The Root Cause Why Sales Managers Fail at Coaching
by Mark Wayland
Session W210: Four Reasons Sales Managers Fail at Coaching
- and what you can do about it!
Ill bet something like this has also happened to you.
At a recent family gathering my favourite aunt said, Gosh, you look
just like your father! And it didnt stop there.
She also audited my habits, expressions, and demeanour.
It became obvious that I (the whole package) was far more than the
result of a simple case of genetics.
Along with physical resemblances Ive discovered that my beliefs,
attitudes, and behaviour have, in part, been forged in the same
way: Youre acting just like your father!
Ill bet youve all heard these kinds of comments. Now Id like you to
hold those thoughts and now imagine youre at a sales
Ignoring physical similarities; have you noticed how many beliefs,
attitudes, and behaviours you have in common? Youre acting
just like your manager!
Why do sales managers think the way they think?
And how does that affect how they coach and manage?
Sure, in part, they absorb attitudes and beliefs by osmosis from
those around them; from senior managers that they admire and from
the way theyve been coached and managed.
The other surprising part is to realise that managers are also the
product of over 200 years of management thinking habits created in
the factories of the Industrial Revolution. And that thinking is
still in use today.
In the late 1800s F.W. Taylor, with the Industrial Revolution in
full swing, applied a stopwatch to factory production tasks, making
them far more factual and more quantifiable than ever before. His
studies culminated in 1911 with The Principles of Scientific
Management (the first modern use of management).
Taylor believed that tradition-based decisions (weve always worked
this way) and rules-of-thumb should be replaced by precise
procedures developed after a careful study of the quickest/ most
Thinking (like creativity, initiative, and imagination) was done by
the bosses, while the workers did the doing.
Interestingly, firms that adopted Scientific Management
found that while productivity increased (and the workers wages)
trust between the bosses and workers dropped.
Taylor expressed the workers role as, every day each man should ask
himself 2 questions. First, what is the name of the man I am
working for? and then, what does this man want me to do, right now?
The spirit of management was therefore set. It was a
device that promoted efficiency by reducing waste
and losses incurred by mediocre factory workers.
Managers, then, were somewhat detached, analytical as they
controlled workers performance in a mechanical kind of way.
Performance, in turn, could be maximised by focusing on the task
rather than the people. Managers had a mantra of control.
We see this today when (eg) a professional code-of-conduct breach
notice is received. In truth, they may feel awful, not because a
mistake was made, rather because others may think that, as a
manager, they werent in control. In many business cultures, control
is the weapon of choice to maximise task performance.
Has management thinking changed? (progressed?) It sure has; as has
our society and the business environment. A far more collaborative
and adaptable approach is necessary. Much of it, though, is still
rooted in the Industrial Revolution of factory work and production
lines. Its difficult to ignore heritage.
We now practice engagement, coaching, and partnership to increase
productivity. Here are 3 examples of the changes in management
- Sales management job transcends the quantitative measures of
tasks and activities alone. They look at how to measure results
qualitatively; effectiveness (not just efficiency) and discussing
the purpose of the sales tasks (the why, not just the what and
- Sales Managers share and partner with representatives to plan,
organise and direct territory activities. Managers no longer think
and representatives do.
- Engagement in/ ownership of tasks by representatives is
understood to be fundamental for motivation and contribution.
Motivation is not simply a monetary carrot. Sales Managers discover
and leverage the representatives sense of being involved in
something significant for them as individuals.
Bottom Line: The sales management job today is far
more than making sure the representatives are working hard, calling
on 6(?) targeted customers a day.
Its not a case of doing more. Sales managers must value the idea
that people and relationships, not just the companys products, make
the difference. Coaching and managing these relationships to create
continuous improvement are now the core function of management; not
Its just that when sales managers are stressed or under
pressure you may see some of the old Industrial Revolution
command-and-control behaviours squirt out and become the sales
manager default behaviours.
And its this excessive need/ belief to be the boss and be in
control that stops managers from coaching as best they can.
If you'd like more, please consider attending ASTD 2013 where you
can hear Mark Wayland at his