Like any good Canadian, I’ve seen my fair share of hockey games. A good portion of my younger years were spent traveling around to different arenas watching my brother’s team play, and our TV was constantly set to Hockey Night in Canada. I’ve even occasionally laced up my figure skates and grabbed a stick to play a little friendly game―although I’m much better at spinning and jumping than I am at handling a puck. That is because I was trained as a figure skater and not a hockey player.
Even though I’m not training as a figure skater anymore, I’m still constantly training and being coached at work. The same metaphor can be applied to sales teams, where the goal―like in hockey―is to score goals to win the game. Sales reps are the players and sales managers are the coaches on the bench.
When we are training a new sales team or when a sales representative is transitioning into a management role it’s common to see them with their skates on and a stick in their hand trying to score goals. However this is a bit problematic. How is the manager supposed to coach the players while still on the ice trying to score the goals?
A coach’s role is to observe the players and develop a strategy to win the game; all while being sidelined on the bench. This can be difficult to accomplish―especially when managers are used to taking things into their own hands. This could be as simple as hijacking a meeting from a sales rep and taking charge instead of letting the rep take the lead to secure the sale.
So how can we transition a player to a coach and get managers to give up their skates and stick? It’s important for both parties to speak the same language, and to take the time before the meeting to go over the game plan. Managers should give coaching advice before the meeting starts and ensure both parties are on the same page during the meeting while allowing the rep to take charge.
Coming up with a game plan can be as easy as following the 8 steps of consultative selling, but all the players need to be aware of the plan and agree to follow it. Often, sales managers don’t even realize they’re interfering with their sales rep’s progress. Sometimes they believe they are helping by simply doing everything themselves. Sales coaching can help them correct this, and will help give them ease of mind when sending sales reps into meetings by themselves.
It’s the sales manager’s job to develop the skills and talent of their team, provide coaching feedback in between plays, and ultimately create an environment for their team to succeed and win. It’s the sales rep’s job to offensive and defensive strategies to score goals and win the game―all while staying out of the penalty box.
We used this analogy to help participants at a Sales Manager Coaching Workshop recently. We chose to hold the session at the arena, walked the managers out onto the ice and asked them to give up their sticks, take off their skates and put them on the bench. We then told them the only way they could win the game would be to coach their team to win. This was challenging for them, but by the end of the day they realized they did more strategizing, practicing, and coaching on plays in sports then in actual sales.
For a sales team to be effective they need an objective eye to watch the game and to report back with strategies to help score that next goal, and for a coach to be successful they need a team that listens to recommendations and puts them into action. The success of the organization depends on both players and coaches to succeed.