Managers: How to Be a More Effective Coach; Recommended New Book


This is a variance from the typical sales tips I share here. My longtime friend, colleague, and telesales and management expert, Jim Domanski has just released his excellent new book, “Telesales CoachTeleSales Coaching: The Ultimate Guide to Helping Your Inside Sales Team Sell Smarter, Sell Better and Sell MORE,” First, if your job in any way involves the coaching of inside sales reps, get this book right now. Even if you are an experienced manager and coach, you will pick up ideas that will help you help your reps become even better.

I also asked Jim to share some useful guidance on coaching, and he did below. This post is much longer than normal, but again, if you coach, or want to, it’s well worth your time.

Do You Coach or Do You Compete?

By Jim Domanski

Most are not aware of it but  they do a rotten job because they actually ‘compete’ with their sales reps rather than give constructive feedback that will help them change and modify their behavior to sell more.

Though well intentioned, “competitive” coaches do more harm than good. Apart from doing little to improve the sales behavior of the rep, they can inadvertently cause resentment, foster frustration and destroy confidence.

What is a Competitive Coach?

Put simply, the competitive coach is a manager whose feedback tends to elevate their own knowledge and expertise in selling while diminishing the effort or the skill of the sales rep.  Often oblivious to this behavior, the competitive coach tends to belittle their sales rep by pointing how they (the manager) would have done things differently and of course, better.

Here are some typical examples of competitive coaching styles to illustrate the point.

Style #1: The Tell Style

The competitive coach tends to a have a ‘tell” approach to feedback.  They are direct and often blunt in their remarks, “You didn’t close,” “You missed the buying signal,” “Next time, practice your presentation.”  Certainly, there are times when the direct approach is effective but the problem with the ‘tell’ approach is that it rarely helps the sales rep alter their selling behavior. Instead, it reveals flaws which embarrass or annoy the rep.

Style # 2: Chide, De-ride and Kid Style

Some managers tend to coach  their reps by chiding, kidding or de-riding. For instance, “Kelly, what the heck was THAT?” or “Cathy, are you kidding me? A seven year old could have closed that one?”  The manager doesn’t necessarily mean to be harsh or demeaning but that’s the net result.  Most reps get defensive, silently or otherwise.

Style #3: Nit Pick Style

Very competitive coaches often feel that they MUST give some sort of critical feedback even if the call was exceptionally good. They will find something – anything- that could be better or improved.  Again, this approach tends to raise the perceived value, intelligence and savvy of the manager if only because it ‘lowers’ the skill or ability of the rep. Good coaches know that if there are no flaws, there is no need to make them up.

Style #4: Schizophrenic Style

Competitive coaches often use the ‘sandwich’ technique of feedback which has been taught for years but is really a discouraging model. This technique states that constructive feedback should be sandwiched between a couple of positive comments.  For example, “Jen, that opening statement was really good… but I’m afraid the questioning and qualifying needs some work. You didn’t really get to the heart of the client’s needs… Mind you, you did attempt a close.”

The ‘but’ is the real killer. The poor rep is left confused. The beleaguered rep hears the positive remark but they are waiting for the other shoe to drop the moment the manager says “but.” In an instant, the positive is whipped out.  Or, the rep hears the positive remarks, congratulates himself and doesn’t hear the negative. Rare is the rep who can emotionally separate the two types of feedback.

The non-competitive coach gives either constructive feedback or positive feedback and lets the call stand on those merits.

Style #5: The Rhetorical Style

Like sports coaches, competitive sales coaches sometimes use rhetorical questions as a means of pumping up reps and giving them feedback. “You want to be winner, don’t you?” “You want to close ‘em, right?” “You don’t want to stay at the bottom of the heap, do you?”, “Why didn’t you ask for the referral?” The manager is not looking for answers, she is pointing out the mistake and trusting that it dramatically improve sales performance. The fact of the matter is most reps simply endure the rhetoric and do the same thing.

Good coaching is a two way street. A good manager/coach asks questions and waits for feedback. This interactive approach helps the rep understand and learn.

Style #6: Personal Anecdotes Style

Many sales managers are former sales reps and chances are they were good sales reps. Consequently, their coaching is spotted with all sorts of personal anecdotes such as, “When I was on the phone, I used the direct close…” or “I remember a similar customer I had and here’s what I did to close that $20K deal.” Sure, there are times when personal gems might have some value but mostly they are war stories that tell the rep how good the manager was …and, oh by the way, how good the rep could be if they only followed your advice.

