Being a great sales leader is complex and subtle, and requires you to wear many hats. You have to be a trainer, supervisor, organizer, and motivator, among countless other functions. There are a few key qualities that all outstanding sales managers share; if you consistently achieve these goalposts, you will have a well-trained, efficient, and enthusiastic sales team on your hands.
It may seem obvious, but this essential element of the managerial role is overlooked in about 50% of cases! Good sales leaders know the importance of giving their reps thorough training. (Check out 5 creative sales training strategies you can implement today!) They do not expect reps to just learn on the job. Attention can be a valuable asset to any manager who understands the importance of training but wants to save time!
The most important part of training your reps is keeping track of their progress and giving feedback to help them improve and meet their goals. Try to only give one or two important pieces of feedback at a time, and have them focus on it before the next one-on-one. Almost all leaders fall into the trap of overloading their teams with feedback and information.
Demonstrate that you have respect for your reps. Don’t be the authoritarian, micro-managing leader we’ve all been exposed to. Make sure your team knows you are there to help them meet their goals, not to force them to do things.
Keeping energy and motivation levels high is an indispensable part of running a sales team. Do everything you can to energize your reps and keep them on the ball by being positive, creating a fun, high-energy environment, and giving them incentives and prizes to work towards.
Many sales managers don’t know how to prioritize and prioritize their reps’ time, which is their (and your) most important asset. You want to focus on those actions that are proven to lead to results and cut down all other activities as much as possible.
Another big time-saver down the line is knowing how to recruit the best reps out there. There are many things you can look out for in a potential hire (link) but ambition and coachability should be top of the list. If a recruit sets ambitious goals, is determined to meet them, and is able to learn and adjust to feedback quickly, hold on to them! It is also an unfortunate necessity to weed out those candidates who do not have these traits, for they can end up costing you a huge amount of time and effort.
Training is not worthwhile unless it is quantifiable, and progress can be measured. You can be as creative as you like, but at the end of the day, you need to track results. Your reps need to set process-based goals and keep track of their own progress. Attention can help you do this by tracking your performance on a variety of different metrics.
Good leaders focus on the positive in any situation. Research has shown that people respond far better to positive feedback than negative in general, and it has a much greater impact on their performance. A good practice to develop is called praise sandwiching. If you have negative feedback to deliver, try ‘sandwiching’ it by prefacing and following it with positive comments about something the rep did well. Encouragement is the name of the game! Make your reps feel that their wins will not go unnoticed or uncelebrated, and take time to publicly acknowledge them (in a way that is tactful to other reps).
You can’t have a great team if they don’t know how to close, and you should never leave this step of the process up to chance. Part of your training process should be devoted specifically to this crucial skill. You can have reps role-play situations where they have to close a deal. You should also ensure they have an arsenal of closing questions ready at all times.
A great leader inspires by sharing stories and by recognizing team members’ potential and celebrating it. If you show your reps that they can be stars and you believe in them, they will often go above and beyond to prove them right.
The very worst kinds of managers are those who never admit they are wrong and blame their reps for failings they played a role in. If this is you… well, hopefully it’s not because these sales leaders are on track for frustration and failure. One practice that can help gain your team’s trust is to be the first to admit when you were wrong about something, to hold yourself to the same standards as your reps, and to lead by example. If a rep fills in part due to a flaw in their training, take the blame!
Gone are the days of cutthroat competition between reps! This sort of Darwinistic atmosphere we see in 80s movies can be very demoralizing and lead to your reps cutting corners or being dishonest to win. Build the kind of environment where team members support each other, coach each other and celebrate each other’s wins. A bit of friendly competition can be introduced too, through games during training but camaraderie should always prevail!
Good sales leaders know one of the keys to a successful sales organization is momentum. This is achieved by minimizing the time between different activities and making sure your reps always have complete clarity about the next step they should be completing and the confidence to jump right in.
Great managers believe in systems. This does not mean you can’t leave any space for spontaneity or individual talent, but these systems provide a framework for talent to develop and flourish. Most importantly, an effective system produces consistent results, which is what you are always looking for as a sales leader. Honing your sales pipeline to perfection is a fantastic way to build systems!
One of the hallmarks of a standout sales team is that all the members feel comfortable communicating honestly with their manager. This means they can open up to their sales leader about failures and frustrations, or even just share small or big wins! Creating this open line of communication is instrumental in being able to diagnose and analyze your team’s results and setbacks.
The best sales leaders offer their team members the opportunity to learn and grow. They are mindful of how their reps are performing and provide support for the people they work with. This creates a culture where success can flourish. To become a great leader who makes an impact both inside and outside your company's walls, consider these 15 things that top-notch sales professionals do every day. Which one will you implement today?
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