Are you a coach, a mentor, or a tormentor?


I heard a phrase the other day that stuck with me.

Is your sales manager a coach, a mentor, or a tormentor?

More importantly, as a sales manager yourself, do you regard yourself as a coach, mentor, or tormentor? I’m sure you don’t regard yourself as the latter, but do check with your people just in case.

Here’s a little checklist to test to see that you’re not tormenting your team.

  1. Do you promise to coach but frequently run out of time, or other priorities take precedence and you’re always apologetic?
  2. Do you find yourself managing your team purely through KPIs and other stats, and much of the time you just email them to your salesperson and ask for their comments?
  3. If a salesperson’s results are down, do you email them at the end of the week for a telephone conversation to talk about the numbers?
  4. Do you constantly promote competition amongst your sales team?
  5. In sales meetings do you find much of the time is spent with each salesperson talking about their week/month in sales?

Only a short questionnaire, but if you found yourself answering more of these with yes rather than no, then you may be deemed as a tormentor even though you had no intention of this whatsoever but just lack time.

the only problem with this is that I’ve been travelling on business since 1989 and consider myself a road warrior

Don’t double the self talk when coaching
Sometimes I think wives are also replacement mothers for their husbands. I know because my wife is. She cares so much, that when I’m away on a business trip, she’ll always keep reminding me:

“Don’t forget two shirts, underwear for three days. Remember to take your washbag. You forgot once, didn’t you? Alarm clocks, remember those, some nuts in the car in case you get hungry.”

The only problem with this is that I’ve been travelling on business since 1989 and consider myself a road warrior, so I have my own routines and schedules to ensure I remember things. I say to myself things like:

“Okay, Paul, you’re away three nights, so that’s three shirts plus ties, belt, two suits, washbag. Put something to eat in the car in case…”

And hey, presto, I’ve got two voices in my head. One from me and one from my “coach”, and I get all confused and mixed up with two voices talking to me from inside my head.

And as a coach, this is a dangerous place to be for your coachees and a prime reason why, as coaches, we mustn’t ever tell our coachees what to do. If we do, we’ll double their talk.

The best self-talk has to come from the coachee’s head in their own voice. So, when coaching, just make sure you ask questions that encourage them to figure things out, to work out the answers. Don’t put “tells” into their head; just ask questions to help them create the inner dialogue. That way they’ll only have one voice, not yours, ringing in their heads.

And that’s what I have, my wife’s voice ringing in my head as I leave, which is wonderful really because I know she cares. Well, I think she cares. She does rather like it when I’m away. The house seems to run much smoother when I’m not there. Maybe she just likes giving me advice when I go away to encourage me to be away a whole lot more. Hmmm, I wonder…

Coaching and your Satnav (GPS)
With a family funeral in the New Forest, we had a need to travel the two-hour journey from Gloucestershire to Hampshire on many occasions. On one return journey, I asked my nineteen-year-old son if he felt comfortable to make the journey himself.

“I could, Dad, but I’d have to have a satnav (GPS).”

“Yes, Lewis, they do help enormously, but once upon a time we used to make journeys like this without them.”

“Like last century, Dad.”

We drifted back into silence, and I started to think about what would happen if we didn’t have satellite navigation in our cars.

And that made me think because not so long ago, I would use Google Maps to plot my route and imagine it through in my head, making a mental note of junctions and directions. When I was on the road, I would relate my previous thinking to the current route, checking road signs and keeping an eye on my milometer and the time.

We were much more focused on the actual route and concentrated more.

And we’d arrive safely enough with a copy of the map on the passenger seat just in case.

I thought to myself that satnavs replace all of this. They make us lazy, reliant on others, i.e. the software, and we have no ownership of the route.

In the same way, this is exactly what sales coaching does. As coaches, we ask questions and help our coachees to think things through in the same way we’d think through the route the night before. We don’t tell the coachees what to do and how to do it. We help them figure it out and own the final solution. Satnavs tell us what to do, and we become so reliant on them.

How awful would it be if the satnav stopped working in mid-flight? How would we cope?

Lewis asked me that same question, and my horrific response motivated me to buy a £2.99 map-book at my next petrol stop.


About Author

Paul Archer is the founder and Managing Director of Archer Training Ltd, a specialist training provider that brings practical sales and coaching skills to financial services firms. Paul has published 8 books and is a regular blogger and YouTuber - and can be contacted at

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