Style #7: Heaping Style

The final coaching style is the manager who ‘heaps’ on the feedback to the extent that the information is too overwhelming for the rep. This often occurs with rookies where the entire call is weak and the manager provides feedback on everything from the planning, the opening, the questioning, the presentation, the objection handling and the close.  The tele-sales rep is left lost and discouraged.

A good coach focuses on one, maybe two areas that require constructive feedback. Let the rep learn and master these areas before moving on to the rest of the call.


Competitive managers are not ‘bad’ people with a nefarious plan to sabotage their sales reps.  Most competitive managers are not effective coaches simply because they have never been taught how to provide feedback that is effective in getting their reps to change their selling behavior. See the article below if you think your coaching style could use an overhaul


The 4 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

Good, effective tele-sales coaching is a process which means it’s a repeatable event that you can learn and master.

Here are the 4 steps to developing a meaningful coaching program that will get reps to modify their behavior, apply the feedback, and become better at selling.

SMAF Process

Coaching consists of four components referred to as SMAF: standards, monitoring, analyzing, and feedback

I. Standards

Perhaps the most important component of a good coaching program is setting the “standard.” The standard defines precisely what you expect from the tele-sales rep relative to the selling skills involved for the majority of the calls that are made.

For example, when your reps know what the ‘standard operating  procedure’ for opening a prospecting call or  handling knee jerk objections or qualifying a lead or  presenting a solution or closing  the sale etc.,  then there is no confusion. When you supply feedback relative to those standards, it’s not only objective it is anchored to a system or process. This fosters clarity and understanding. It makes compliance easier and more logical.

Sadly, most managers and companies haven’t identified their call standards. They let their reps wing it. And it explains why your feedback is lame and ineffective.

Do you have specified standards? Do your reps know what’s expected of them from a skills perspective?.

II. Monitor the Call

Monitoring the call means listening. Wander around and listen to what you hear on the floor. Or sit beside your rep and y-jack so you can hear both sides of the call. Or, if you can, record calls and listen closely. Better yet, do all three.

Monitor the call relative to the standard, not to what YOU think they should be saying. Monitor it to what they have been taught.

III. Analyze What You have Heard

After you have heard the call, stop and think before you provide feedback. Analyze what you have heard. Did the rep perform call to standard or not? So, for example, if you have defined 5 elements to an opening statement (e.g., full name, company name, reason for call, clearly defined benefit to the client, and a bridge to a question) ask yourself: did the rep implement the standard? If not, you have objective grounds for feedback.

If you have taught your rep that handling an objection requires four steps (Empathize, Clarify, Respond, Verify), you listen for those steps. If they are there, the process is ‘to standard’ and your feedback is not necessary (other than a pat on the back).

Take this time to craft how you want to present your feedback with each individual rep. Each of your reps has their own way of learning. Respect it and tailor your approach accordingly.

IV Provide the feedback

There are five steps to constructive feedback. First, ask your rep to provide feedback on how he/she though she did. Let he do the analysis first. Often the rep will  know precisely what needs ‘fixing’ in which case, she becomes  her own coach.

Second, concur with the rep or describe the behavior you observed. So  if  the rep is not aware of the non-standard performance, use questions to get them to focus e.g., “Janice, what were the 3-Steps we learned about handling knee jerk objections? And did you use the second step?”

Third, discuss ways to enhance, change or modify the behavior in question. “So Mark, what are some things you can do to remind yourself to add a benefit statement?”

Fourth, agree upon the action plan or task or idea to be implemented. So, if Mark though he should make a job aid  to hang from his wall to remind him of a process, agree to it.

Fifth, and maybe most important, acknowledge the improvement. At some point during the day, monitor a few calls and see if the changes are being made by your rep. Drift by the cubicle to see if the job aid has been hung from the wall. If improvements have been made, provide praise. If not, provide a reminder. Either way, the rep will begin to understand that you are serious about the feedback and they will begin the process of change.


Your role is to help your reps modify their behavior and make changes that will improve their skill sets.  In turn, this leads to more revenues.

The best feedback is objective based (hence, the standard) and interactive (hence, questions based).  Start your coaching program today and watch what happens to your sales results. You’ll be pleased and so will your reps!

(Contact Jim Domanski at, 613-591-1998. Get his book, “TeleSales Coaching: The Ultimate Guide to Helping Your Inside Sales Team Sell Smarter, Sell Better and Sell MORE,” )

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