The Straightforward Truth About Effective Sales Leadership

When I was selling “in the field,” I noticed that the most effective sales leaders – the ones that really stood out and made me proud to work for them and the company – did a few key things the others simply didn’t do. Over the years, I’ve done my best to identify those top traits and integrate them into my own sales leadership style.

The following is a list of 5 things that I strive to do every day with energy and passion:

Coach Every Member of Your Team

Effective, consistent coaching should be the number one priority for all front-line sales managers.

Without the ability to address your team’s weaknesses and accelerate their strengths, you are simply leaving too much on the table in terms of productivity, job satisfaction, and growth.

The best sales leaders know this is one of the most rewarding activities you can do. It also helps you gain an intimate knowledge of the sales forecast, while detecting early warning signs for deals that may have problems or stall out later in the sales cycle.

There are two main types of coaching that I employ:

“In the field” sales coaching:

This involves jumping on calls and visiting clients with your reps.

“Scenario based” sales coaching:

This focuses on the specifics of a given deal during a pipeline review (role plays work well here).

Both are essential for reps improving their skills, and can really move the needle when applied as part of your regular coaching rhythm.

See how a VP Sales puts his team first: A Day in the Life of an Early-Stage, High-Growth VP Sales

Be The Voice For Your Team

A true sales leader will take accountability and become the voice of their team.

As their manager, your reps may naturally be more comfortable approaching you about help or issues with other parts of the organization. Whenever possible, you should encourage your team to forge these relationships directly to lessen their reliance on you, but sometimes that just isn’t practical or possible.

The best sales leaders will listen, say what needs to be said, and speak loudly on the issues that matter. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your team will begin to respect and follow you when they see you championing their cause, even if you don’t win every battle for them (which is good, because you probably won’t).

Inspire Your Team To Be Their Best

Your challenge as a sales leader is to ensure your sales reps operate as a 10, as often as possible, eventually causing them to redefine what “being a 10” really means.

As a sales leader, part of your job is hiring great people. It doesn’t do you any favors to bring on “projects,” or hang on to ineffective reps longer than you have to. It’s impossible to achieve world-class results if you don’t have the talent to succeed.

Even the best reps will operate within a comfort zone. While that may be an 8/10 on a 10-point scale for your stars, that still means there are days they will be 8s, and days they will be 10s.

Challenging your team will raise the bar over time, creating a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement and a sense of progression, even for your top performers. It may even help you identify who has the talent and potential to one day step into a sales leadership role themselves, and take your spot when you ultimately move onto your next challenge.

Be a Sounding Board

Sales is a tough job, and the day-to-day grind can take its toll on reps with even the thickest of skin.

Giving your reps the safety to vent about their problems and frustrations can go a long way in building their trust and letting them see you as a human being, not just a boss.

This also allows you to get to know your team better and determine what roadblocks are standing in the way of their success.

This is critical, because removing a single roadblock that impedes your team’s performance can be a major difference-maker when you extrapolate the productivity gain across the entire sales team.

Remember to keep an open mind and positive outlook, and try to think of these as information gathering and problem solving discussions as opposed to “gripe sessions.”

Embrace Transparency

Reps will naturally take coaching better from sales leaders who have their best interests at heart, and who genuinely care about their success.

The most effective sales leaders know and understand that transparency and honesty are the catalysts for building a great team.

Similarly, bad news is received much better when your team knows you took a big, politically dangerous ask to senior leadership. They’ll take your words of inspiration to heart, rather than simply writing them of as “management speak.”

And forget about open and honest dialogue with your reps if you aren’t reciprocating. Your reps won’t bother coming to you and will instead let issues fester, eroding the culture and trust that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

The Straightforward Truth About Effective Sales Leadership

Let’s be real. None of these items are particularly new or groundbreaking, like many things in sales and business – that’s exactly why they work.

When executed effectively, consistently, and with the best interests of your team at heart, these 5 things can make a big difference in terms of the overall satisfaction and performance of your team. Give them a try and incorporate them into your own sales leadership style today.

Dan Thompson is a proven sales leader with a passion for building and developing high-performing teams of trusted advisors and customer advocates. He believes in a team-first approach to exceeding revenue and growth targets, and fostering an environment that encourages collaboration, continuous improvement, and personal and professional achievement.

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