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You've likely watched the iconic scene from David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross
where Blake, a young hotshot from downtown with an $80,000 BMW and a
holier-than-thou attitude, browbeats a room full of downtrodden salesman. He
threatens them, insults their sales skills, and questions their manhood. His
only advice? "Always be closing." While that makes for award-winning drama, it's
not what we deem effective coaching. Blake's biggest flaw as a coach - but
certainly not his only one - is that he only addresses the problems without
analysing the causes. He says a lot about what to do and nothing about how to do
it. Unfortunately, a lot of terrible coaching goes on in many sales
organisations because so many managers are like Blake: they might be able to
make things work for themselves, but they have no idea how to teach someone
else. Nor do they do the analysis of what "is" going on versus what "ought to
be" going on. They're just repeating advice like "Always be closing." This
happens for a number of reasons: managers don't have time to coach or they have
too many competing priorities. More often than not, sales managers were good
salespeople, and the assumption is made that they will also be good coaches. But
as Glengarry Glen Ross shows us, a great salesman isn't necessarily a great
coach. Sophisticated sales organisations develop a model of what "excellent"
sales behavior looks like based on what has proven to be successful. They train
their people to observe actual performance against this template of excellent
behavior, and to give solid, professional feedback about the gaps between the
right way to do things and what's currently happening. It is not enough just to
say "Accomplish X" - it's far more relevant and beneficial to teach the skills
that will accomplish X. Good sales coaches know the skills that correlate with
success and act as diagnosticians rather than dictators. For a good sales
manager, it's not "Always be closing," it's "Always be Coaching."