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On one side, we have the firefighter – always on her toes, even at late-night hours, ready to respond to fires as they crop up and use her unique skills and special training to put them out. Sometimes the fires get controlled with limited-to-no collateral damage; other times, if the firefighter doesn’t respond in time – or with the right techniques – there might be more serious consequences.

On the other hand, we have the fire-prevention specialist. This highly-skilled professional researches potential sources and causes of dangerous fires, and then implements plans and processes ahead of time to stem the fire before it even sparks. This fire-prevention specialist also trains the team in basic measures to put out fires, so they can take care of small fires without having to call in the big guns.

Of these two fire safety professionals, which one sleeps better at night? Spoiler: it’s the fire-prevention specialist.

He’s not staying up all night worrying about what unexpected fires might arise. He is confident in the fire-prevention measures he’s implemented; if it does, he can take comfort in knowing that he’s coached the responsible parties in basic firefighting and safety measures.

The fire-prevention specialist is the sales manager that believes in proactive sales coaching. Proactive sales coaches don’t just find coaching opportunities when mistakes happen; they actively set regular and consistent metrics-driven improvement plans. As a result they get much better results from their charges and sleep better at night. Here’s why:

Their Sales Reps Know How to Fish

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

- proverb

Proactive sales coaches manage teams of fishermen. These sales reps never go hungry, because they are more than capable of “fishing” – working opportunities, closing deals, troubleshooting problems and putting out fires on their own. This is because they’ve been properly coached and are comfortable with the strong sales process in place. Even when problems arise, these reps can always turn to the sales playbook – a comprehensive document penned by the proactive sales manager – for answers.

It all begins with the mindset. Proactive sales managers understand that a scenario where they are 100% depended on to solve all problems is not healthy; instead, they enable their reps to solve their own problems, making for a more effective and efficient work process all around.

The Sales Environment is a Structured One

In terms of establishing a solid structure for their reps, the most important thing that a proactive sales coach can do is to be consistent with sales coaching sessions. When a sales rep knows that every single Wednesday at 2:00 pm she will be meeting with her sales manager for a full hour dedicated to working on one single skill or talking through a complex opportunity, the lessons learned will be more effective. This type of structure is great in helping reps stay organized and consistently motivated.

The Metrics say it All

Sales coaching is most effective when both student and teacher are on the same page, with the student fully committed to improving and the teacher invested in helping them improve. How can you get a rep’s buy-in on your sales coaching efforts? By showing them the proof in the pudding, aka sales performance metrics.

Telling someone they need to improve in an area of weakness might draw a defiant or defensive reaction; but when you can have an open honest conversation that pulls heavily from sales performance metrics? At that point, the sales rep will have their eyes opened and when they see their slumping performance borne out in the data, they will be much more committed to improving. Coaching with metrics ensures that nothing is left up to guesswork and everything is clear and transparent, for both the student and the teacher.

Learn More About Measuring Sales Metrics»

Lessons are Specific and Constantly Reinforced

Nothing is more overwhelming to a sales rep then being told that they are terrible on the phones and need across-the-board improvement. Proactive sales coaches understand that and have clear outlines of specific skills to work on at each coaching session. Before moving on to a new skill, the rep should demonstrate to you that they’ve sufficiently improved in that department.

These skills should also be constantly reinforced. If you overhear a rep making the same mistake again on the phone, gently nudge them after the call and remind them of what you talked about at your last session. After a 6-month period of working on one skill after the other, and then practicing and reinforcing those skills out in the field, your reps will become well-rounded and bonafide sellers.

Not all Sales Reps are Created Equal

Finally, proactive sales coaches make the effort and realize that sales reps are human too, not machines. They won’t all have the same weaknesses, and they certainly won’t all have the same learning styles. Some might be more receptive to observing an expert at work; others might need hands-on work on small aspects of the call.

Proactive sales coaches take the time and make the effort to get to know each of their reps as individuals. From there, they can then better create sales coaching plans targeted to each of them to truly get the best learning experience out of them. Sales coaching should not be a one-size-fits-all effort, something proactive sales coaches understand.

No sales manager wants to run around putting out fires created by their reps all day. They would rather have created fire-prevention measures, and then arm and enable their reps with basic firefighting skills of their own. To get to that point, they must be proactive. Don’t be a firefighter sales manager – strive to be more proactive and become a fire-prevention specialist.

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Comments
  • Pat Hennel

    “Proactive sales managers understand that a scenario where they are 100% depended on to solve all problems is not healthy”

    A great point. A sales manager could be working with 15+ sales agents. They can’t solve every problem every day because they’d never actually get anything done. They have to trust that their team can handle the day to day and not rely on them to swoop in a save the day every time it gets a little rough.

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