Being a Sales Leader comes with a lot of pressures, pain points and stress. Being a great Sales Leader is even harder, but this role is so rewarding when done correctly and effectively.
Dr Phil Squire, CEO, Consalia started conducting initial research in 2010 with 150 Sales Leaders to define the mindsets and values they felt were required for sales leaders as opposed to salespeople. These mindsets and values are continually reassessed with new groups of managers joining the master’s programmes for relevance in the context of the world in which they work.
The research then suggested the following 5 values are critical:
Sales managers should have a vision for their team, ideally a purpose-driven vision that goes beyond just hitting the numbers. A vision describes the organisation’s long-term dream. A vision should stretch the team’s capabilities and image of itself. Visions can be inspirational and/or functional.
How many sales managers do this? Informal research at Consalia has shown that less than 10% of sales managers have a vision for their team.
It’s worth reflecting on Simon Sinek’s ‘golden circles'. Most companies on the planet, he argues, know what they do, some know how they do it, very few know why they do it.
It’s our experience that all sales managers know what their targets are, fewer have a plan on how to reach their targets – they just focus on the numbers – and even fewer managers could answer the question: why are ‘we’ doing what ‘we’ are doing?
Examples of a vision for sales managers include:
- to lead the team that others want to join
- be the benchmark that other teams use to gauge performance
- to be one of the top five districts in sales in the company
Desire to be the best
Sales managers should be driven by a desire to be the best: clearly those attracted to sales are competitive by nature, so being the best team performance-wise is key. Sales managers should set aspirational and clear targets and have the right performance measurement systems to get the best of their teams – focusing on leading, not lagging, indicators.
The desire to be the best goes well beyond sales performance. It’s about having a ‘growth’ mindset, a continuous desire to learn, to look for self-improvement and to encourage others to do the same.
It’s well known in sales that it’s the top-performing salespeople who tend to get promoted into sales management roles – often, in our experience, with very little training. Yet the roles could not be more different. It’s only natural that a super salesperson in a management role will be inclined to step in and take control of the sale, particularly at the end of the sales cycle. Empowerment has much to do with trust and providing the sales teams with the development required for them to do their job. It also requires having a professional coaching mindset. Empowerment mindsets accept that people may make mistakes and provide the psychological safety for salespeople to thrive.
In the ‘good old days’, life was more predictable; it might have been possible then to have multi-year business plans, but in today’s market there is so much more unpredictable change that to set long-term plans is dangerous. David Wilkinson has done much research into this. He argues in his book The Ambiguity Advantage that the ability to work with ambiguity is now the predominant trait required of CEOs.
Who would have anticipated the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on global business in 2020? Who anticipated the impact of the global financial crash in 2008? Who can anticipate the impact that new challenger brands and disrupters will have in the marketplace?
How to live and thrive with ambiguity is a mindset, a state of mind. Some can deal with ambiguity well; others cannot function in a less structured environment. Given the context of change, the ability of managers to reflect in action, on action and for action to make considered and informed decisions quickly is arguably one of the most important competencies for sales management.
Finally, it’s the mindset of a great sales leader that looks for the potential in people, that spots those with the right attitude, that likes the challenge of, say, taking an underperforming team and believing that teams can be ‘changed’ or developed to realise higher levels of performance. Or take an underperforming salesperson and find ways to unlock their potential. Those with this mindset are prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt. The impact that managers can have in giving people self-belief can be quite profound.
To find out how these 5 values are linked with Sales Management Systems and Coaching, then follow the link to Selling Transformed, written by Dr. Phil Squire, CEO Consalia. In this book it expands on the ideas mentioned above and provides fresh, tangible ideas on how to develop better sales practices. Focusing as much on the customers as on the sellers. It even includes real life case studies where these ideas have been put into practice.