Managing Sales Teams: How To Overcome the Player-Coach Paradox

The story so far:

  1. Using a Ramp Up and Calibration system, Mike Mark is able to turn talented salesmen into million-dollar closers.
  2. The Hollywood Sales Method Mike uses gives the reps enough context about the offer and market to get on calls immediately.
  3. The advanced techniques taught in the calibration phase give the rep the control and confidence to ‘break script’ at-will.

How is an entrepreneur supposed to manage a sales team on top of all the other stuff he’s doing?

I mean, if we’re talking about the client profile CoachingSales.com cut their teeth on…they’re busy. They’re involved in client fulfillment. Maybe they’re handling the ads. They’re managing employees. They’re taking sales calls.

And on top of all this, they have to recruit, train, and manage, salesmen? Nah. Their bandwidth is already used up.

“That’s sort of where we come in. We’ve already been through this shit and solved this problem. We’ve already systematized it. The big thing to consider here is the economics of scaling a sales team.”

A sales manager typically makes $180,000 a year on the low end. $200k to $250k is the mid range. $300 to $400k is the upper range. And they typically take 5 percent of gross sales.

“The problem is, at the stage most of our clients are at, they can’t get a good sales manager. Even though they really do need one. So, what happens is they become the sales manager themselves. Bad move.”

“One of the most common mistakes I see – and it’s something I made myself – is being a Player-Coach. I was a player-coach at Traffic And Funnels and it was the stupidest fucking thing I did. Ever. It always backfires.”

The problem with being a player-coach lies in the dichotomy of being a salesman and sales manager at the same time. A salesman’s job is to be selfish. He has to ignore everything except closing deals. His job is to block off his time so anything that isn’t a deal barely even registers.

A sales manager, on the other hand, is supposed to be the opposite. Totally selfless. All his time is to be devoted to his team.

“Salesmen are emotional creatures. They’re not like a normal employee. Sales is not a normal job. So, they’re headcases. They’re up, then they’re down, they’ve got shit going on in their lives that’s contaminating their calls. They might have a string of bad calls and next thing you know you’re yanking them off a barstool and calling them an uber home.”

The sales manager’s role is to take care of the team. To make sure they have all the resources they need and remove any obstacles in their lives. Anything that prevents them from focusing on performing consistently on calls.

“It’s almost impossible to be both a salesman and a sales manager. You can try, but you’ll just end up doing a shitty job at both. Even the goals aren’t aligned. A salesman’s goal is to maximize his closing percentage and cash per call. A sales manager’s job is to maximize his team’s closing percentage and the cash per call. Or something like percentage of salesmen within KPIs. That’s the metric we’ve found works best.”

I wonder whether that’s even within the capacity of the average entrepreneur. So many are enamored with this idea of making money while chilling on the beach. You know, the whole digital nomad, solopreneur schtick. It’s a goddamn meme at this point.

But at the end of the day, if they want to scale or build a business of any significance, they need to hire, train, and manage a team.

“Teams only work when you have trust. And for trust to happen, there needs to be consistency. Working in a small business is a risky proposition. Your salesmen are taking a big risk coming to work for you.”

“They could go work at Disneyland or a Marriott somewhere. And as long as they don’t show up to work drunk or something egregious, they’ll always have a job. Hell, even if they show up drunk. Back in the day, I was a bellman at a Hilton and one of our guys was always coming in wasted. They’d just send his drunk ass home and he’d come back the next day and still have his job.”

It’s true. Your employees are betting on you when they come to work for you. They’re betting you’re going to be around for a while. And if you can’t be consistent, they won’t be able to do their best work for you.

You ever worked in a company that had a really bad quarter? Or one that’s just gone through a merger/acquisition?
The rumor-mill starts to churn. People expect layoffs. Morale is in the shitter. What do you think is the productivity of a workplace like that? That’s what happened at the last company I worked at.

“If I don’t feel safe as a team member, I’m not going to be focusing on work. I’m going to be working on my exit. At that point, it’s just a cash grab before I’m on to the next thing.”

“And so a big part of managing a team is giving them clarity. Clarity in numbers. Clarity in expectations. Clarity in your company’s mission. Repeating the principles you’re operating your business by over and over until your team believes in it. So much so, you don’t need to manage them anymore. They just get after it.”

“This is stuff business owners just don’t think about when hiring, especially at the size where we work with them. I know, because it happened to me when I first tried to build the CoachingSales.com team.”

Mike had a hard time hiring the right people. Instead of delegating tasks and freeing up his time, adding headcount only doubled his workload.

“It was so bad. The ‘team’ was miserable. And I kept getting more and more pissed off because I’ve hired these people but I’m still making decisions and shit’s not getting done.”

“Now, we work a lot differently. Everyone owns outcomes. They own projects and they do it and I don’t even need to ask. Like my guys Cody and Moose. I hired them for a task, and they’ve gone far above and beyond what I expected. I actually have to tell them to stop working and go chill, because they’ll work on weekends.”

That’s the whole point of business owners hiring a team in the first place, isn’t it? To get all that noise out of their brains so they can think clearly.

It’s a little like music. If you want music to be loud and clear, you have to remove unnecessary frequencies. When your mind is scattered and you’re thinking about a million different things, you can’t be as powerful in your leadership.

“Good hires remove noise. Bad hires create more noise. And a lot of that goes back to the entrepreneur’s management principles, and his processes of hiring and training team members. And then designing a structure where his people know, ‘Okay. There’s consistency in this place. I feel safe. I have a clear outcome. I can make this happen.’”

So. At this point, it’s clear to me that Mike has this whole “hire closers, train them, and manage them until they’re totally beast mode” thing figured out.

But what does this look like in practice?

“Oh yeah, that’s really quite straightforward…”

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Sub-text:

  1. Being a player-coach always backfires. You can’t be a salesman and sales manager at the same time. The job roles and objectives are polar opposites.
  2. Entrepreneurs really need sales managers, but it often doesn’t make financial sense to hire one when you first start building a sales team.
  3. For a team to perform optimally, they need trust. And the best way to build trust is with consistency and clarity. Team members need to feel safe so they can focus on doing their job to the best of their ability.