March 11, 2015
By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor
Sales managers are busy people. They often carry out the work of two (or more) people, and they have a desperate need to prioritize their time and spend their efforts where they will count the most. When it comes to coaching sales team members, it’s often the low-to-mediocre performers who get the lion’s share of attention. But does this really produce the kind of results that a company is after?
Conventional wisdom has dictated that sales managers focus their efforts on the 60 percent of the salespeople that are in the middle of the performance curve. The thinking behind this is that the worst performers are beyond help, and the best performers don’t need coaching, according to a recent article by sales consultant Richard Ruff writing for Business2Community.
“If you listen carefully to conversations among sales managers and get the story behind the story, two rationales for not coaching top sales performers pop up more than others,” he wrote. “The first is a takeoff on ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. ‘My top performers are doing just fine so I leave them alone – the main thing is don’t mess them up.’ The second reason is – ‘they don’t want to be coached.’
While it’s a common attitude, it’s likely a mistake. After all, Ruff points out, even Olympic athletes – those at the pinnacle of their sport – require coaches. The attitude that strong performers don’t need sales coaching comes from a line of thinking that dictates that the only purpose of coaching is to fix problems. This isn’t necessarily the case.
“In fact, sales coaching can be about leveraging strengths as well as improving deficiencies. In the case of top performers coaching is more about the former,” wrote Ruff.
There are many reasons why top performers merit the attention of a sales manager on a coaching basis. It may be to help that sales person branch out into other skills or product/service segments. It may be because it’s time to broaden outreach or build that individual’s skill in new channels. Perhaps the sales manager can work with top performers to help “blueprint” their methods and create benchmarks for less-stellar performers. Finally, it may simply because everyone – even top performers – require feedback and encouragement.
“Contrary to some popular opinion, top sales performers do want and appreciate feedback as long as the feedback is thoughtful, concise, and actionable,” wrote Ruff. “And, the really good news is they can implement it in an imaginative and creative fashion.”
Edited by Rory J. Thompson