Sales Empowerment Group Blog

PUT ME IN, COACH: The Danger in Dual Roles

Imagine you’re watching Sunday Night Football. It’s overtime, and your favorite team is down to one last play. In the huddle, they call the only one that makes sense: send in the secret weapon with all the experience and skill to make the play. That secret weapon is the coach, naturally. Who else knows more about what’s happening on the field 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 also ridiculous. Even if the coach was a former player and fully capable of putting on some pads, that’s not their job. Their job is to coach the players whose job it is to make the plays. This may seem obvious; however, growing sales teams routinely consider making a new sales leader a coach or a player/coach.

Lead, Sell or Both

The question is should your skilled sales rep who was recently elevated to a leadership role focus on leading or continue selling alongside their new, direct reports?

When running a lean team, it may seem logical to have a new leader continue to leverage their proven sales skills to close more deals. After all, the new sales leader has tips, tricks, and techniques to share with their team and may perhaps even inspire them with an insatiable appetite for winning. Maybe, but not likely.

Imagine if that NFL coach had left the huddle, replaced his headset with a helmet and headed to the field for that critical play. Picture the coach reliving his glory days and making the play to win the game. He’d be a hero, right? Maybe for a minute, but what message would that send to the rest of the team? Whose confidence would be boosted, that of the coach 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 turn to shine?

Motivation and Compensation

Moreover, in most sales organizations, the sales leader is compensated based on the performance of the team, whereas the sales rep’s compensation is mostly based on their own performance.

If you allow your sales leader to continue selling, you potentially take food off your reps’ tables and set up a recipe for a toxic team environment. The dual role risks the misalignment of compensation and motivation and can threaten progress and performance.

Assuming your newly crowned sales leader wants to take on the responsibility of coaching and inspiring others, it’s best for them to trade in their helmet for a clipboard so their team can play or 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? We’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 to join the conversation, add your thoughts, and be part of an active and vibrant community of dedicated sales professionals.