Free to Succeed: Effective Sales Leadership Using A Coach Approach

About 2 years ago, I participated in a training program I'll never forget. The leader divided us into two teams. Each team's task was to fire a whack of darts into each number on a dartboard. The leader of Team A was given instructions that his team had to hit the numbers in a certain sequence. He then related the sequence, number by number, to his team.

The leader of Team B was told that her team could hit the numbers in any sequence. Her task was to encourage and motivate us (I was on Team B) to achieve.

We fired away. Team B won. Team A complained about their rules and that Team B won because we were free to hit any number in any order. They felt that the results didn't fairly reflect their ability.

What did we learn?

After the whining died down, we reflected on what we learned:

· Both teams were given the same goal: to hit all the numbers
· Those given free rein to reach the goal any way they wanted did it more quickly, effectively and enthusiastically
· Freedom, coupled with support, will inevitably result in higher achievement and commitment levels than dictated actions and steps.


Sales people are promoted into management because they are fabulous, effective and motivated. However, when they become sales managers they often turn into the Team A kind of leader, telling their sales people what to do and how to do it, insisting that if the sales team just did it 'my way' they would achieve results. With this kind of leadership, most of the team starts a fast track to mediocrity.

News flash: No one likes being told what to do. Especially adults.


One of the most critical roles a sales manager (or any manager, for that matter) can play is that of coach. A coach is more than a cheerleader. A coach holds people to a higher standard than they would for themselves, and then helps them get there. A coach asks questions, rather than offers advice, so that people can arrive at their own conclusions of how they want to proceed.


As you go about your week, consider the following questions around your ability to develop and motivate others. Let them inform and shape the quality of your interactions.

· What do I believe about the others on my team? (Capable? Incompetent? Can figure things out if given a chance?)

· What is my intent in working with this person? (Check off my 'To Do' list? Have fun? Learn from them? Have them learn from me?)

· What kind of relationship do I want with my team?

· How are my negative beliefs about team members leading to self-fulfilling prophecies?

· What does control mean to me?

· What would happen if I let go of some of my control?

· What does that look like in practice? (Asking more questions? Really listening? Allowing people to come up with, and implement, their own ideas?)

· What do I need to do 'more of' or 'less of' in order to develop and motivate others?


Spend five minutes each day writing a daily journal. Try posing to yourself one of the above questions, and then jot down your answer.

Writing in a journal can help you see some subtleties in your world you didn't notice before and can open up your mind to new ideas. This daily practice can keep you sharp, and on the path to success.

This article may be reprinted in its entirety with express written permission from Nicki Weiss. The reprint must include the section "About the Author".

About the Author

Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Sales Management Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. Since 1992, Nicki has trained, certified, and/or coached more than 6,000 business executives, sales managers and salespeople.

Nicki guarantees increased sales performance when sales managers become better sales coaches. Sign up for her FREE monthly e-zine, Something for NothingTM, which has powerful tips and techniques for sales managers who are ready to make this transformation. Sign up at You can email her at [email protected] or call 416-778-4145.

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