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TCV Insights

Develop a Winning Sales Team

Updated: Jun 19

By Rick Vohrer, TCV Growth Partner-

Do you consider yourself a manager or a coach? The distinction is important. The roles of a manager and a coach, while often overlapping, have distinct differences:


Focus: A manager is primarily concerned with overseeing operations, ensuring tasks are completed, and meeting organizational goals. They are often more metrics-driven and take on the responsibility for problem-solving and strategy development1. A coach, on the other hand, focuses on the development and growth of individuals or teams, guiding them to become independent problem-solvers and strategic thinkers.

Communication: Managers typically employ a more directive form of communication, providing instructions and expecting them to be followed. Coaches use a two-way communication style, encouraging dialogue, questions, and collaborative problem-solving.

Environment: Under a manager, the environment may be more structured and task-oriented, with a clear emphasis on efficiency and deadlines. A coaching approach fosters a more collaborative and creative atmosphere, where learning and skill development are prioritized.

Leadership Style: Managers tend to be more authoritative, making decisions and directing the team’s efforts. Coaches are supportive, empowering employees to take initiative and make decisions.


While a manager ensures that the day-to-day operations run smoothly and efficiently, a coach invests in the long-term professional growth of their team members, helping them to unlock their potential and contribute more effectively to the organization’s success.

Coaching a sales representative, akin to coaching a team athlete, involves a tailored approach that focuses on developing a diverse set of skills, fostering resilience, and optimizing performance. Understanding the specific and unique things that drive the sales triathlete as an individual and a team member is critical to optimum performance of both. Here are some effective coaching strategies:

1.     Assess Individual Strengths and Weaknesses: Just like a triathlete who has different capabilities in swimming, cycling, and running, a sales rep has unique strengths and challenges in various aspects of the sales process. Conduct an assessment to identify these areas.

2.     Set Clear and Achievable Goals: Work with the sales rep to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for their sales performance, much like a triathlete sets targets for each segment of the race.

3.     Focus on One Improvement at a Time: Avoid overwhelming the sales rep with too many areas to improve at once. Prioritize and focus on one key area before moving on to the next, ensuring steady progress.

4.     Encourage Self-Evaluation: Just as triathletes review their training and race performances, encourage sales reps to self-reflect on their sales calls and interactions to identify areas for self-improvement.

5.     Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer timely and specific feedback that helps the sales rep understand what they are doing well and where they can improve, like how a coach provides feedback after a training session.

6.     Develop an Action Plan: Create a structured plan with actionable steps for the sales rep to follow, which can include role-playing exercises, shadowing more experienced reps, or attending training sessions.

7.     Build Resilience: Teach the sales rep to handle rejection and setbacks positively, just as a triathlete learns to push through tough parts of a race.

8.     Monitor and Measure Performance: Keep track of the sales rep’s progress using key performance indicators, and adjust the coaching plan as needed, akin to tracking a triathlete’s times and adjusting their training regimen.

9.     Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate the sales rep’s successes, no matter how small, to keep them motivated and engaged, just as a triathlete celebrates personal bests.

10.  Foster a Supportive Environment: Create a team atmosphere where the sales rep feels supported and can learn from peers, like how triathletes often train in groups to benefit from shared knowledge and encouragement.

Consider the drive to compete. Are they focused on their personal performance and that of the team? Having a superstar that hits it out of the park on a team that constantly under performs is not healthy for either. Your superiors are expecting your team or division to perform. You are evaluated on the collective results. How do you coach, motivate, mentor and reward top performers so they are still effective team members? How do you do the same for the rank-and-file members of the sales team, so they believe they are a meaningful contributors?

One of the best times to determine the above is during the time you spend reviewing and discussing each team members’ individual annual sales plan. This happens during the fourth quarter, usually December. If you are not doing this begin immediately! It is an opportunity for you to determine the most effective means to challenge, motivate and reward your team individually and as a group. Many think that sales professionals are motivated by money. Some are, but more likely it is what can be accomplished with the dollars or some “tag” that the culture aligns to those with it. And consistently high earning sales professionals at some point do not need more “stuff” and begin to set goals that may require dollars, but the dollars are not the motivating factor any longer. When you find what the gold rings are for each person on the team, you can best coach toward those goals.

If your company employs quotas, it is important that each rep buys into their respective quota as attainable, has developed a game plan they believe will allow them to not only attain but surpass the quota. If they view the quota as a stretch, it will not likely be attained. Annual goals need to be broken into shorter milestones as suggested in #2 above. Find ways to reward achieved milestones. The rewards do not have to be direct to the sales rep.

For example, I had a young rep, full of energy and drive, but short on organization who loved recognition. He consistently had a close ratio of 35%. During our annual sales plan review, he happened to mention how he loved it when his wife noticed projects he did around the house. We used the CRM as a tool to set his schedule and track performance. I rewarded his performance (predetermined with him to be a certain number of presentations he made monthly) by sending his wife flowers with a note thanking her for her support of “Johnny,” because I knew it was her support that kept him going. “Johnny” received the atta boys he needed from a source that also took an additional interest in his number of presentations. The resulting sales took care of themselves.

Another time when we introduced a new product, I set VERY reasonable targets for new product sales as I did not want the team to focus only on the new product at the expense of continuing to plug away at our traditional product mix. And I wanted the Another time when we introduced a new product, I set VERY reasonable targets for new product sales as I did not want the team to focus only on the new product at the expense of continuing to plug away at our traditional product mix. And I wanted the entire team to participate. So, I created a “Go the Distance” campaign. Team members received a pair of wind-up plastic feet that would run across their desk once they hit certain milestones.

The toy feet cost me less than $2.00 each, yet every person

on the team worked to earn a pair of feet. They did not want to be the only one without a toy.

When you have recruited your sales team and developed them with a coach’s mindset, you will realize they can out-produce some of the loftiest targets others can create.

Need help with sales team management? Feel free to contact me - Rick@TCV-Growth.Partners


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