Great sales leaders know there’s more to the job than meets the eye. Success in such a complicated and high-pressure leadership position requires a lot of discipline, diligence, and savvy.
The best sales leaders follow these 8 best practices:
1. They seek input from salespeople about their quotas
The quickest way to upset any sales team anywhere is to mess with pay plans. An abrupt change in a pay plan creates a distraction from results-oriented behaviors. If you decide one day to adjust, reduce, make changes, or otherwise alter a pay plan without being very intentional about it, problems will arise.
Instead of making unannounced changes, great sales leaders get support and suggestions from their team. Begin to make your changes by asking for input. Don’t ignore your team when it comes to their pay. They may have some great ideas.
2. They provide organized sales skills training for sales reps—regardless of experience
Unfortunately, many managers believe that people who have a few years of selling experience don’t need any training. The truth is that everyone – regardless of experience or age – needs a refresher course every now and then. Sales skills are always evolving and require constant refinement.
Ironically, it’s often the experienced “old pros” who really know the least. In many cases they have built their book of business based on relationships and being “professional visitors” and could really benefit from sharpening their skill sets. Too often, a seasoned salesperson will simply rely on outdated selling techniques that don’t cut it with today’s sophisticated buyers.
3. They focus on “in-process measurement” rather than waiting for “end-process assessment” when evaluating salespeople
Measuring performance based on pure sales results alone won’t tell you where a salesperson needs to improve or what behaviors drove the numbers. It’s harder to measure performance throughout the sales process, but doing so will give you a great deal more insight into your team’s ability. It will tell you exactly where improvement needs to be made.
Every member of your team is better in some steps of a sale than in others. Thoroughly understand where those skill sets lie (and where they don’t). Then, you can more effectively coach your team in-process and see the benefits demonstrated in your end-process metrics.
4. They free their salespeople to finalize their own transactions
The best sales leaders recognize the importance of “teaching a man to sell so he can eat for a lifetime.” However, others don’t permit their sales reps to complete transactions. Salespeople must have the ability to usher a sale from beginning to end.
Simply put, learn how to manage (and coach) in the field and determine the point at which salespeople must carry the ball themselves.
5. They institute a sales process and coach within that system
The best sales leaders understand that salespeople who want to consistently make more sales with less effort follow a linked, sequential sales process that leads to completely resistance-free sales. Research clearly shows that using a repeatable sales process improves performance levels.
When everyone on a sales team follows the same process, wonderful things occur. For example, it leads to the ability to have consistent handling of prospects, the capacity to seamlessly transfer accounts or salespeople, and the existence of a “common language.”
6. They pay attention to every member of their sales organization
In many organizations, sales leaders find themselves spending all of their time working with sub-par performers and ignoring top-tier contributors. It’s easy to get dragged down into the muck of helping the poorest performers, but the highest returns come from working with the best on your team.
Top performers want your attention. They want to be told they’re successful and coached to improve. They need you to help them get better. You will see greater impact from your efforts spent coaching your “A” and “B” players than you will with your “C” and “D” players.
7. They understand the importance of selling AND leading
Sales Leaders have to spend time “in the trenches” with members of their teams. Without that credibility, leaders find themselves in positions of weakness. It becomes difficult not getting bogged-down in administrative or managerial paperwork, but it is essential that you keep one foot in the fire in order to accomplish two things: First, you will gain credibility with your team. Second, you will have a better idea about the challenges they face.
You must also fulfill your role as Leader, don’t forsake it. After all, it is what you were hired to do! For many salespeople-turned-managers-turned-leaders, this is the biggest challenge. The requirements for successful sales leadership are completely different from those for success in sales. Before accepting a position as a leader, it is important for all candidates to seriously consider the complete change in function.
8. They understand and encourage the individual differences within sales teams
People are unique. You know that. Treat your team that way. We all have individual strengths and we all have individual weaknesses. Capitalize on the former to cover for the latter.
A team is strong because of the individuals that make it up. The best sales organizations are the ones that understand the different skills and abilities members of their teams bring to the table and then call on those skills when they’re needed.
Follow these best practices for sales leaders and you'll be on your way to improving the performance of your team.
Join us at our upcoming Sales Management Symposium to learn more easy-to-implement strategies and tactics for leading and coaching an elite sales team.