Sales managers have many different leadership styles. But most know the difference between telling their staff what to do and actually coaching their team. Still, many managers continue to dictate because they believe it’s faster and easier to get the results they want. However, there’s imminent danger in telling sales people what to do when asked versus helping them to figure it out for themselves. Here’s why.

Saving Time is Not Coaching Your Team

It goes back to the time thing. When reps ask you questions, you may just give the answers and move on to save time. But here are two of the biggest problems with that approach: 

  1. You Become the Bottleneck. If someone comes to you, and you answer their question every time, then why would they not just keep coming back to you, again and again, to ask more questions? I mean, you know it all. Yes, you are magnificent. Yet, in the long run, you are not spending your precious time wisely.

And, if every one of your direct reports, plus any others looking for your help, come to you for advice and              you are not available, then you become the bottleneck. They will just sit and wait, believing they cannot complete all the things on their action plans or to-do lists without you. Think about it. Is this a good utilization of your time, or theirs? 

  1. Your People Aren’t Learning, So They Won’t Grow.Just giving your team the answers does not allow each person to learn and grow by thinking through the best ways to resolve issues. You cannot be available for everyone, every minute of the day, and also get your job done. Coaching your team is all about helping people to grow in a way that makes sense to them. It’s not necessarily about getting the immediate “win” – it’s about figuring out how best to maneuver through many moving parts.

Like a coach in any sport, you should be helping them to figure out the fundamentals and the end result is a better chance at winning. Ask them open-ended questions to get them to think things through. If they come up with the same thing you were thinking, that’s great. They may also come up with a totally different answer, but one that works just as well. I have said this before: If it’s good for your customer, good for your company and good for you, then you’re heading in the right direction – even if it’s not exactly what you would have done yourself.

How to Be a Great Sales Manager

Now, of course, there are some questions you will always need to answer, such as “Who can help me in legal for a particular issue?” or “Can you be available for a specific meeting?” or most importantly, “Where is the coffee machine?”

So, my advice to you is this: Be a great sales manager by actually coaching your sales team. It’s your job to help your people be successful. It may seem like it takes more time than you have, but once you teach people how to think and empower them to make their own decisions, then you will swap the time you’re taking to tell them what to do, with taking that time to COACH. It will be hard at first since you’ll be in the habit of immediately answering their questions, but don’t. Help them grow rather than be the bottleneck. What has worked the best in helping your sales team be the best they can be?


Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter