Sales managers – and the smartest person in the room dilemma

Sales managers

Sales managers

There’s little doubt that sales managers are the pivotal job for creating a superior sales team.  And, a critical responsibility for the sales manager is coaching.  Most people agree that sales coaching is important and can make a difference.  They also know it isn’t so easy to do.  There are lots of traps along the way for getting it right.  Let’s take a look at one that receives less attention than some others.

One trap is believing you are the smartest person in the room.  This always tends to make things turn out wrong.   And the good news is you don’t even have to be to be an effective coach.  Being an effective sales coach does not require being the smart person in the room, the most knowledgeable person in the room, the best businessperson in the room, or even the best sales person in the room.  Affirmation of these premises can easily be acquired by turning to the world of sports.  If they were not true I would hate to be Peyton Manning’s or Tom Brady’s quarterback coach.

So how do we avoid this trap?  In sales calls, we recommend that salespeople “ask, listen, and then talk”.  This is an equally valid proposition when it comes sales management coaching.  Let’s examine two different models upon which sales coaching can be based:

Model 1 – “I’m the expert – I’ll diagnose what’s wrong and suggest what you should learn.  Your job is to practice what I recommend.” 

Clearly this model has the ring of the “smartest person in the room” dilemma.

Model 2 – “You are the one responsible for the learning.  I’m responsible for helping you become more aware of your performance and expand your learning choices. 

Different story – here the coach is helping the rep to learn versus telling them what and how to learn.

Getting sales coaching right is really important for developing a superior sales team and having a superior sales team is more important than ever for achieving sales success.  Great coaching isn’t easy and as noted there are lots of traps.  This particular trap is one that is easy to avoid – just ask, listen and then talk.


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©2013 Sales Momentum, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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2 Responses to Sales managers – and the smartest person in the room dilemma

  1. Great post and a funamental truth.
    I am responsible for my learning.

    I have to be ACTIVE, not passive.
    Over 30 years agoI was introduced to a Coaching concept of I, We, You. Together the Salesperson and the Sales Coach agree what I will do, WE will do and YOU will do. This simple model works just as well today.

    Ken Blanchard, the One-minute Manager, has a habit of saying:
    “None of us is a smart as all of us.”

    Together WE are the smartest people in the room.

    Thanks, Janet, for a great Blog.

  2. Or rather thanks Dick!!

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