By Jeff Beals
Leading a sales team is not easy. Consider these scenarios based on true stories:
Your sales team is in the running for what would be the biggest contract in company history. You invest countless staff hours and other resources to win the business. For a while, it looks promising. You build a trusting relationship with the primary decision maker and have demonstrated how your offering perfectly fits their need. The prospect starts using phrases like “When we work together…” and “You will be responsible for…” and “We really need you…” You now consider that decision maker to be a friend.
Then suddenly your main contact starts being vague and evasive and is slow in returning calls. Two weeks later, the decision maker, your new “buddy,” sheepishly tells you they chose a different provider. It makes no sense to you that the other company was chosen, because they don’t provide the things that the prospective client originally told you were the biggest priorities. You feel frustrated, defeated and misled. Worse yet, you were counting on that business and it vanished. You’re incredulous and wonder, “Why did they lie to me?”
It’s never easy to attract an elite sales rep from a competing company despite your non-stop recruiting efforts. You need a couple more sales reps but at least the ones you have are good especially, your top producer, Jim. It seems like there’s nothing Jim can’t do. Year after year, he breaks records. And he has such a great attitude!
Then one day without warning, Jim resigns to take a new sales position elsewhere. He thanks you for being a good leader and for providing the resources he needed to succeed over the past 10 years but says he needs a change. His decision is final. You never had a chance to make a case for him to stay. The pit in your stomach feels terrible. You and the rest of the leadership team talk and act as if there was a death in the family.
If you have been leading sales teams for any significant amount of time, these scenarios likely ring true. While sales is not rocket science, it’s not easy. One of the most important skills a sales leader can possess is the ability to bounce back when life punches you in the gut.
With all the emotional, high-risk/high-reward scenarios playing out each year and with so much riding on your ability to lead the sales process, how do you cope with disappointment? How do you cope with the pressure? How do you avoid burnout and stay motivated?
These ideas will help you keep it fresh and keep the completed deals flowing:
1. To cope with the inevitable rejection in a sales career, concentrate on your victories. Celebrate each one of them in your own way. Some people will tell you that if you simply expect success, you don’t need to celebrate victories. I disagree. Appreciate everything.
2. Keep in mind that selling is a noble profession. Without sales activity, the wheels of commerce grind to a halt. Your work creates jobs and feeds families. Sales is the lifeblood of your company. Without you and your team, there would be no company.
3. Remember that character is king. Focus on people – the hopes and dreams of the clients you serve and the real needs of the team members you lead. Draw inspiration and motivation from the people who surround you. When you remember that the things you sell have real impacts on real people, it helps you ride through the rough patches.
4. Embrace the competitive side of sales. Do you enjoy sports? If so, you probably love competing and watching other people compete. Sales is game. Try to accumulate little (and sometimes big) victories each day. Playing to win removes the drudgery of day-to-day work.
5. Take pride in your resilience. It feels good once you have successfully persevered through difficult times. Remember that feeling anytime you feel hopelessness and then do what it takes to feel that way again. Great leaders are resilient. Three of my favorite quotes from former British prime minister Winston Churchill will help your bolster your resilience:
- “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”
- “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
- “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”
6. Make it fun for both your team and yourself. Those who don’t ﬁnd ways to enjoy their work typically don’t survive long in a brutally competitive industry. Find the joyful and positive aspects of your work and focus on them.
7. Tell the truth even when it hurts. Integrity leads to success. You will be rewarded with high levels of client and employee retention.
8. And finally, as you sell today, imagine what your legacy will be years down the road. Your work in leading a sales team literally shapes the future. Isn’t that pretty important?
ATTENTION SALES LEADERS:
If you hold a leadership position in sales, I have the perfect resource to help you become even more successful!
It’s called the “Sales Leader Mastermind Group,” and it kicks off this fall. I will personally lead and facilitate this group along with my partner Beth Mastre. I’m recruiting members for it right now. There are four in-person meetings per year – All the other meetings are virtual, so you can join in no matter where in the world you might be. My mastermind group members will also have their own personal discussion forum.
Sales leadership can be a lonely existence. Joining this group will help you create a stronger sales culture, attract talented sales reps and drive more revenue while you better manage both your personal and professional life. Click here to see an info piece about this mastermind or contact me personally at (402) 510-7468.