Developing Salespeople While Coaching on the Run

One of the biggest casualties in the battle to “do more with less” is developing salespeople. With fiercer competition, shorter deadlines, and the urgent replac­ing the important, sales managers are starting to view developing salespeople as a luxury they just can’t developing peopleafford.

Although common, this approach to manage­ment is short-sighted and can lead to long-term disaster. Even with more demands on your time you must realize that developing salespeople isn’t something you do instead of your job. It is your job!

This means finding opportunities to make a difference as they present themselves.

The key to coaching on the run is the “hand in the bucket” test. When you put your hand in a bucket of water, the water level rises.  This is the case when a you spend time with a sales­person. While you are present, the sales­person’s level of perfor­mance is elevated.  The real test for developing salespeople occurs when you are no longer present. Does the salesperson’s performance return to the previous level, or does it stay elevat­ed?  In other words, did you leave something with the salesperson to make a real and lasting difference?

Before we discuss some of the specific aspects and techniques for coaching on the run, let’s review what it takes for salespeople to perform at their optimal level. Use the checklist below to determine if you’re giving your salespeople what they need to win.

Coaching Checklist for Developing Salespeople

  • Do your people have a clear understanding of what they are expected to do?
  • Do your people have clear standards for ac­ceptable performance?
  • Do your people have the authority and re­sourc­es to perform effectively?
  • Do your people encounter little task interfer­ence (e.g., conflicting goals, objectives, procedures,   etc?)
  • Do your people receive timely and accurate feedback on their performance?
  • Do your people receive positive conse­quences and reinforcement for performing the job as it’s supposed to be done?
  • Do your people experience negative conse­quences when they fail to perform?

These guidelines apply to performance in general, as well as specifics tasks and assignments. Use the questions to assess your coaching abilities and to analyze performance problems.

Each “no” represents a potential performance problem for developing salespeople. Taking action to convert your “no” respons­es to “yes” will go a long way toward improving your people’s performance.


  1. Been looking at the eixhbit industry for a long time and worked within as a supplier and account rep. Seems like I know Bob . There’s a very small group of folks who really excel in the industry and I might guess that at any given point in time there’s as much as 30% of new comers to this arena who unfortunately are destined for the same outcome. A suggestion? Employers need to really empower the young folks entering this industry on the real value an account rep has beyond cold calling. Becoming a trusted advisor means they really need to know how and what their internal teams do. without the depth of knowledge and the backstory- you are at a disadvantage to the more seasoned salesperson. Employers could make a real difference by sitting their employees down to carefully walk through every detail and obstacle overcome in the shop and in the field by its team. A through knowledge of these workings doesn’t happen working remotely.In this industry. . . as most- knowledge is power. Course there’s no way to weed out the liars!Then the Bob syndrome is eliminated in the front end by retaining employees longer who have a reason to be committed.Best regards,Susanne

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