A sales director's guide to coaching inside sales teams

07 October 2015 Sean O'Mara

Inside sales is like an extreme sport. It’s fast-paced, intense and in participating you expose yourself to a gamut of potentially hostile elements.

It’s a potentially terrifying environment, but it’s also an environment where the right people thrive! It attracts a broad range of people, all with very different motivations for getting into (and staying in) the game.

As a sales director it’s your job to form a potentially disparate and fractious group into a focused, goal orientated, well-oiled sales machine. Which, when dealing with very different character types can be tricky.

Walk the line

It’s nice to be nice, and we all like to be liked, and being affable and approachable is an important facet of an effective manager.

But there’s a fine line between being likeable and chasing the approval of your workforce.

Be firm but fair, and don’t hesitate to call your workforce out on poor behaviour because you’re worried about what they may say about you at the water cooler. If you’re doing your job right they’ll respect you, and if they respect you, the likeability takes care of itself.

Lead, don’t micro-manage

A friend of mine bought his young sons a Lego Millenium Falcon last Christmas. He thought that it would bring them closer together through their shared love of Star Wars.

It cost him a pretty penny too. In reality, he spent his first two hours of Christmas morning trying to coerce them into locking the tiny bricks together instead of throwing them at each other and in frustration, made them leave the room while he assembled the damned thing himself.

Don’t be that guy.

As frustrating as it might be when your sales-force aren’t pursuing their targets as aggressively as you are, try not to do their job for them.

Instead, give them the time, coaching and resources to do the job more effectively themselves. Lead by example and share best practice as often as you can.

Know your team

Remember that your staff all have different personalities and motivations and as such it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to manage them all in the same way.

RingDNA’s Jesse Davis, a sales and marketing strategist and content marketing manager, identifies these five broad types:

The alpha

Dominant, competitive and devoutly goal orientated, the alpha is driven and focused but not necessarily the best team-player.

They can be over-confident and balk at taking direct orders. Play them effectively by comparing their closures to those of their colleagues and appealing to their sense of competition.

The rationalist

Highly knowledgeable, intelligent and malleable the rationalist knows a range of strategies and has no problem switching between them to close a deal.

They think strategically and like to go into every deal informed and well prepared. While admirable this does not suit them to repetitive cold calling or high volume calls.

Get the best out of them by sharing sales tools and appealing to their methodical sensibilities.

The schmoozer

Affable, charming and great at building relationships with customers, schmoozers pride themselves on great customer service but this can sometimes come at the expense of their selling ability.

They can lose focus and go off-topic to excess or make promises they can’t keep in order to keep the customer happy.

Keep an eye on their call duration and record their calls if necessary. Schmoozers are personable and eager to please by nature so they’ll be receptive to your feedback if you gently encourage them to wind up earlier and close more time efficiently.

The natural

Your star strikers, the natural is as goal-oriented and effective as your alpha but without the egotism. They have an easy rapport with prospects and work well in a team.

Their prodigious talent, however, means that they will play the game their way rather than yours if they think your goals don’t converge.

Monitor them closely and try not to assert yourself just for the sake of it. Sometimes the best way to deal with a natural is to let them get on with it.

The survivor

Consistently hitting targets… By the skin of their teeth, the survivor is the first out the door on Friday and counts down the days till payday.

They may not share your drive or enthusiasm and they may even do the absolute bare minimum but when push comes to shove they’ve got the skills to get the job done… Just about.

Make sure they’re stimulated and motivated and if you feel they’re coasting, give them a kick by upping their targets or improving their incentives.