Straight from the Street Series - Article #1
“Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready to Play (& Coach?)”
Imagine you’re watching Sunday night football; the game is in overtime and your favorite team is down to one last critical play. During the huddle, they make the only call that makes sense. Bring in the secret weapon who has all the experience & know-how to make the play. That secret weapon...the Coach, naturally. Besides, who else knows what’s happening on the field more than the Coach, right? This happens all the time in the NFL, right? NOPE! It never happens and the thought of it, while potentially hilarious, is absolutely ridiculous. Even if the Coach was a former player and fully capable of putting on some pads to make the play, that’s not their job. Their job is to coach the Players whose job it is to the make play.
I’m guessing you’re reading this thinking this all seems blatantly obvious, because it is. However, deciding whether or not to make a new Sales Leader a Coach or a Player/Coach is a question I get on the street all the time, especially from younger growing teams. In other words, they’re trying to decide whether or not their skilled Sales Rep who was recently placed in a leadership role should “just” focusing on leading or continue selling alongside their new direct reports.
On the surface, especially when running a lean team, the idea of having a new leader continue leveraging her proven sales skills to close more deals seems logical. After all, now that they’re a leader too, she can start sharing their tips/tricks/techniques with their team and perhaps even inspire them with her insatiable appetite for winning. Maybe, but not likely.
Imagine if that NFL Coach had left the huddle, took off his Motorola headset, put on a helmet and headed to the field for that critical play. Stay with me for a minute and picture the Coach living up to his glory days and making the play to win the game, just like they discussed in the huddle. He’d be a hero right? Sure, maybe for a minute. But, what message would that send to the rest of the team? Who’s confidence would be boosted? The Coach’s or the Players’? How about the rest of the team on the sidelines? Every time the Coach stepped onto the field, who was watching over them and making sure they were ready for their next turn to shine?
Moreover, for most Sales organizations, the way the Sales Leader is compensated is based on the overall performance of the team, whereas the Sales Rep is likely compensated in large part on their own performance. If you allow your Sales Leader to continue selling while also leading, not only are you taking food off your Reps tables but you’re setting up a recipe for a toxic team environment where compensation and motivation misalignment will threaten progress and performance every step of the way.
Assuming your newly crowned Sales Leader wants to take on the responsibility of leading, coaching and inspiring others, it’s best for them to trade in their helmet for a clipboard so their team can “play” (uhh, sell) and the Leader can focus on removing barriers to victory.
Of course, there are certainly ways for Sales Leaders to continue to add value to the pipeline and growth of the Sales Team but that’s a “Straight From the Street” topic for another day.
In the meantime, what do you think? Can the idea of a Player/Coach work or is it best to divide and conquer? I’d love to hear from you!
This article is part of the “Straight From the Street” content series highlighting real customer challenges from real customers heard, you guessed it, straight from the street. We invite you join the conversation, add your thoughts and be part of an active and vibrant community of dedicated Sales Professionals.
This article is part of the “Straight From the Street” content series highlighting real customer challenges from real customers heard, you guessed it, straight from the street. We invite you to join the conversation, add your thoughts and be part of an active and vibrant community of dedicated Sales Professionals.