The reason is pretty simple. Managers become accustomed to telling as opposed to enabling their salespeople to identify and solve their own problems. Consider these two typical situations:
#1 Pipeline Review – Developing an Account Strategy:
The manager is reviewing the sales pipeline with a salesperson and they start discussing an opportunity that is “stuck.” The salesperson describes the situation and the manager quickly responds, “Here’s what you need to do.”
While this is expedient and the manager might even have the right answer, it is not very empowering and doesn’t lead to the salesperson’s development. Instead, it conditions the salesperson to ask their manager what to do anytime they encounter a challenging sales situation.
Instead, the manager could have asked the salesperson, what “go forward” options they felt would work to “unstick” the opportunity. This puts the onus on the sales person (after all they are the one who is supposed to do the selling) and challenges the salesperson to develop some options. Assuming the options are feasible, the manager can then ask which one they think would work best. Even if the manager disagrees with their conclusion and ends up suggesting (not telling) a different approach, it allows for a more meaningful discussion that promotes learning and personal growth.
#2 Sales Call – Improving Selling Skills:
The manager joins the salesperson for a customer call and they discuss roles in advance. They agree that the salesperson is going to lead the call and the manager is going to observe. The salesperson does a nice job with the introductions but then fails to ask enough questions to adequately identify the customer’s needs. As a result, the call ends without a clear next step.
Upon leaving the call, the manager tells the salesperson that he could have done a much better job preparing a list of questions to identify the customer’s needs. While the manager may be correct, this advice is not nearly as helpful as getting the salesperson’s perspective first.
Instead, the manager should have asked “what are your thoughts about the call we were just on?” After hearing the salespersons response, they could then ask “is there anything you could have done differently?” to see if the salesperson picked up on the problem. The goal here is to help the salesperson self-discover what they could do differently or better next time.
While telling is much more expedient than coaching, it has severe limitations. When it comes to developing account strategies or improving selling skills, telling rarely results in behavior change. It simply comes across as a directive as opposed to helping the salesperson take ownership of their own development.
Another problem for sales managers who resort to telling is that they typically get trapped in a vicious cycle of being the “chief problem solver” as opposed to empowering their sales team to solve their own problems.
Good coaching takes patience coupled with an intense desire to see your team succeed. While learning to coach takes time and patience, the impact on sales results and team morale are well worth the effort.
About Norman Behar