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ZoomInfo acquires Chorus.ai to bring intelligence to your most important conversations.

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Confessions of a Terrible Sales Coach & How I Fixed It

December 4, 2018

Shawn Parrotte

I was an inexperienced sales coach who got promoted young and used “being too busy” as an excuse. Here’s how I fixed it, and how to coach your team to incredible success even when you’re crazy busy.

What Terrible Sales Coaches Do & How to Fix It #

It’s no secret that not every sales leader makes a great sales coach. There are plenty of top sellers who climb the ranks into leadership positions without any real leadership experience - especially at companies experiencing rapid growth.

Even when sales leaders are more seasoned, research shows that they often overestimate the amount of time they spend coaching and the quality of their coaching. At one Fortune 500 telecom company sales leaders ranked themselves at the 79% for coaching, but their direct reports ranked them at a meager 38%.

I probably would have seen similar results. I was one of those top sellers who repeatedly crushed my quota and suddenly had a pod of people to manage in my early twenties.

As a new sales leader I had no idea what the heck I was doing and a 2.5M quarterly number over my head.

In the early days I made all of the classic mistakes.

Instead of problem-solving with my reps, I just transferred knowledge to them.

I’d tell them what to do using phrases like “you should do this next time” instead of role-playing with them and devoting time to letting them practice.

Or I’d take over the computer when we needed to work on a discounted pricing slide and just do it myself.

“This is faster,” I’d say.

When we went to client meetings, I led the whole thing even though it was my rep’s meeting no matter how many times I said, “Next time I’ve got to let you talk more!”

At the time, I didn’t notice that I wasn’t a great sales coach. I’d go home to my husband and brag about how I was “such a great sales leader,” because I had really tight bonds with my reps even though I spent no more than 30 minutes with many of them each week.

At home my reps worried about how quickly they were ramping, and said they felt badly “sucking up my time” because they couldn’t sell independently yet.

Don’t get me wrong. We were winning, but that just masked the problem that lurked underneath.

We brought on dozens of Fortune 500 logos each quarter and threw celebratory parties.

My reps came to me constantly and said they were so thankful and learning a ton.

Many of them were regularly hitting or surpassing their goals.

But good sales coaches don’t take the call, close the deal, or tell reps what to do.

They create playbooks that can be applied across multiple deals.

They help their team work autonomously and develop decision-making skills.

At the time, my excuse for jumping in the driver seat too often was that I was so busy, especially as a player-coach with a big personal number to hit.

That’s an excuse. The reality was I mistakenly tried to close deals for them instead of truly coaching my team.

I was trying to scale myself instead of our business, which never works.

Eventually, with the help of my own leadership coach, I came to recognize some of my shortcomings and improved them.

I’m of the belief that no sales leader is perfect.

We all bring weaknesses to the role, and the key is to acknowledge them.

Some leaders get too invested like I did.

Others aren’t invested enough.

Some are so fixated on numbers and KPI's they forget to motivate the team with a larger vision.

Some blame individuals instead of themselves when things go wrong - especially when they hire the wrong person for the wrong role and that person doesn’t work out.

Some underinvest in motivating and getting to know individuals catering too much to a single top performer or strong personalities on the team.

At the end of the day, though, it is critical that sales leaders improve their coaching and shake some of these classic bad habits.

If not, you’re building a house of cards and it will come back to bite you later in the form of a missed number or alarming churn.

In fact, 60% of sellers say they’ll leave an organization if their leader is a bad sales coach.

Today 47% of sales managers spend less than 30 minutes per week coaching their reps.

The numbers don’t lie. Companies who invest heavily in sales coaching see 16.7% greater revenue growth.

Being busy is not an excuse, and there are tricks you can use to invest in better sales coaching even when you’re strapped for time.

I’ve written about some of my favorites in the Crazy Busy Sales Leader’s Guide to Coaching, many of which I learned while working under one of CBS’ top ex-CROs and through interviews with leaders at companies like Outreach and InsightSquared.

Writing it was one of my career highlights as it gave me a chance to reflect on all of the incredible lessons I learned from my favorite coaches.

When I put these tips in place at my own organizations we saw results like moving from 3 Enterprise logos to 20 in just 9MO and grew annual from 3 to 24M+.

We’d love to hear your own sales coaching “lessons learned’ and stories in the comments. What did your favorite sales coaches do?

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