10/23/2014 04:16 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2014

Train Sales Managers to Be Great Coaches

"It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up."--Vince Lombardi

We all like to take the easy path, and sales managers are no different.
That's why they prefer working with the top performers on the sales team, the people who bring in the deals with little hand holding. Working with moderate or low performer's takes hard work and time--extra hours most managers don't have. According to CSO Insights, "On average, a sales manager oversees 6.9 reps, up from 5.9 four years ago."

Being a productive sales manager also requires being a good coach. And let's face it: the average sales manager is no Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick.

Based on my informal research, most sales managers spend less than 20 percent of their time coaching their team members weekly. Sales managers are administrators, number crunchers, fix-it guys. They haven't a clue why some team members perform and others don't. That's because they don't have the tools to diagnose the "why" of under performance.

Sales managers need help in gathering and using information on sales activity--data that will help them figure out who on their team needs what assistance (training) to succeed.

The sales manager is critical to a sales representative's performance, and yet often he receives little or no training himself. A 2013 study by CSO Insights notes that "investing in sales management training beyond sales skills development is worth the time and money." Best-in-class firms that invest 5 percent more per year in sales manager training than middle or bottom firms see the return in their investment in terms of salespeople meeting or exceeding their quota.

Instead of training sales managers to be effective coaches, many companies prefer to just hire talent--sales reps that have previous experience selling in their industries and do not seem, at first glance, to require much coaching. But does this tactic really work? When you crunch the numbers, it doesn't make a significant difference. "In an overall study, we found that the average percentage of reps making quota was 62.6 percent," reported CSO Insights. Looking at firms that primarily focused on hiring new reps with previous sales experience in their industry, CSO Insights found that those firms reported "an average of 63.2 percent of reps making quota."

So hiring "the right" talent doesn't ensure success. In fact, companies struggle to find such talent. Even when you are giving your sales team more tools, training, technology, and knowledge access, you still have to make sure that you are delivering them to people who will put these advantages to work for their personal development and the success of the company.

But a sales manager trained to coach to performance improvement can tip the scale. She can help more of her team members exceed expectations and outperform their peers at every stage of the sales process: converting leads to first calls, first calls to presentations, and presentations and proposals to sales. She can decrease sales rep turnover and increase the number of people in her sales force making their individual plans. The perception of value they bring to their team moves from administrator to strategic coach that understands the reps motivation, makes work meaningful, helps them become more effective and productive and holds them accountable for their own development and business results.

Is your company making an adequate investment is your sales management by providing tools and training to enable them to do their job more effectively?

What strategies or tools have you employed for sales management in the past 12 months?