LEADERSHIP SERIES: Research suggests that Sales Leadership is the difference maker between good performance and superior performance. And how sales leaders embrace five essential roles is critical to the success of their teams. We hope you find this series of short informal discussions around sales leadership useful and thought-provoking.
It’s no surprise to those already familiar with the world of sales, that the hallmark of a high-performing sales team or individual, is the quality of sales leadership. Whether it be the coaching ability, management approach or communication style of the sales manager, the role of sales leader has a direct impact on overall sales performance.
While this is true in organizations of all sizes, we have found that as teams grow and expand, the primary role of sales leader also shifts. We will examine five different positions that link most concretely to sales excellence depending on the size of the company, and the warning signs to watch out for that may indicate a team is in trouble.
Much like the system indicator lights in your automobile, these warning signs can provide early detection of issues that require attention before matters become more serious. It is up to you in how you respond to those warning signs. Just remember this colloquial saying: “if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you been getting.”
THE CEO’s ROLE IN BUILDING SALES EXCELLENCE
In a small to mid-size company the primary sales leader is often still the CEO. As CEO, you play the most essential role in setting the pace and standards for your sales organization. Your unique role includes:
- Establishing the vision for the sales team to deliver on your promise to the customer
- Selecting the right set of sales leaders to drive growth
- Connecting with your most important customers to ensure executive presence
- Motivating the sales and marketing organizations to communicate the value you bring to the marketplace
- Building a culture of accountability and superior sales performance throughout the sales organization
If catch yourself, or sense your team starting to lament any of the following, it might be time for a change to your training, or even your culture:
- Our sales department is a revolving door
- My sales managers are not strong enough – were good as salespeople but not as managers – I see too much weakness
- I feel like I have to do everything myself because I can’t rely on the sales leaders
- We are losing some of our biggest customers
- Other departments of the company have been developing processes for improvement, but not sales – it’s a missing link
- I need to hire a new Sales VP – not sure what I should be looking for
- Want to have a new “sales culture” – where do I begin?
- We need a new direction in order to accelerate growth – I’m in transition mode – we need a new mindset
- Our salespeople are primarily “relationship sellers” – don’t have any methodology or sales process to the business – we’re all over the board
Despite some of these warning signs, common reasons the CEO does not make a change sooner include ties to emotions of fear, anger or tiredness/frustration:
- Anger: It’s not my job to hire and train
- Fear: Board meeting will be critical, tough
- Fear: No Bonus
- Tired: I don’t have the time to do two jobs.
- Fear: My job is on the line.
- Frustration: Why is it so hard to find “A” players.
- Fear: My competitors are stealing my business.
A few simple, key principles to consider that can remedy a troubled sales environment in your organization are listed below. Pick 1 or 2 to focus on this quarter or year:
- Reward the behavior you want to get more of it. Whether it is better margins you seek, new accounts, more sales, etc…reward activity in that respective area and watch it increase. Failing to understand and integrate this simple, yet profound, concept into one’s management style is one of the biggest mistakes poor sales managers make.
- Resist the urge to do it yourself. While more time consuming upfront, it pays huge dividends in the long run to “teach a man to fish” rather than simply “giving the fish to him”.
- Continue to raise the bar for your sales team with new incentives, challenges, rewards and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
- Establish a common sales methodology to drive accountability in achieving sales goals.
- Energize your sales managers to become true sales leaders and assume ownership for superior execution with their sales teams.
Let us know in the comments below the challenges you face as a sales leader, or strategies you used to overcome those obstacles and develop a high-performing team.