On a business level, this means ensuring your people have all the resources that they need to be successful and mitigating any obstacles that stand in the way.
On a personal level, it means taking the time to get inside the head of each member of your sales team to understand what is important to them and why. Do they value challenges? Do they look for recognition? Is being a part of a team important to them?
Getting to Know Your Team
We are all different, with different strengths, and motivated by different things. The more you, as a sales leader, get to know the individuals on your sales team, the more effective you can be in articulating and driving desired behaviors. Performance for the individual and the team should improve, with your organization — and the customer — benefiting in the process.
Consider this typical leadership scenario: the ride along. Ideally, the ride along presents a mutual learning opportunity in which sales leaders see first-hand how their team members pursue a prospect or interact with a client, and sales professionals gain constructive coaching and feedback from their leaders.
What happens too often, however, is the sales leader reacts instead of responding appropriately: “I can’t believe you said that in the meeting. What were you thinking?” Or, sales leaders will jump straight to their own preferred solution, providing an answer without asking the sales professional what they might have done differently.
The problem with reacting is tone, which sounds punitive. The problem with going straight to the solution, instead of having the sales professional work through the issue and come to his/her own conclusion, is you teach sales professionals to rely on your expertise rather than develop their own. They learn dependency, not proficiency. It’s the sales version of the old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.”
As leaders, we need to provide rich feedback to our team, take the time to understand what’s going on with each member, and foster collaboration in the spirit of wanting everyone to be successful. Not only do we need to communicate about desired behaviors, we need to redirect when behaviors are off-point. Just as important, we need to pay attention to tone of voice and body language so that what we say is received and understood in a positive way. Finally, we need to recognize people for what they’re doing well and the progress that they’re making.
Sales leaders who embrace their role as coach and champion of their sales teams become a multiplier of results, with each individual fully engaged and aligned with common goals. If sales leaders come to their role without the necessary skills required to lead people, and there is no sales training or development provided by their organization, they risk becoming disengaged and creating a dysfunctional sales team. That’s a problem that the sales leader’s own leadership should recognize and address, developing each layer of leadership to be able to articulate and coach to the kinds of behaviors necessary for the organization to reach its goals.
As said at the beginning, selling is a human activity, and sales leadership is the linchpin — an essential, coordinating element to focus every member on how to bring their best selves to the job.