What do the best sales organizations all have in common? The answer, along with a quality product or service and a defined sales process, is high-performing sales leaders. Great sales leaders not only have the power to generate top sales but should also inspire and coach the sales team.
A company with sales experts has a clear advantage in the marketplace. The quality of a sales organization is directly linked to the quality of sales leadership. While filling sales leadership roles with highly qualified personnel is essential, continuing education is also an important part of success in the long run.
Four Characteristics of Great Sales Leaders
Sales leaders come in all sorts. Successful people represent a wide range of personalities, political views, and personal values. What unifies sales leaders is their ability to close deals and guide others. This means that they are skilled at:
- thinking strategically
- identifying opportunity
- correcting problematic patterns
While sales leaders can be very different types of people, most of them share some key qualities.
1. Excellent Communication
One trait all great sales leaders share is having excellent communication skills. Communicating clearly and intelligently with customers is key to closing sales, but communicating well within one’s own team is also a part of lasting success.
The ability to communicate a company’s values and goals to the sales team in a way that is clear and motivating is a powerful tool. The best sales leaders invest in improving their communication skills through practice or outside training.
Being empathetic is an asset for a sales leader for several reasons. Whether it’s interacting with customers or their own sales team, building strong relationships is vital.
Can they put themselves in their team’s shoes? A sales rep who senses curiosity and an emotional connection to their problems will have a greater drive to succeed for your company. Likewise, empathy cultivates loyalty and strength within a sales team.
Adapting to change is part of life. It’s part of business too. A strong routine can streamline your day to day processes and make your business more efficient, but it isn’t always the answer.
Good sales leaders understand that change is frequently necessary. If sales goals aren’t being met, there are patterns that need to be corrected. If sales goals are being met, can they be improved? Looking for opportunities to increase sales means being open to the possibility of change
4. Coach Mentality
Perhaps the most defining aspect of a sales leader is their ability to lead. There is more than one way to lead, but the most effective sales leaders take on the mindset of a coach.
We all know there are good coaches and bad coaches, so what are the attributes of a good coach?
One is the ability to teach. A coach can design the best playbook in the sport, but if he or she can’t teach his players to execute the plays, then the team will not be effective or successful.
Another job of a coach is to inspire their team and build confidence. By listening to sales reps and guiding them to solutions instead of offering quick fixes, sales leaders can foster creativity and confidence in their team.
Seven Behaviors of Great Sales Leaders
What do sales leaders do? The best sales experts are able to motivate their sales team and are an essential leader for their organization. They are a driving force behind the company’s sales success and consistently strive for improvement.
Here’s how the best sales leaders fulfill the role:
1. Build Trust
For a sales leader to be a motivating factor for their sales team, they must fulfill the role of trusted advisor. A sales rep who believes a sales leader is concerned with their best interest is more likely to be inspired and driven. In order to build trust, honesty is the best policy. It’s easier to trust someone who is being direct and straightforward.
Along with being honest, it’s often best to focus on being helpful rather than disciplinary. A sales team that feels like their sales leader wants them to succeed will work harder for it. If you have a sales team that needs to be “managed”, you probably have the wrong people.
2. Set Goals
What does success look like? Motivated sales reps have clear goals to aim for. In addition to being clearly identified, goals need to toe the line between achievable and challenging. For obvious reasons, setting impossible goals will have an inverse effect on motivation. On the flip side, it’s important to outline goals that will push a sales team and drive them to make real improvements.
When setting goals, look for ways for your team to win daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually.
How you say?
Sales revenue booked or in the bank are results of what has been done in the past. Rather than measuring only trailing results, set goals for call, lead generation, discovery meetings, total pipeline, etc. These goals go to the furthest point upstream and will allow your team to win daily and drive better results.
3. Offer Recognition
Once trust has been built and goals have been set, it’s necessary to recognize achievement. The right rewards for sales reps who meet sales goals will motivate the entire team. There’s more than one way to provide recognition.
One method for arriving at the best way to motivate a team is simply to ask. What motivates them? What does a great reward look like?
Another way to help inspire the entire team is to use rewards that recognize the outstanding performance of one sales rep but reward the whole team. This is inspiring and encourages the sales team to help each other and work together.
Once you’ve decided on a reward system, make it public and well known to your sales team. Celebrate small victories and major accomplishments alike, depending on your team members. Rewards that are made in private do not motivate the entire team and can have the opposite effect.
4. Use Metrics to Drive Sales Strategy
Informed leadership is good leadership. Metrics and data can be instrumental in making sure a sales team is meeting sales targets. Great sales leaders use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress and improve the sales process. As mentioned earlier, these are the leading upstream indicators of future sales success.
5. Encourage Sharing
The best sales leaders are able to cultivate a culture of sharing. Sharing best practices elevates the performance of the entire sales team, but so does sharing mistakes and failures. A strong sales leader will share mistakes and the best ways to fix them. You can use real-time examples as they occur, and/or share examples from previous sales experiences.
6. Turn Failures into Learning Opportunities
Failures are a part of life. They are also a part of the learning process. What separates top sales experts from other sales reps is their habit of learning from mistakes. By not making the same mistake twice, and sharing the lesson learned with others, sales leaders make the entire sales organization stronger.
7. Invest in Education
There’s no way around it, being a great sales leader takes time and effort. While some people may be more naturally suited to the role, there isn’t a single leader who can’t improve. The best sales leaders realize this. An investment in continuing education is an investment in oneself and one that pays off dramatically.