Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set!
Because I’m in the “Solution” business as a consultant I speak to sales leaders quite often who are having a rough go at leading their sales teams. So, you can imagine this time of year I’m fortunately or unfortunately reached out to too share my thoughts on what could have been done differently this past year to achieve team sales success. My modus operandi has always been to ask few but specific questions…and listen more. At times I frustrate the heck out of my clients because they expect this magical wisdom to come out of my mouth and provide them these innovative/disruptive jewels that will turnaround their career….I purposely don’t provide that gift even during this time of year. Not that I have all the answers they’re looking for, I pretty much convince them that they do they just choose to ignore them. The session typically starts out by asking them “HOW” do they lead their salespeople, and on the surface it seems like a normal simple question right? Nope, the answers are all over the place and I’m not specifically requiring a right answer…just a cogent one. The consistent and I might add typical uninspiring answer I receive is “I provide my people specific direction and support to be successful in executing their job”, that was verbatim from a client. Now, looking at that answer I’m sure many of you are saying to yourself “makes perfect sense to me” and I can’t argue with that because from a textbook definition it makes sense to me as well. However, it doesn’t inspire an ant. Isn’t giving specific direction and providing support a requirement of the job? Does that differentiate a “Good Sales Leader” from a “Great Sales Leader”? Leading Sales People…takes a different skill set! An ability to inspire people to leap over and beyond their expectations is what separates the good from the great. This is why I continue to argue that your best salespeople are NOT your best sales leaders. Yes, you read correctly your best individual salespeople are not your best sales leaders. I can emphatically say that because many organizations prematurely place their best salespeople in leadership sales positions without the adequate development prior, as if somehow thinking the talent will ooze from their pores into the pores of their salespeople. There have been cases where successful salespeople have been great sales leaders but it took a lot of deprogramming. One of my mantras and I’ve stuck by it my entire career is “When leading a global sales organization there are 3 behaviors required: “Humility”, “The willingness to be EDUCATED while EDUCATING”, and embracing “DIVERSITY”. As a successful salesperson entering into the wonderful world of sales management it took me a long time to let go of my ego and hubris to become a successful sales leader…along the way however it was h*ll.
Why do you have to be “SPECIAL”?
I think in order to be a “GREAT” sales leader you have to have special skills in order to lead salespeople. Let’s agree salespeople are a different breed of species (haha!!), and speaking as someone who has been in the sales business for most of my life….we’re NOT easy people to deal with. I hear the stories from sales leaders and I think the reason why they’re comfortable speaking with me about the things they go through is because I’ve experienced them. In any role where you’re leading human beings you are going to have at least one episode of heartburn, and if you don’t you’re not leading. Salespeople can be arrogant, narcissistic, prima donnas, and also wonderfully loyal if lead correctly. “Special Skills” are developed over time and companies that are patient and have thorough “Succession Planning” and “Development Programs” in place I’ve found to have the best sales leaders in place, and conversely higher sales profits. Below I’ve outlined 5 metric points that most special sales leaders have that distinguishes them from the pack:
1. FORGE A PARTNERSHIP
- Build an “acumen” understanding of direct reports.
- Demonstrate consistency in your words and actions as the leader.
- Be fair but stern: Treat everyone with respect and demand excellence of performance. Everyone will be evaluated based on their performance and competency.
2. INSPIRE COMMITMENT
- Ensure that “Development” is a focus on every work-session.
- Ensure Development options for “ready now employees”.
- Track and Sustain Progress.
3. GROW SKILLS
- Create an effective learning environment.
- Coach Plans will be done after each work-session.
- Ensure learning opportunities exist on every one-on-one.
4. PROMOTE PERSISTENCE
- Ensure the team remains focus on executing our sales objectives/goals.
- Ensure feedback is consistent and has high impact.
5. SHAPE THE ENVIRONMENT
- Be a powerful role model for development
- Align organizational polices and processes with coaching and development
Finally, the 4 key principles to leading a sales team successfully are:
- Individuals will have the opportunity to improve and capitalize on their developmental competencies.
- Sales Development will help define specific action steps designed to help pull-through competencies in the field.
- Training will have an unwavering monitoring process designed to review training initiatives and identify skill competency gaps.
- Partnership/Teamwork with Sales, Marketing, and Training will ensure individuals are impacted and fully competent in all 3 areas.
Having the thought process and temperature that “WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER” will not only solidify team energy…..it might just bestow on you that different “Special Skill Set!
Checkout my presentation on “Building A Global Sales Team For All Industries”: https://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/building-a-global-sales-team-for-all-industries
AH2 & Beyond Consulting