Why the sales manager is the best coach for his salespeople?

“I want these Territory Sales Managers to go for a Training Program. One of them Sam who is high potential, is so frustrated, he wants to leave” said Bruce to David his VP Sales, at Naturali Cosmetics.

Bruce led Sales in the North Region, where sales Naturali’s sales were below target by 10% for the second quarter in row. Of the 18 territories in the Region, six reported a deficit of 30% in volume. Of the six, three territories were run by high potential Sales People. Bruce was puzzled.

Naturali was transforming itself from being a volume player in the bath & shower segment, to being a premium provider of wellness. The wash and shower gel offered by Naturali addressed the growing shift in consumer demand from good looks to wellness. Not only was Naturali’s gel made from natural ingredients, the product was also proven to be gentle on the skin. Most bath and shower products were facing resistance from consumers who looked for the ‘free from’ details, which should have been a huge competitive advantage. So where was the problem?  

David had a thought to share – “I know you have been doing review sessions with your Area Managers. Have you taken a ride with your Territory Managers & Area Managers to see what they do when they visit their retail outlets? Is our new positioning reflecting on the retail floors? “

“I think you have a point there’ said Bruce. “Let me come back to you after I do that”.

Two weeks later, Bruce said to David: “I cracked it! Our instore displays were the issue. Our products were just not in the wellness area. They were still in their old racks. I showed these boys how to get this corrected. And sales jumped by 100% last week! And, Sam will stay. He is fully charged”.  David smilingly said to Bruce – “Nothing works better that on-the-job coaching. No one can coach your people better than their manager”.

Managing sales involves use of five key resources – Product, pricing, promotion, distribution network and people. Of these, the biggest differentiator could be the salesforce. While the remaining resources are generally constant in the short run, salespeople can be inspired to maximize sales out of the potential opportunity in a territory if they are coached well and challenged by SMART Objectives.

Changes in the marketplace constantly keep raising the bar on Salespeople’s competence. The sales manager therefore should simultaneously use the available resources well to achieve results of today, and develop these resources for results of tomorrow. This is a question of continuously assessing levels of knowledge, skills and attitudes of individuals in a sales team, rather than team as a whole, and then develop people before the output is expected. Not after. And, the Sales Manager is the best equipped person to coach his people. No one understands what drives them and what challenges them better than he can. Hands-on learning from their Manager is the priceless takeaway that senior salespeople always remember with gratitude. Such ‘Manage by Support’ approach lays the foundation for sustainable sales excellence.

To translate this into practice, a powerful Mercuri concept called The RAC Framework (Results-Activity-Competence) can be very useful for a Sales Manager. This explains the rationale behind David’s belief in Bruce being the best coach for his people.