If you want a top performing sales organization, you need the consistent ability to coach and enable salespeople to success. Providing motivation is a component, but results come when your managers have a cadence that helps them minimize administrative burdens, while providing continuous and effective coaching that does one thing - delivers revenue and enables sales results.
Your managers are a pivotal part to the success over your sales organization. Here are the top sales leadership skills they need to develop and execute.
Top Sales Leadership Skills Managers Need to Develop and Execute
Don't Just Give the What, Provide the How
It doesn't do any good to have a team of sales managers that force tasks without explaining how to do them or more importantly, the value of doing them. One of the best sales leadership skills your managers can develop is the ability to consistently provide the how. Knowing where a sales rep is coming up short is one thing.
Effectively conveying how the rep needs to improve is another, and can often be a challenge for sales managers. Don't just tell your reps to have more meetings with the C-suite. Give them the tools, content and the skills to have high-level sales conversations that earn them those meetings.
Provide Effective Feedback
It's easy to see where a sales rep may need improving. However, the ability to provide direction that helps him/her clearly understand how to improve is a top sales leadership skill. The key to giving great feedback is to do it in a way that motivates and builds confidence. Here are some easy techniques to use in any feedback session:
- Have the rep first say what he/she did well and then where he/she needs to improve. Allowing them to go first helps you understand what think. Typically, the rep will also bring up those negative points which gives you the opportunity to coach instead of being critical.
- When you do have to speak about negatives, do it in terms of "what you would do differently". Focus on what the rep needs to do moving forward.
- Ensure there are clear action items at the end of the conversation. Again, don't just give the what. Provide the how.
Top sales leaders have the ability to demonstrate value and make any new initiative relative to the sales rep. Rolling out a new CRM system, a new sales process, even a new territory review cadence requires sales managers demonstrate why the change is relevant to what the reps are doing every day. They need to see the value in the change and understand what's in it for them.
Protect the Job
Bottom line, no matter the organization, sales reps are charged with one priority - sell more, faster. Arguably, the sales leadership skill with the most impact is the ability to protect the time salespeople need to sell. Assuming you have the right sales talent on board, the more time your salespeople can spend on building pipeline and move opportunities to closed-won deals, the more successful you're sales organization will be.
Demonstrate Desired Behaviors
The best sales leaders lead from the front. You can't tell people what to do and then leave for your 11am tee time. You need to demonstrate the behaviors you want in your sales organization. For example, if it's critically important that salespeople adopt a new methodology, you need to demonstrate how you are leveraging the methodology. Promote the content and inspect its use. Your managers will do the same and so will the reps. Remember, leadership cannot be delegated.
In First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham writes,
"The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he/she is while they are there is determined by the relationship with their immediate supervisor.”
Top sales leadership skills can be taught and learned, but ultimately it's owning the leadership and the critical role you have in the company that drives productivity and creates a culture of success.