A sales manager who’d read my latest book (A Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness) called me the other day to talk about some of the insights she’d gotten. One of the most important to her, she said, was the link between rep engagement and coaching.

“I agree with what you said about the importance of all of us, as managers, being there and coaching our reps day in and day out,” she said. “But I’d never really thought about it from the other side of the equation — that we have to have reps who are really engaged and willing to be coached.”

She went on to say that she’s going to pay more attention to her reps’ attitudes towards coaching and be more deliberate about working on rep engagement over the next few months.

We then chatted a bit about what rep engagement looked like and effective strategies for improving engagement. I mentioned five strategies that participants in my workshops and webinars say have worked for them:

1. Focus more on the big picture. Link the work of your sales team to the goals of the company and the impact of your offerings on customers. Everyone does better and can make better choices when they understand how their work fits into a larger picture.

2. Demonstrate why high achievement is needed. Share the current status of your team’s results and describe the current annual or semi-annual goals. Similar to the previous strategy, explain how your team’s ability to achieve its targets will contribute to your department’s or company’s yearly goals. Do this at both a team level and for each individual when working with reps one-on-one.

3. Establish the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for each person. Few people are altruistic enough that the first two strategies will be sufficient motivation for them to keep striving to improve and achieve. We have more incentive to engage in our work if we understand how our personal goals link to the work of the business. Since each individual is unique, you’ll need to talk with each rep to determine what it is they want to achieve with their professional life, then show them how those achievements tie into the team’s and organization’s goals.

4. Get each rep more involved at the team level. Strategy #3 focuses on what each individual can personally get out of continued improvement; this strategy is meant to increase each rep’s commitment to their team as a whole. Anything you can do to get an individual to care about and pay attention to team performance is fair game here. For example, have more-senior reps develop a sales playbook for the team; involve all reps in the hiring process (meeting candidates, doing ride-alongs); celebrate team achievements, not just individual ones.

5. Demonstrate your commitment and support for your team. Engagement is a two-way street. You can’t just say you want the team to succeed; you have to manage your schedule so you have time to work with each rep on their professional development and skill improvement. If you don’t demonstrate your support and commitment to your team members through your actions, they will disengage quickly.

Kevin F. Davis shares practical solutions to the most challenging issues that frontline sales managers struggle with every day. Kevin blogs on methods for everything from leading, coaching, and managing priorities, to hiring, forecasting, and driving rep accountability. Kevin is the president of TopLine Leadership, Inc., and the author of the new book, “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness.” Find his blogs and articles at TopLineLeadership.com/blog and kevinfdavis.com/blog

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