3 sales coaching tips (from a former Google sales manager)

The average sales leader spends less than 20 percent of his or her time on proactive sales coaching.

3 sales coaching tips (from a former Google sales manager)But Steve Benson says frontline managers should proactively engage with reps every day.

“If you haven’t talked to someone on your team in five days, you’re probably not coaching him or engaging with him on deals,” Steve explained.

Steve would know. He spent more a decade in sales and sales leadership roles at organizations like Google, HP and IBM. Steve was even recognized as Google Enterprise’s Top Performing Sales Rep in the World for 2009 after hitting 227 percent of quota for the year.

In 2012, Steve co-founded Badger Maps, a technology company that provides software for field sales teams to manage their territory by combining Google Maps, data from their CRM, route optimization, schedule planning and lead generation.

With so much hands-on experience, Steve has valuable advice for modern sales leaders. He was kind enough to chat with us about it. Here’s what we learned.

Sales coaching advice from a seasoned sales manager

Sales coaching tip #1: Balance science with art

Steve identified two archetypes of sales leaders: people who manage via spreadsheets (science) and technology, and people who manage by leading from the front, engaging in deals and jumping in where needed (art). Most people fall somewhere in between. Both sales leadership styles work, as long as there’s an equilibrium between the art and the science.

“Because there is so much great technology out there – with the rise of the sales stack – people think it’s ok to just sit back and watch the numbers fly across the screens,” Steve said. “I believe every frontline manager who has actual reps reporting to him or her need to interact with each rep every single day.”

Don’t just ask reps what they’ve been working on lately – you can find that information in your CRM. Ask where they’re having trouble. Find out where you can help. The goal is to keep a finger on the pulse of each rep’s pipeline management, and use real-world coaching to develop skills.

“If you don’t have the art (to balance the science), it’s harder to teach,” Steve added.

Sales coaching tip #2: Be the basketball coach

When it comes to sales coaching, Steve doesn’t like to micromanage people.

“I believe that a great sales leader has more in common with a high school basketball coach than a micromanager,” he said. “There’s so many skills involved in being a great seller, like a great basketball player. And a great basketball coach wouldn’t come in and say, ‘I need you to score more points next game.’”

Instead, a basketball coach would tell players they need to work on their 3-point shots, layups or dribbling. In order to could score more points, a basketball coach knows that the team needs to improve in certain areas.

“Sales leaders have to do the same thing. We have to work on messaging. We have to build better presentations. We have to consider how tightly you should focus on prospects,” he explained.

Sales coaching tip #3: Take pride in your work

Steve admitted that his biggest fear as a sales leader was not selling enough. But his greatest accomplishment was growing and training great teams.

“My biggest accomplishment, I would say, was growing people from early in their career to being truly great in a certain role at the organization,” Steve said. “Finding the right spot for them in your organization, and then really growing them to be successful and great at that role.”

Take pride in your sales coaching. Developing top-performing sellers is a big achievement.

Steve’s final piece of advice for sales leaders is to lead from the front: Jump in. Do the hard things. Get your hands dirty. Go the extra mile if you want people on your team to do it.

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