Who is the Best Sales Coach? Manager vs Peer vs Outsourced

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I recently wrote a post on LinkedIn about why sales managers don’t coach. In the comments to that post, a few people suggested that front line sales managers shouldn’t be coaching at all. Instead, they said, coaching should be done by peers (“who wants to be criticized by their boss”) or outsourced (“the skills don’t exist in the organization”).

So what makes sense to you? I’m really asking here!

Here are some of my thoughts:

(All of) What the Front Line Sales Manager Should Be Doing

In an opinion influenced by the great Dave Kurlan, I’ve always believed that a front line sales manager should focus time with their reps on five key things:

  1. Coaching
  2. Mentoring
  3. Motivating
  4. Accountability
  5. Recruiting (and un-recruiting…)

As I see it, these are not separate functions, rather – they are integrated, and a front line sales manager should be responsible for all of it:

Bring someone in, set the playing field, set expectations, check in regularly, and work to help them improve as they go….

It makes a lot of sense that coaching is a big part of this, and that this coaching is done by the person who is doing the other things as well.

For me, it’s hard to imagine that these highly integrated sales management responsibilities would be done by anyone but the front line sales manager.

In other words, while a peer or outsourced coach might coach, mentor, and motivate – you can’t really imagine them holding reps accountable or recruiting. All of it – together – makes the picture complete.

Why is the manager the manager?

Those who suggest that a peer or an outsourced coach is a better option have some valid points, but it begs the question:

If the manager isn’t coaching, why have them as a manager?

If the manager was promoted from rep – which is almost always the case – then presumably they are a strong seller. How does it make sense to promote a strong seller, have them keep their big quota, add administrative tasks but NOT give them room to share their winning ways with the team?

Normally, the push back from the peer & outsourced fans is that the manager is too busy with their new manager duties and may not be good coaches anyways, so they don’t have time or the talent / skills to coach.

How does that make sense – I’m really asking here?

  • If you want a great rep to sell, why promote them to manager and saddle them with non-sales work?
  • If you have a great rep that should be coaching as a peer, why promote them to manager and keep them from doing that?
  • And if you are thinking about bringing someone in from the outside, why is that better than a person who is doing a great job from the inside? Wouldn’t it be better to teach that person how to coach effectively and to set them up for success in either peer or manager coaching?

So – I’m sure you can see that I am pretty firmly in the “manager should be the coach” camp, but please – push back – enlighten me – is this the right approach and if not, what is and why?

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