How to Transition from Sales into Sales Leadership
The talent pool for sales leadership comes from successful sales professionals. Organisations often reward excellence in selling by promotion into leadership roles. But, what’s missing is the realisation that different skill sets are required for selling vs. managing those who sell.
Building Skills to Become a Sales Leader
Sale leaders need to build on their understanding of the sales process by adding skills in developmental sales coaching. At Richardson Sales Performance, we define this as an effective and time-efficient incremental coaching process that achieves results and helps make sales professionals responsible for their own development. At its foundation, this involves a shift from being a boss who evaluates performance to becoming a coach who develops team members by empowering their own growth.
What I see most often in new sales leaders is a tendency to be driven solely by metrics. They focus on deliverables from their team: the number of sales calls made, reports filed on time and sales forecasts. These new leaders have been successful in the field, and they want to continue that success. What they don’t realise is their ability to achieve greater success rests with their capability to effectively manage their team. They need to develop their observation skills to assess how their people are doing and where they might need help. They need to recognise what’s going well, coach to verifiable outcomes and give constructive feedback to drive success for the individual, the team and the organisation.
Moving from individual contributor to sales leadership is all about collaboration and teamwork. And, the success of the team depends on the proficiency of each sales professional, and not everyone will be the same. There will be differences in styles, personality, tenure, product and industry knowledge and communication skills. Sales leaders need to understand the members of their team and provide coaching suited to the needs of the individual.
In talking with new sales leaders, I find that they are concerned about how to have the right kind of conversations with their team members. I tell them to focus on observable behaviours and metrics of success. These elements should be a part of the sales process, as verifiable outcomes for each step along the way. I also emphasise the value of tone and body language, which can either support or undermine what they’re saying.
Sales leaders need to guide their team by communicating in a spirit of collaboration. They need to tap into human nature because people appreciate recognition for their efforts, and others are inspired when they see the right behaviours being rewarded.
Leadership engagement is also key to motivating sales professionals. I see a definite difference in training workshops when senior leaders take the time to kick things off. They will stand before participants, recognising the talented group before them, talking about their value to the organisation and the investment that the company has in them. Those in the audience respond better over the next few days because they are engaged. They are motivated. They know that leadership supports their development and wants them to succeed. And, they take the lessons learned to heart and make them a part of their routine.
When leaders take the initiative in communicating with their teams, it flows through the organisation, opening channels and engaging more people.
The transition from sales to sales leadership can be a successful and rewarding endeavour. And, it works best when new leaders recognise the importance of their role in influencing human behaviour and understanding human nature in the process of achieving results through their people.
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