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It's common for people to mistake sales management for sales coaching. In fact, these are two very different roles. The table below highlights some of the most notable differences.

 

Manager (also known as Supervisor)

Coach

Establishes environment of trust and rapport. Sets goals and expectations based on combining professional and personal objectives.

Establishes environment of trust and rapport. Creates an atmosphere of complete transparency, backed by the trust of safety. Relationship is built on the shared goal of ensuring the salesperson’s success. The safe environment supports the salesperson’s trying new things that may be uncomfortable at first.

Collaborative but authoritative. Sets and monitors deadlines and performance targets. The salesperson reports to the manager. Ultimately, the manager is in charge.

Collaborative but reserved. Working together, the salesperson and the coach set goals, create a road map, and agree to open conversations for sharing thoughts on where the salesperson is in the process. The coach emphasizes that the salesperson’s self-discovery is key.

Oversees specific performance-related activities. Course-corrects salesperson when these are off track.

Creates cookbooks, CRM and pipeline management strategies, agendas for pre-call meetings, etc.

Does not oversee specific performance-related activities. Aims to get the salesperson to do this and to get the salesperson to notice and act on areas where there is room for improvement. The goal is to enable the salesperson.

Focused primarily on outcomes. Tends to have strong numbers orientation/analytical focus. Judges success and revenue, often in the short term.

Focused on identifying internal obstacles. Wants to help the salesperson discover what may be standing in the way of the desired outcomes. Focused on incremental improvement.

All business. May not need or want honest, confidential, one-on-one dialogue with salesperson.

Needs to know. Requires honest, confidential, one-on-one dialogue with salesperson. A coach’s role in this regard is similar to a doctor’s.

May not rely on role play. (But this depends on the manager.)

Uses role play as part of coaching discussions about skills reinforcement.

Condensed timeframe for discussions.

Extended timeframe for discussions.

Group focus. May focus heavily on team meetings.

Individual focus. Requires private one-on-one sessions.

 

Both roles are important to individual and team performance. Both require strong interpersonal and communication skills. And both can be performed by the same individual. The goals, methods, and conversational structures, however, differ dramatically!

Give this podcast a listen to learn more about coaching your sales team for increased performance.

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