By Jeff Beals
More than 50% of sales reps do not make their annual quota, and most businesses produce revenue well below their production capacity.
What does this tell us? We have a leadership void in the sales profession!
Good leadership is critical to success in any line of work. Just this week, I sat through a speech by Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great.” Collins argued that leadership is everything – that even in tough times and with scarce resources, great leaders can use dedication and fierce resolve to will their companies to success.
Sales departments are no different. They need leaders with fierce resolve. Leading a sales team is not rocket science but it is not easy. Great leaders are fixated on success and always finding ways to help their people be more successful.
Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower once described leadership as “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because (he or she) wants to do it.”
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done and his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”
But leaders also have to get results. The acclaimed management theorist, Peter Drucker once said, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”
Effective sales leaders drive revenue by empowering those who work with them to make decisions at the lowest level possible, while gathering and basing decisions upon quantitative facts which are interpreted and applied according to the leader’s experience and intuition.
That’s a mouthful, but what does it really mean? Sales leadership is a dichotomous endeavor. It requires you to balance seemingly contradictory things.
The 7 Dichotomies of Sales Leadership
- Sales leadership is both an art and a science.
- You must empower your people while requiring results.
- You must provide support while demanding accountability.
- You can’t allow staff to take advantage of you, but you should never lead by fear or intimidation.
- You must be a provider of data and forecasts as well as a teacher and counselor.
- You must be strategic and big-picture oriented but still accountable if your department allows details to fall through the cracks.
- You must produce impressive results while maintaining ethical standards.
How do sales leaders wrestle with these dichotomies and ultimately enjoy successful careers?
Strategy vs. Tactics
Effective sales leaders focus on developing strategy and casting vision. In order to do this, they must create rock-solid systems of organization within the sales department. It makes sense to automate as much of the process as possible. For that portion of the sales process that can’t be automated, you need talented, committed sales managers who can supervise daily tasks.
Hire the Right People
Speaking of Jim Collins, he is also known for saying, “Get the right people on the bus.” When hiring sales professionals, always look at their frequent past behavior. It’s the number-one indicator of future performance. Go deeper in your due diligence on each prospective employee.
Avoid being blinded by great talent. Just because someone is smart, extroverted and good-looking doesn’t mean they will do a good job of focusing on client value.
Put People First
Too many sales leaders barricade themselves behind closed office doors and barely glance away from their CRM screens. While keeping up a firm grasp on sales data is important, don’t be analytical at the expense of your people-oriented responsibilities.
Regarding CRMs, it is important to enforce policies and procedures requiring sales personnel to update client and account information. Obviously, the reports generated by CRM programs are only as good as the data entered. That said, sales leadership requires you to strike a balance – make sure your people use the CRM properly, but never make them feel that serving the CRM is more important than serving clients.
Power to the People
Great leaders never micro manage their people. Sure, they set expectations and demand that people perform, but they leave the “how” to individual sales reps. Want to know one of the most common reasons why leaders micromanage people? Managers feel intimidated. Don’t let your ego get the best of you. If your surround yourself with people who are smarter and more talented than you are, you will eventually succeed.
In the end, if you want to be a high-producing sales leader, find good people, figure out what motivates them, give them the preparation, tools and resources they need, stretch them beyond what they initially believe they can do and support them along the way.
If you do that, you will balance all the ambiguity and dichotomies that come with being a sales leader.
Jeff Beals shows you how to find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. Jeff is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.”
Here’s Why Should You Choose Jeff Beals as Your Next Speaker:
“Jeff Beals has presented four different topics at five of our internal events in 2016. At each event, the audience of commercial real estate principals and agents was completely engaged and motivated the entire time. Jeff facilitates his training sessions in such a way that each member of the audience was able to relate and understand how to apply it every day in the field. Jeff is brilliant, and we have hired him to continue speaking at our events in 2017!” – Lindsay Fierro, Senior Vice President, NAI Global, New York, NY
“Your workshop was a huge experience for our attendees by giving them the opportunity to improve their work in the critical environment in which we are living today. Your talent as a speaker and your qualities as a person made the difference during your time with us. I would certainly recommend you to anyone who asks.” – Ana Paula Costa, Educational Planner, Febracorp, Sao Paulo, Brazil
I’m in Phoenix and had breakfast earlier this morning with our semi-retired sales representative who is doing some continued work for us here. He attended your sales meeting last week and told me that in 43 years of selling, you were the best he had ever heard. Thanks for a great experience.” – Drew Vogel, President & CEO, Diamond Vogel Paints, Orange City, IA
“Our corporate partnership team had great takeaways regarding how to network smarter while also understanding the importance of our personal brand to current and prospective partners. Jeff does a great job weaving in real-world examples and how you can apply his teachings to growing your business and building long-term partnerships.” – Jason Booker, Senior Director of Corporate Sponsorships, The Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball Team