5 Coaching Skills for Sales Managers

Show your sales reps what GREAT looks like!

Do your sales reps’ skills need sharpening? Begin by mastering and modeling these five coaching skills specifically for sales managers.

“If you focus on results you will never change. If you focus on change you will get results.” —Jack Dixon

The effective sales manager/coach understands great coaching and great sales involve parallel skill sets. Sales managers who model consistent and quality coaching remain the best predictors for sustained sales rep development.

Admittedly, complex sales calls often involve layers of subtle, powerful, dynamics, and often involve long cycle times. However, these five brick and mortar coaching skills are essential sales skills that your reps need to master.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispens -Dwight Eisenhower

Skill # 1 — Pros plan, rookies wing it.

Pre sales call/coaching planning is arguably a weak area for many sales managers and reps. Success has always gone to those who methodically plan. Customized planning sends powerful messages to reps and customers, such as, You are important to me, I’m committed to your development and success, and I want to understand your drivers and afflictions.

Skill # 2 — Transparency and collaboration builds trust. Clarify your agenda, goals, process, and receive agreement to proceed. Let people know what you’re up to. Customers despise being sold and your sales reps despise being told. Sales success, like coaching, is built on the foundation of collaborative, professional partnerships.

Skill # 3 — Get on the reps/customer agenda. Behavior follows belief. Great coaches, like great sales reps, deeply believe their purpose is to help others achieve success. Adults, like kids, possess highly developed authenticity/bullshit detectors. Customers viscerally feel the needy rep desperate to make quota. Equally, reps feel it in the gut when their sales manager marginalizes their ideas.

Skill #4 — Follow the 75/25 rule with discipline. Effective sales coaches and sales reps ensure that the other person does approximately 75% of the talking. Achieving this performance high bar demands that coaches and reps develop the ability to ask well constructed and customized questions.

Powerful questions create learning insights, or “A-ha moments!” Sales coaching, like a sales call, seeks to create the optimal conditions that compel one to make changes in their life. Implicit in the 75/25 is that reps and sales coaches be at ease with the power of silence. As sales guru Brian Tracy reminds us, “The selling takes place with the words, but the buying takes place in the silence.”

Skill # 5 — Don’t leave money on the table. High performing coaches and sales reps keep the action moving down the field. Asking for SMART commitments is how competent sales coaches build a culture of accountability and high performance. Effective sales reps understand that customers need a little tough love to make the difficult decisions often associated with the necessary change they’ve identified. Agreements to clear actions ensure everyone has skin in the game. Sales coaches who model this competency can help those reps who get weak-kneed around asking for more business.

Sales managers frustrated by their sales reps lackluster performance might consider adopting Level 5 Leadership – “looking in the mirror to apportion responsibility for poor results (Jim Collins, Good to Great).” Helping your sales reps regain their edge begins with their sales manager showing them what great coaching/sales looks like!


Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep in inspiring!


As always, check out the resources page for tons of great content that can help you improve your manager-coach skills today.