Maven Sales Group Blog

5 Reasons Sales Managers Fail as Sales Coaches

12/3/18 2:50 PM / by David Fletcher

Pete Rose was one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball. As a player, Rose was a switch hitter and is the all-time MLB leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, and the Rookie of the Year Award, and also made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five positions (second baseman, left fielder, right fielder, third baseman, and first baseman). Rose won both of his Gold Gloves when he was an outfielder, in 1969 and 1970. As a Coach, well... we all know how that ended up... so as a player, he was a rockstar, as the coach of his up and coming rockstars, he was a disaster!

In the words of Jeff Bezos, "Part of company culture is path-dependent - it's the lessons you learn along the way." This path-dependent approach stems from the belief that managers can help to mold employees through an environment that leverages lessons learned to encourage growth. 

In the words of Phil Crosby, "selecting the right person for the right job is the largest part of coaching." Unlike management, sales coaching requires an intimate understanding of individuals to better assess what skills they possess, and how to fine-tune these skills to the betterment of the entire team. If sales management focuses on a path-dependent approach, and coaching identifies how to enhance the skills of the right person for the right job, then why do so many executives falsely believe that sales managers will make great coaches? 

The truth of the matter is that unlike managing, sales coaches are focused on continued skill development. They are not trying to teach someone something new; instead they are focused on fine-tuning the skills of individuals. Conversely, managers are interested in achieving team goals, promoting employees along their designated paths, and creating an environment of lessons-learned that focuses on process improvements. With these stark differences in mind, there are five key reasons that internal sales managers often fail as sales coaches. 

Maven Sales Group Coaching

Reason #1. A Lack Of Internal Tools Leads To Manager "Coaching" Demise
To clarify, in this post we aren't saying that managers can never be coaches. In fact, there might be some managers out there that have the time, demeanor, and knowledge needed to make excellent coaches. However, far too often managers lack the internal tools needed to effectively coach their teams. These tools include:

  • A digital playbook that has been customized for the company culture, goals, and industry. 
  • A phone system that is designed for call shadowing. 
  • A call recording system that can be used to review a wide variety of calls.

Without the above three tools, a manager-run internal coaching program will not be successful. In this vein, we don't want to place all of the blame on managers. Instead, we are saying that without the above tools, managers can never transition to coaches (and to be fair, they shouldn't have to).

Reason #2. Individual And Team Accountability 
Individual and team accountability are a key component of a successful sales coaching program. An external coach will focus on creating a logical and sustainable course that identifies both individual and team goals. However, a manager is often focused on the goals that their sales team needs to achieve. While individual goals are often assigned; the truth of the matter is that many managers only focus on team goals. Why? C-level executives are far too busy to worry about the middle-rung performers who aren't pulling their entire weight. Instead, during a review with the manager they look at three components: 

  1. The top performers; 
  2. The weakest performers; and
  3. If the team has met its sales goals. 

With these review components in mind, it is all too easy for a manger to skip over the middle-rung performers. Fortunately, that is where a sales coach comes into play. A sales coach focuses on enhancing the skills of the middle-rung performers, which inevitably improves the results of the entire team. 

Reason #3. Managers Are Part Of The Forest. 
The old phrase, "it's hard to see the forest for the trees," can be aptly applied to managers. Although, perhaps it is easier to say that "it's hard to read the label when you're in the jar." In other words, sales managers work with their team every day, which means that aside from the actual sales numbers, it is easy for them to establish opinions and biases. External sales coaches don't have the latter biases. Instead, they can assess the skills of individuals (especially middle-rung performers) to offer the insights needed for personal improvements and growths. Additionally, sales coaches are often able to provide advice to sales managers, so that they too can improve their skills to the betterment of the entire team.

Every business needs a sales playbook

Reason #4. Poor Feedback Skills. 
Many sales managers don't have great feedback skills. In fact, sales managers who want to avoid internal conflicts are often the worst at giving accurate feedback; especially, when it is involves telling a hard truth. Fortunately, external sales coaches don't have this problem. They are able to step into an environment and succinctly provide the clear feedback needed to improve individual results. By definition, the sales coaches then leave and thus avoid any internal conflicts, which is once again why managers should stick to management and avoid the task of coaching all together. 

Reason #5. Ineffective Sales Goals. 
Far too often sales managers end up taking a one-size-fits-all approach to sales goals. This approach, can easily kill  the motivation of their middle-rung performers. After all, if the sales goal is too high, the middle-rung performers will throw-up their hands in dismay. If the sales goal is too low, then the middle-rung performers will "toe-the-line" and let the highest performers pull additional weight. In short, sales managers that set ineffective goals automatically negate any chance they have at effectively coaching their team. 

need more sales? Do our sales assessment

The Proven Solution: Outsource Sales Coaching And Let Managers Do What They Do Best
You wouldn't make a quarterback consistently run the ball across the TD line, just as you shouldn't force managers to take on a coaching tasks. As seen through the above five reasons, managers are not sales coaches. Instead of forcing managers to do something that they weren't hired to do (and frankly aren't very good at), you should instead outsource sales coaching. Through an outsourced model, managers will be able to do what they do best (i.e. encourage the highest performers, offer training to the lowest performers, and successfully manage the entire team). An outsourced coach from the Maven Sales Group will be able to help the middle-rung performers improve their skills, increase their productivity levels, and inevitably help the entire team reach their goals. The moral of the story is simple, let managers be managers and let coaches help middle-rung performers enhance their skills to produce enhanced sales results.


Topics: social selling, Sales Management, sales playbook, hubspot sales, increasing sales, sales assessment, inbound sales, outbound sales, sales coaching

David Fletcher

Written by David Fletcher

David Fletcher is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Maven Sales Group, a HubSpot Sales Partner and sales enablement firm located in the Washington, DC area. David is also the Sr. Global VP of Sales for ClearSale, Maven's largest client, which is a fraud management and protection services company. David is a graduate of The George Washington University, graduating with dual majors in Business Management and Criminal Justice. After graduation, David stayed in the DC area as a sales professional before starting his own systems integration firm. Once his firm was acquired, David moved on to become the President of a marketing agency providing HubSpot Consulting and inbound sales strategies to B2B clients. David has a unique perspective on sales and marketing in which David doesn’t approach issues as a “sales problem” or a “marketing problem”, but as a “revenue problem”. As a seasoned sales and marketing professional, David has worked with the HubSpot product development teams in an effort to create a better user experience for HubSpot customers. David enjoys reading, golfing, fishing and the outdoors. He lives in Lake Shore, MD with his business partner & wife Shannon, and their 5 sons.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Lists by Topic

see all

Posts by Topic

see all
Sales Playbook download

Recent Posts

Get a free