Job #1 as a Sales Leader: Developing Your People
In my previous post, Why is sales leadership so tough? And what to do about it, I talked about devoting 60% of your time as a sales leader to developing your people. Now I want talk in more detail about what this entails.
- Be the boss you wish you had
Just about every person I talk to has a story about a bad boss. For me, it was a senior leader at a company I worked for years ago. He was the nicest person to you in public, but when alone with him, he became someone else entirely. He would chew you up and spit you out without hesitation. What I learned from him is that I never want to be that kind of boss. He was the anti-boss, and I decided to be the opposite.
- Manage up or manage out
Your sales professionals need several things to improve their performance. They need training. They need ongoing coaching. They need to be measured. If a seller continues to fall short—if you know and they know they aren’t going to make it—cut them loose. This is one area where sales leaders tend to let things slide. But keeping an obvious non-performer undermines your efforts with the entire team. The top performers are self-motivated enough to continue on their path, but middle performers are likely to wander off track if they see no repercussions for non-performance.
- Plan your time well
To commit 60% of your time to developing your people, you have to carefully plan your days. You have to figure out what actions you need to take, how frequently, how long everything will take, and then develop a regular cadence. How often will you coach sales managers one on one? Will you be going on sales calls with sellers? What this 60% looks like will depend on the company you work for and the product or service you sell. There is no one right answer, so make it right for you.
- Stop talking
When you go on sales calls with your people, don’t take over the meeting. Let them run the show. It’s best to prepare before the meeting by asking them, “What do you want me to talk about? How can I add value?” When you interrupt your sales professionals, or correct them, or hijack the conversation, you diminish their credibility with customers.
- Think about your people
Whether you’re attending customer meetings, holding a group coaching session, or having one-on-one meetings, you need to be aware of what’s going on with each of your people. Whether you’re a sales manager or a senior vice president, being an effective leader means taking a thoughtful approach to each individual on your team. This is how you bring out the best in every person and help them develop the necessary skills and behaviors to be successful.
Develop an Empowered and Motivated Team
At the beginning of every coaching session I facilitate, I ask participants to think about the best boss they have ever had. I use this exercise because it makes people think about what inspires them. Time and again, what they liked and want is the ability to say to their boss,
“Tell me what you need me to do, then leave me alone and let me do it. Trust me enough to get the job done, and I’ll come seek your counsel when I need it, because I know you’re always going to be there for me. Just let me go, don’t micromanage me, and I’ll do the best for you that I can.”
If your people are asking for this kind of responsibility and accountability, then you know you’re making progress with Job #1 for sales leaders, developing your people.