Not too long ago, I was talking with my brother Jeff. He has been a football head coach now for upwards of twenty years coaching Pop Warner and then high school and most recently back to Pop Warner. He has amassed an incredible record with the youngsters playing Pop Warner (8-11 year olds) but somewhat less than stellar record at the high school level.
Jeff has had coaching stints (Pop Warner and high school) in both "working-class areas" and in extremely wealthy areas of the Bay Area so education and money were not the deciding factor in his successful programs and not-so-successful programs. Parent participation was relatively high at both levels and geographic areas so that wasn’t a factor either.
He and I have discussed the differences between the two age levels many times and have come up with the general conclusion that a 10-year old boy (or girl) knows that he doesn’t know much yet and is willing to listen to the coach...whereas many a teenage high school player believes that they already know everything and that the coach is just a distraction to their greatness (or "coolness").
The basic information is the same for both groups of kids...it’s just the delivery system that needs to change...
A coach is nothing more than a teacher and motivator. The best coaches were many times mediocre players during their playing days but later became a students of the game. They continued to understand about the entire game, learned how to evaluate talent and skills, create team strategies and techniques, and learned how to develop raw players into better players.
The coach doesn’t play the game anymore...but rather they need to transfer the knowledge that they have acquired to the players...the most successful coaches and players fully grasp this concept and use it to benefit the team.
I often see in business where a great sales person is promoted to become a sales manager (due to their successful track record of sales) but fails miserably at this new position. The new sales manager is then later dismissed (or leaves to go to a new company) when expectations are not met. This is a classic example of a square peg being placed into a round hole.
My friend, Jack Daly, promotes a very simple principle...a sales manager’s job is not to create sales...their job is to create quality salespeople. This job requires a very different skill set than that of sales.
A sales manager must understand that their job is to teach and motivate, not sell something (other than perhaps to get buy-in from their sales team). They must be students of the entire sales process, recruit professional sales people who have the talents and skills to excel at the position, create organization and processes, teach and practice techniques with their sales staffs, help to create individual strategies with each person and provide honest feedback to learn from.
A sports coach does not play a position on the field but rather spends their game time watching and listening. The coach doesn’t do his coaching from the locker room but rather on the field of play where he can observe and evaluate what’s going on in real time.
The effective sales manager must learn to do the same. The effective sales manager must spend time with sales people in the field...not in the conference room. No matter how compelling, the sales manger must not take over a sales call but rather watch and listen to his salesperson making the call. This is the only way to evaluate the development of a sales person and focus on areas of needed improvement.
Keeping the sales staff motivated and on focus is another key function of the sales manager. Sales, in my opinion, is the hardest profession there is (due to the rejection, long hours, and endless preparation) however it can also be the most rewarding for the successful (and perhaps not so rewarding for the multitude of wannabe sales people). Determining what motivates each individual salesperson (money...recognition...competition...etc) is a major challenge for any sales manager but it is a necessity to build long-term successful program.
I had the opportunity to think back to the many sales managers / coaches that I’ve had over my life. I only wish that I had had a few more sales managers that practiced the above principles. Unfortunately most of my sales training came from classes, books, and other media as well as many hours of "on-the-job" experience. I often wonder where I’d be today if I were to of had someone like Jack Daly as my sales manager in a sales previous position.
Everything we do in business begins with a sale.
Every sale begins with a prepared, trained and motivated sales force.
Every successful sales team is lead by a quality sales manager.
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