Al’s Column: Turning good leaders into great ones

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August 14/21, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 5

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Does your retail flooring store have an effective sales manager? The most important ‘product’ a company owns is its employees. Unfortunately, many store owners spend more time worrying about the merchandise they’re buying than their employees. With TISE on the horizon, this is the perfect time to engage your sales managers into learning new skills and get them motivated and evolve from “good” to “great.”

Coaching is taking on a new face as our team members get younger. The millenniums are constantly engaged in learning through YouTube and other online outlets, and many have entrepreneurial goals. They are used to learning on their own and finding information. Without a good manager/coaching program, they are likely to get bored and seek other employers.

Under the old model, the sales manager was tasked with making the numbers and improving the bottom line. As I remember, employees either got better or were shipped out. The process of “firing and rehiring” is expensive and time-consuming, but a manager with good coaching skills can make the team much smarter so they can take on higher-level tasks. Remember, this is a generation that has been taught to be investigative and has a wealth of online skills.

A great sales manager is one who can move the sales needle, but in order to do this; they have to be more than a sales manager. They need to have coaching skills. Instead of just reaching store numbers, coach develops a strategic plan and goals with the salesperson, so they can reach their goals as well as improving the overall profitability. The key is to motivate your employees to want to learn and get smarter.

Through the years, coaching has been reserved for executives as a way for them to be more effective and connected to their employees. This same process can have amazing results for sales managers. Sales managers are a great resource but are often outstanding salespeople who have been promoted to a managerial position. Unfortunately, the skills don’t necessarily transfer. Great salespeople have a personal need to achieve and make money; this skill rarely translates into improving the team. In fact, they usually still have a need to compete, which can demoralize and defeat the rest of the team.

There are some stores that have embraced coaching. As Brian Witkin, executive vice president of sales of New Jersey-based Avalon Flooring, puts it: “We are committed to ongoing training and coaching of our sales team from our new hire training program, advanced sales and product training to various additional programs throughout the year. Our store managers follow up and coach their team at the store both in a group and individually, which reinforces the behavior we are driving. I see the results in both the confidence of our sales associates and ultimately their sales performance.”

Managers get results and are always attached to the numbers. A coach gets results and helps the person develop tools to grow. Over the long term, this growth will build stronger, engaged salespeople and make them better team members. To make this happen, your managers must have coaching skills. Coaching includes managing but managing doesn’t always include coaching. Coaching is not only a way to get results but also a means to groomp people to develop clear job goals and give them tools to reach their goals. This takes time but in the long run it helps retain great salespeople and turn them into high-volume producers.

Learn more about this topic during my talk, “The Coaching Edge: Building a Successful Team,” slated for Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2018, at 8 a.m. WE 04, Islander G., at Surfaces.


Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at

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