One of the things we like to ask managers when we are invited to advise sales teams is whether they are sales managers or sales mentors. We are not just arguing semantics . . . the difference can be profound in terms of salesperson development and production.
Sales managers can tend to see their jobs as trying to drive a team to higher levels of production, a bit like a jockey tries to whip another two lengths out of a racehorse. The idea is that if the manager can just get the salespeople to make more calls, try a little harder, push a little further, the numbers will take care of themselves. The irony is that high-Drive salespeople do not need to be pushed . . . they push themselves, relentlessly. What they may need is new ideas, new ways of approaching their craft, different combinations of resources . . . in other words some coaching and mentoring.
A Sports Analogy
Say a pro football team drafts a gifted running back . . . fast, strong and smart. But the athlete needs to learn the pro game, and needs to watch films each week with informed coaches who help him understand what is working, and what is not, so the athlete can improve day-by-day and week-by-week. The coaches are not just drivers . . . they are teachers and they are mentors who not only look for growth, but show the athlete how to achieve it.
Managing vs. Mentoring
Ironically, in sales, we often run into situations in which there is almost a hostile environment in play between managers and salespeople. The company is putting pressure on the managers to perform and the managers pass the pressure along to the salespeople without the coaching, ideas and resources to achieve it. That is a prescription for turnover and frustration.
The best sales teams we have seen combine well-organized management systems with intense mentorship so that each salesperson has the best opportunity to fulfill his/her potential as a sales athlete.
Of course if the salesperson does not perform after having received the benefit of solid coaching and training, that is another discussion, but too often salespeople are left to coach and mentor themselves, which no professional sports team would ever do given the investments they make in talent. Same should go for salespeople.
This week, ask yourself: Are you managing or mentoring your sale team? What can you to do support your salespeople more?