The perfect coaching game plan for front line Sales Managers

So if it’s not clear already, I believe coaching is the most important thing a front line sales manager can be doing.  Some managers are still learning that lesson, and others are on board but don’t know how exactly to apply the theory to the real world.  To help make things more tangible, I wanted to lay out a schedule that’s worked effectively for me in a couple different environments.

First, lets lay out the different touch points a manager could have with his or her team in a week.  I don’t think there’s a silver bullet that would work for every team, but some variation of the touch-points below will get most teams to where they want to be.

  • 1:1s
  • Headsetting
  • Call Study
  • Role Playing
  • Script Creation


personal trainer motivates client doing push-ups in gym

This is the cornerstone of the manager / sales person relationship.  Everyone has their own take on it, but typically it’s an opportunity to check in with a salesperson on a more personal level.  This is that team member’s opportunity to get access to their manager to work on anything ranging from questions about policy and targets to long-term personal development, roadblock removal, etc.

We’ll write more on the topic, but the abridged version is this: use this time to show interest in your team members. Learn about them, what motivates them, why they’re here, and how you can help as a manager.


Headsetting is a sales manager’s lifeline to the floor (if she/he is not selling on her/his own in a player / coach role).  This is your time to see how your team is applying the skills they’ve been given in training.  It’s your time to assess where they are having trouble, which should then inform the skills you want to coach them on in the future.

Different types of headsetting include remote headsetting, where a manager is simply listening to calls on the phone from another location.  This can be effective, but I would encourage managers to go do some side-by-side headsetting so you can see how the sales person stays organized.  Headsetting is just as much about observing organization and workflow as it is about what the salesperson is saying on the phone.

Call Study

In football, they call it the coaches’ film, film review, film study, tape review, game film, All 22, Game Rewind etc.  Yes, it’s a big deal.  But all these names point to the practice of watching and rewinding tape of your team’s performance as well as the competitors’ performance before heading into the big game.

Everyone in the NFL watches film in preparation for the game the coming week. Every player starts the week after a game by breaking down the previous game as a unit or in positional meetings. 

The coaches will correct mistakes individually and as a unit. Great coaches take the time to teach the correct techniques and to show players where they can improve. – Marc Lillibridge, Former NFL Player and Scout

So, no, I’m not suggesting you videotape your team and your calls, but I am making the case for the importance of call recording.  Whether it’s a recording of both sides of the conversation from a phone system or just the salesperson’s side of the conversation using iPhone Voice Memo (please do your own research into the legalities of sales call recording),you should be doing it.  Once you have the recordings, then you should be listening to those recordings in a “Call Study” session.  You can come up with your own format, or you could simply just do the classic “Keep Doing, Stop Doing” analysis for each call.

What’s critical in this exercise is to give the seller some distance from the call, so they can observe calmly when they are not in the heat of the moment selling.  This extra distance helps you to see if they can hear or assess what sounds good and bad on the calls.

Role Playing

Practice makes perfect.  Do not fall for the old school sales beliefs that sales is just a natural skill and either you have it or you don’t.  Sales people, like anyone else, will improve through practicing regularly.  Work this into your team’s schedule; find time for them to role play and practice talking about the things that will help them improve.

The way I think about it when I’m selling is that I need to have spoken the words a few times before I’ve internalized them and can use them naturally in conversations with live prospects / clients.  When you look back at all the different ways to use scripts, the role playing component is what helps a sales person internalize that script and commit it to muscle memory.

“Unlike other training tools, such as manuals or classroom lectures, role playing is active. And because of the activity, involvement, and peer pressure people feel in the “drama,” the learning rate is high.” – Larry J.B. Robinson, 1985 issue of the Harvard Business Review

Script Creation

We talked about this one when we discussed different creative ways to use scripts.  In these past posts, we talked about salespeople outgrowing scripts and eventually getting the point where they should write their own.  Though a great use case, I’d also make the case for having salespeople be involved from the beginning in all forms of script writing.

It’s another mental exercise which helps your team engage with the content, think about the WHY behind the answers we give, and start to internalize communications best practices.  More recently I’ve started having weekly sessions for us to review, write, and update scripting as a team.

Each of the sessions covered above give you, as the manager of the team, an opportunity to coach.  Having a variety of different methods helps prevent things from getting stale.  If you were to outline a perfect coaching week applying the sessions above, it could look something like this:

Monday – 1:1s

Tuesday – Headsetting – 2 hours , listen to everyone

Wednesday – Script Creation – come up with answers to common objections

Thursday – Role Play – role play new objection responses

Friday – Call Review – 1:1 sessions listening and debriefing calls

Feel free to mix and match.  Come up with a format that works for your team, every situation is different and there is no silver bullet.  In the end, what matters most is that you’re providing an environment where everyone is learning and receiving coaching.