Steven Rosen is an author, speaker and sales management expert who has spent his career transforming average sales managers into great sales coaches. His mission is to inspire sales leaders and managers and give them the tools they need to help their reps achieve their full business potential. His book, “52 Sales Management Tips: The Sales Managers’ Success Guide” is considered one of the seminal works on sales management best practices, serving as handy practical field guide to sales managers who struggle within a corporate environment that doesn’t always support them or their development needs.

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Steven on a variety of sales coaching subjects, including what makes an effective sales coach, the difficulties in changing behaviors and what lies ahead for sales coaching.

1) Your LinkedIn profile describes you as a “Sales management expert who transforms sales managers into great sales coaches.” How would you define sales coaching and how does it differ from sales management?

Sales coaching is an ongoing process of developing your salespeople to be better at what they do. It’s a process that is really up to the individual rep to do the work. The sales manager’s job is to facilitate, to hold the individual accountable to the growth or improvements they’re looking for. Coaching is the number one activity that sales managers can do to drive performance. The reality is sales coaching is one item under their sales management umbrella and is critical to the success of the sales organization.

2) What is the key to turning sales managers into effective sales coaches?

Sales managers were once very successful sales reps, and there are a number of “paradigm shifts” that have to happen to become an effective sales coach. The first one, in terms of coaching, is believing that your reps hold the answers to many of their challenges. It becomes your role to facilitate the process in a way where the reps can come to their own conclusions and their own solutions.

The second paradigm shift to become an effective coach is moving from telling people what to do – which we’re all very good at – to an “asking mode” and asking effective questions. That takes a long time for  sales managers to become aware of how much telling versus asking that they’re doing. To be effective they need shift themselves into this asking mode. As business changes, we need new solutions, not the same-old-same-old that a tenured manager or a tenured rep who moves into a sales management role may think that what they used to do works when, in fact, it doesn’t work.

3) What are some traits of an effective sales coach?

Number one is the ability to ask thoughtful or strategic or effective questions. A lot of the skills you’re using in sales coaching are actually good sales skills so the second important trait is to be a good listener. Listen to what the individual has to say or what they’re trying to say, as opposed to jumping in and moving it in the direction you want to move in. Sitting back and actively listening takes a lot of patience and is not an easy skill  to develop. The final trait is being able to do good follow-up, or what I call “holding your salespeople accountable.”

To recap, ask effective questions, develop great listening skills, and have the patience and discipline to follow up and continue to ask the right questions in order to get the rep to do what they said they were gonna do.

4) What is the biggest challenge in changing behaviors (of managers or reps) to enhance performance?

The behavioral component is a challenging aspect to change or help improve people. If you look at the factors that drive performance, number one would be skill or talent. Behavior becomes more challenging because it’s really held or owned by the individual. The effort you put out, the attitude or how you think is really owned by the sales rep, so despite all the training you do, unless the individual wants to change his or her behavior, then improvement is just not going to happen.

Any  change program begins with self-awareness of the behavior. Some people can be great performers but are just completely unaware of their behavior, or they feel that because they’re great performers they’re entitled to behave in a certain way. They don’t realize or care that  their behavior has a negative impact on the team or even on the customer. Get them to understand or verbalize what the impact of their behavior is.

It’s really about holding the individual accountable, which means asking questions. “You said you were going to behave in a certain way and now you’re back in the same situation. How’s it going? What have you learned?” We’re creatures of habit and we fall into the same behavioral patterns. Change is a challenging process, even if we want to change, and it really requires your manage or coach to  keep you on track and hold you accoutbale  to where you want to go.

5) Do you believe in a data-driven approach to sales coaching? What metrics are most important to bring to the table?

Yes; in sales and sales management, the devil is really in the details. Until you’re looking at those detailed metrics and really understanding what’s going on at a micro level, you may be missing critical opportunities to improve your sales and improve the effectiveness of your sales organization.

The sales analytics that are critical for you depends on your industry or organization. For instance, I spent a number of years in the pharmaceutical industry. We looked at sales call activity broken down, not just the total number of sales calls. We looked at how frequently we called super-key targets, measured scripts and various other metrics. The key to determining which metrics to look depends on what the 2-3 crtical success factors are and that they are controllable by the sales rep.

6) What kind of sales managers or executives do you think will benefit most from your book?

I coach 30-40 people at any point in time and I began to realize that there were certain tips that I was sharing with sales managers or sales executives and many of them had sort of a common theme that I kept repeating and realizing that if I actually took some of that advice and shared it on a broader basis, through a book, it can help more people. It was written for the busy sales manager who is overhelmed and suffering from  Attention Deficit Disorder, like myself!

Sales managers are overly busy, so I tried to make it a very easy, snappy read. The whole concept of 52 sales management tips is to provide the sales managers with one they were able to take with them every week, they would improve their own performance and that of their team. It’s a quick read – you can read it in 45 minutes – and my readers will  walk away with some pearls, gems and nuggets that they can immediately apply in their  day-to-day work.

7) What is the “best tip” you will share from your book?

In the first chapter, I talk about being great and for sales managers, being a great coach is one of the areas that will really elevate their performance. Many of their discussions happen around and, you know, sales managers saying, “Well, I want to motivate my people, it’s really critical that I motivate my people,” and the reality is you can’t motivate people. Ongoing, sustainable motivation has to come from within so one of my beliefs is that you have to understand the specific goals that motivate people. One of the ways I explain motivation is understanding the ‘why’. If you can understand why someone wants to do something, then you can understand their motivation.

So, tip #4 in my first chapter is “Understand the why.” When you understand the ‘why’, then you can be much more successful at tapping into people’s motivations.

8) Going forward, where do you see sales – and, as a result, sales coaching – trending in 2013 and beyond?

We’re all being forced to do more with less and, as a result, we’re seeing a lot more skills required by sales reps – not just selling skills, but also relationship-building skills. We’re starting to see a great move toward business acumen and business planning. It’s critical that sales managers and sales coaches coach the plan, stay on top of their business, help reps understand the key metrics that drive their performance and business. I see as a trend moving forward a much greater focus on business, understanding your own business from a more analytical perspective, especially in the growth areas and skill sets to be successful in sales management and to be able to coach and manage effectively.


More about Steven Rosen

Steven Rosen, MBA is a sales management expert who transforms sales managers into great sales coaches. Steven works with sales executives to hire better reps and managers, develop sales team that outperform the competition, and by doing so achieve greater personal and professional success. Steven’s mission is to inspire sales leaders, managers and reps to achieve their full business potential. When you hire Steven, you get Steven. He has a hands-on approach and thrives on working directly with his clients and helping them discover and achieve their vision.

Connect with Steven on LinkedIn or Twitter

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