Sales coaching – it’s a game of beat the clock – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Sales managers are no different than anyone else  – they don’t have enough time to do all the things they need to do.

This time issue is particularly telling when it comes to front-line sales managers. There is little doubt that front-line managers are the pivotal job for sales success and that coaching is one of their critical contributions.

Yet when it comes to beating the clock, sales coaching is usually one of the early losers.  Although it is possible to imagine that more time will be added to clock for sales coaching if top sales management makes the necessary leadership commitments, the most likely scenario is the time you got is the time you have.

So the path forward is primarily about how to more effective and efficiency using the time you have.  Let’s look at four ideas:

Move to a one-on-many coaching approach.  With today’s technology regardless of distance it is possible to shift from a one-on-one to a one-on-many approach for sales coaching.  There are limitations but there are also opportunities.  Many sales reps face the same challenges and the same knowledge and skill gaps.  Not only are today’s technologies capable of supporting this shift – the ones on the immediate horizon are dazzling.

Focus and prioritize.  Even with a one-on-many approach you cannot effectively coach everybody on everything at the same time.  You need to prioritize the challenges and performance gaps on which you will coach.  And, particularly if you have a large sales team, you will need to coach some people first and some people second.  Changing performance is hard – doing a little bit on a lot of things for everyone usually means doing nothing for anyone.  

Leverage others.   Some where in the sales coaching process there is usually the opportunity to leverage others in your organization to help coach via mentoring or modeling.  For example, if you have a top performer who is particularly good at something which is a challenge for others, soliciting their help can be good for the sales team and can be of benefit to the top performer.

Establish a culture of performance accountability.  Another way to address the coaching time issue is to get the person on the other side of the table to commit time to the performance improvement objective.  In this case that means the sales rep.  The manager needs to establish this performance improvement thing as a two way street – I will commit time to help you and you need to devote time to help yourself.    

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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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6 Responses to Sales coaching – it’s a game of beat the clock – An STC Classic

  1. Jim Hughes says:


    An excellent post, and you suggest 4 very good ways to focus on the time issue.

    I like the idea of sales managers throwing the objection of time, and with or without management support, learning from you on how to handle time, when coaaching.

    However, and you may have implied it, I wouldn’t want any sales manager to try these things without learning how to coach efectively first. A sales manager will be successful with your ideas, if:
    1) They understand and have a coaching model
    2) They have previously informed their team what they are going to do and why
    3) in one on one’s they have addressed skills they do well, skills that need improvement and focused on a few of each. That way, when group coaching, catching their eye is usually good enough for them to get the hint that this message is for you.

    When Herb Brooks coached the US Olympic Hockey team to victory, he pulled Jim Craig to the side and asked for his help during practice. He told Jim that many of these players were junior and may not be able to take the developmental feedback in a positive way, and he did not have time to get them all there. So, he told Jim, that every time he yelled at him and called him Jim, it was actually a message for the whole team, and maybe just a few specific players. However, if he yelled “James” it was a direct message to him, and he better recognize the development message is aimed at him!

    How many sales managers have that good of an understanding with their reps?

    Coach Hughes
    Sales Leadership Consulting

  2. Mark Wayland says:

    “No Time” is certainly up there with why sales managers don’t coach.

    Here are my top 2 reasons…. first, in the 2-day coaching training or the management meeting review/ revisit on coaching all the role plays exercises take a long time. Maybe sales managers therefore have been conditioned into thinking that to do coaching well they’ll have to allocate an hour or more with their representative. Time they don’t have.
    Here’s the thing. Why can’t a coaching session last 5 or 10 mins?

    Second, most sales managers see coaching as a series of isolated events rather than a cumulative process. So they say “I have no time” as a cop out to actually working long term with their team.

  3. Richard Ruff says:

    Mark and Jim

    Thanks for the interest and comments — good stuff

  4. Rene Zamora says:

    Hi guys,

    I love this topic. My whole business model is built and becomes more profitable with being more effective in managing sales teams in less time. Here are the four key areas I focus on:

    Planning and Preparation
    Measuring and Monitoring

    Thanks for taking the time to write and best wishes with helping more sales people.


  5. Sure these are the great points to boost the sales management efforts inside the company and it needs the help of true mentor and an executive coach to take guidance and get enriched yourself with the most unique techniques of sales management.

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