, at best, managing the current. If you want to manage the future and enable your salesperson to have more predictability, a fuller pipeline, and cease making an end of the month "push" - you need to hold them accountable to the behavior plan that supports their goals. Salespeople don't control outcomes. If they did, they would all close 100% of deals, 100% of the time. Salespeople have control over their activity. They have control over their process. Hold your team accountable to the things they have control over.


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Emily Shaw

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For 25 years, Lushin has guided business leaders toward intentional, predictable growth.

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