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5 Tips For The Struggling Player-Coach

A player-coach is a common leadership characteristic many organizations are looking for. They need someone who can lead their team, provide coaching and accountability and generate their own revenue. Being a player-coach is challenging, to say the least, so here are five tips to make your role easier.

Devote Time to your Team

As a player-coach, you must devote time to your salespeople.

Most sales leaders judge how well their "players" are doing based on their word. Then when you ask a salesperson how a call went, they often say "awesome or great," whether or not it did indeed go well. Unfortunately, salespeople are often poor at self-reporting. So, it would be best if you took the time to observe and listen to your team in action.

There's really no way to know how each salesperson behaves and performs while representing your company, unless you observe them on a call or in a selling situation.

Accompanying your salespeople in the field or on a "ride-along" allows you to see firsthand what is going on and work with them one-on-one. 

You can set goals along with a plan before the call, observe actual selling behavior, and professionally discuss how the meeting went afterward.

Don't Take on Too Many Accounts

As a player-coach, you probably have a few accounts you oversee, and it's easy to fall into full "salesperson mode."

As a sales leader, your role should focus on:

  • Working with salespeople to develop goals — and then holding them accountable.
  • Training and coaching your sales team to improve performance levels.
  • Motivating the sales team to reach targets — especially during challenging times.
  • Developing and implementing an effective sales hiring and onboarding strategy.

If you are busy with too many accounts, your leadership role could falter to the point where your sales team suffers.  

Figure out Your Management Style

You'll want to figure out your preferred management style or leadership cadence as a player-coach. A management style is how a leader works to fulfill their goals. Your management style includes how you, the sales leader, plan, organize, make decisions, delegate, and lead your team.

Your style can vary widely depending on the company, management level, industry, country, culture, and personality.

An effective sales leader can adjust their management style in response to different factors, while keeping their focus on successfully achieving targets and developing their sales team.

Manage your Time Well

As a player-coach, you are essentially taking on two roles, and your time is precious.

Time in any organization is constant and irreversible. You can't substitute for time. Worse, once you spend it, it can never be regained. Sales leaders have numerous demands on their limited time. 

You may be pulled in many directions, especially with meetings. According to The Muse, "If you're a middle manager, it's likely about 35% of your time, and if you're in upper management, it can be a whopping 50%."

If time keeps getting away from you, you'll end up bouncing from one thing to the next, and you'll never get ahead. So, one of the things you can do is try and get out of those meetings that you don't need to be a part of.

If you explain to your boss that your time would be more effectively spent building and developing your team, chances are they'll let you off the hook.

Always Manage Up

One of the most common pitfalls with sales leaders is not communicating up effectively. Unfortunately, this can happen a lot with a player-coach as their time becomes more and more consumed.

The best executives know they don’t know everything, and they are open to receiving useful information and advice whenever possible — particularly from someone in a leadership role.

A one-on-one is where you can clearly explain the value of such information. Do not miss out on your one-on-one meeting with your boss. Make sure you are sharing important news and up-to-date data. If you let your sessions slide, that can cause misalignment, communication problems, and many other challenges.

Communicating effectively and confidently with your CEO will give them a positive impression, and that may open you up to more opportunities for growth and advancement.

In the End

Being a player-coach can come with all kinds of struggles. However, if you devote time to your team, don't fall back into "full-time seller mode," find your groove, leverage your time, and manage up, you may struggle significantly less.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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