Kristie's Blog

If Player/Coach was a Good Idea, Then the NFL Would be Doing It

If Player Coach was a Good Idea Then the NFL Would be Doing It

I regularly speak with founders that are looking to get out of the sales leadership role but can’t justify hiring someone who’s sole responsibility is to manage a group of SDRs (Sales Development Reps) or AEs (Account Executive). Instead, they’ve decided to add a quota carrying rep who will also play the role of sales leader. I cringe each time I hear this. Here’s why…

  • Motivation Misalignment – As this Bleacher Report article points out, “There are a number of great NFLplayers who have never decided to coach. There are also a great number of NFL coaches who never played a down in the NFL. But there are only so many NFL players who actually went on to become a NFL head coach.There is a reason why some people choose to lead people while others prefer to be an individual contributor (IC).
    • Leaders get their satisfaction from helping other succeed. They enjoy teaching, mentoring, counseling and sharing their knowledge with others to help them grow. They don’t mind the responsibility that comes with leading others such as making tough decisions, having difficult conversations, setting the strategic direction, and dealing with company politics.
    • Individual Contributors enjoy the freedom that comes from only focusing on themselves and what it will take to be successful. They develop a personal strategy that they feel will help them hit their quota and work to execute that strategy. They want to be included in discussions regarding the business but have no interest in setting the strategic direction or executing it. They are most often money motivated and understand they can make more money as an IC than their leader, if they hit quota.
  • Compensation Conundrum – The second issue I see Founders running into when they’re thinking about hiring a player/coach is how to compensate for a dual role.
    • Leaders are normally compensated based on the team’s performance. That could be based on the number of appointments an SDR team sets or the % of quota the AEs are hitting monthly or quarterly.
    • ICs are most likely compensated on a % of the revenue they sell and sometimes a quarterly or annual bonus.How do you compensate the player/coach in a way that encourages them to work hard to hit their quota and to coach and train the team they’re responsible for? At the end of the quarter when the sales leader is at 70% of quota and the team is at 80% of quota where will they decide to spend their time? Forcing the leader to choose which will best help the team or best help her personally is a lose / lose proposition for both.
    • Distraction – Having employees is a distraction for ICs. People are messy and a Player/Coach is usually “hired” to either work with new employees or struggling Reps., who are going to be needy. As an IC you have to prospect to fill your own funnel, work prospects through the sales cycle, and in some cases manage the account after it’s sold. It’s almost impossible to time block your day so that you take care of your personal priorities and only “manage” your employees during the time designated for management/training. When a new or struggling Rep. needs help they need it now. They don’t want to wait for “office hours.”

I know with a limited budget the idea of player/coach is enticing. Before you move forward to promote or hire someone to fill this role, spend time thinking about how the job would be structured and compensated. How will you deal with a player/coach who hits their quota, but the team only reaches 70% of their goal? Or the reverse situation? It may be better to hire an entry level sales leader to work with the newer or struggling Reps. while you continue to work with the more experienced Reps.

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