TALKING SALES 111: "Are your sales managers generating sustainable revenue growth"

John Smibert

Sales coach           

"How highly effective sales coaches drive sustainable growth" - an interview by John Smibert.

One of the biggest impacts an organisation can have on driving a sustainable increase in revenue is to invest in developing their sales managers into great sales coaches and leaders.

John DouganI asked John Dougan why this is so and what CEO's, CSO's and sales directors can do to lift the leadership and coaching skills of their sales managers?

John said good sales coaching comes over the top of sales training and a whole lot of other investments - it's actually what makes it happen in the field.  Each sales manager is responsible for developing multiple people to be successful and if done well this has a multiplying effect on results.

To achieve this John said sales managers need to primarily be great coaches.

John explained what he means by great coaching and breaks the function of coaching into what he calls the 10-20-70 coaching principle.  In the discussion your can view or read below he goes on to explain this principle and he equates it very well to the sporting field.  I think you will like it.

John Dougan is the Intrepid Sales Detective, a noted writer and blogger on sales effectiveness.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John S: Hello, I've got John Dougan with me again - welcome back, John!

John D: Thanks, John!

John S: Hey, we had some great discussions about sales meetings in the last couple of discussions we've had on camera, but really that made me think that I'd like to step back and talk about sales management and how we make good sales managers. I know you've got a lot of passion about the fact that productivity in sales is predominantly driven by good sales managers.

John D: I do.

John S: So it's obviously really important, so let's talk about that.

John D: Okay. Well, John, let's set a little bit of context around that. The first thing is that great salespeople do not necessarily make great sales managers, and I think we actually spoke about that early last year. The other thing is that if you want to be a successful sales manager, you've really got to demonstrate leadership skills rather than just management skills, and they're two of the same. And the third piece and probably the most important is the biggest predictor of sales results and sales performance is good sales coaching, so a manager has to be a great sales coach.

John S: And good sales coaching comes over the top of sales training and a whole lot of stuff; it's actually what makes it happen in the field.

John D: Yes, absolutely. When I break down coaching, I look at it this way, John, I think the best principle is the 10-20-70. 10% is the actual how to skills, so what your people are actually doing and how they do it. 20% is the discussions, the roleplays, the success showing you facilitate around that skill learning. And then 70% of it, and this is the most critical, and I think of a sports analogy, is how do I practice how I need to do my job every single day, and how is that broken down not only so that I know what I'm achieving against KPIs but also that the measurement against that is what my coach or manager is measuring, observing, repeating and scaling.

John S: Okay. I'd like to talk about all of those in future interviews, but let's cut back to the primary question. If a CEO and a sales leader was looking at this, what would we be saying to them that they need to do to really lift the game of their sales managers, to make them great sales managers?

John D: John, firstly they need an operating rhythm that creates a framework for success, and measurement and observation of their sellers.

John S: Do you mean a culture, or what do you mean by operating rhythm?

John D: I almost mean a week or a fortnight or a month in the life of the cadence so that they actually know how to operate, when to be doing their coaching, when to be doing their actual managing, when to be having conversations with each individual. And then we also need to invest in making them better coaches, and I can't articulate that point enough, John. Whether you source this information externally or you've got the facility to do it internally, you've got to invest in people becoming better coaches, and that is, number one, identifying the competencies that allow those to develop salespeople.

John S: And hopefully identify those competencies before you even hire a sales manager, but if you've got them on board, then identify what level of competency they've got, and then a plan to help develop the competencies they need to be a great sales manager.

John D: Absolutely. As we said right at the very start, not every great salesperson is going to make a great sales manager, but when you find one who has the competencies to be successful in both roles, then developing them is a fantastic way to replicate and scale the success that they've had.

John S: I was working with an organisation recently, and the CEO and the sales leader in the organisation recognised that they really needed to invest in this area, because by investing in sales managers you get a real ramp-up of productivity, versus investing in all the salespeople; the ROI investment in sales managers is much higher. And so they recognised they needed to get coaches externally to come in and coach their sales managers in harmony with the sales leader.

John D: Absolutely. If you look at what the sales manager, sales coach has as a responsibility, it's developing multiple people to be successful and affect results, not just focusing specifically on one salesperson.

John S: You've got the multiplying effect.

John D: Absolutely.

John S: Okay. John, that's a great discussion. So, the bottom line is we do need to invest in our sales management, we need to do what we can to make them great sales leaders, great sales managers, and we'll get a good return on investment, and we can do that in a number of different ways as we've outlined.

John D: Yes. If your sales managers aren't sales coaches, then you are missing a wonderful opportunity to affect your sales results.

John S: That's a great message, and I want to get back and talk to you more about sales coaching over the next two or three interviews.

John D: Fantastic!

John S: Thanks, John!


If you like John Dougan  you can see more of his interviews here:

  1. Adapting Sales Process to Buyer Behaviour
  2. Choosing the right sales methodology
  3. The social selling evolution
  4. The sales profession
  5. Why is your sales meeting de-motivating?
  6. Research shows sales meetings suck



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Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

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