How to identify (or be) a great sales leader

April 24, 2017 Kyle Parrish

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Decades ago, sales was done as a relationship sale – over dinner or drinks (or both). You met with the same person over and over again, because you had an actual relationship with him. Talking face-to-face with a salesperson was also the only way to get deep information about a product. Today, that isn’t the case anymore because, well – the Internet.

Now, almost 60% of the sales cycle is complete by the time that a prospect actually reaches out to a sales person. This makes the last 40% of the sales cycle that much more important. Sales managers have had to adapt to address the fact that sales people need to be much more consultative, adding value beyond what people can find online – and so do the reps.

Long gone are the days where sales managers can sit in their office and look at activity reports and manage from afar. Today’s exemplary sales managers are in the trenches, elbow to elbow with their team. They coach and mentor – they don’t just manage. Here are four of my secrets for finding the best sales leaders.

Sales managers have completely different qualities than great reps

Maybe one of the biggest fallacies in business is that a good salesperson can just turn into a good manager of sales. I recently wrote a blog post about why that’s not always true. Great salespeople have the gift of being selfish with their time (a great quality in a rep), while great sales managers are the polar opposite. Great managers must be available and want to help others get better at their jobs. They are the ones knocking down barriers – they are coaches and mentors, not just managers.

Great managers know how to hire the right people

To build and maintain a stellar team, you need to spend equal effort hiring the right people and making sure they have the support they need to succeed once they’ve started.

I could write an entire blog post (or book) on this subject. Of course candidates need to have the right skills and experience, but the biggest indicator for me in identifying talent is drive. Drive encompasses motivation, ambition, and enthusiasm for the job, all in one. It’s hard to get a sense of drive in an interview. So, go ahead and ask the question “What drives you?” See what answer you get.

Once you have highly motivated people on your team, you need to keep them. Remember that this is business, but the people are the ones that make the business work in sales, so it has to be human too. Not only do reps need technology resources, they also need continuous coaching and mentorship. Even the best sales reps still need assistance, either with customer deals or with internal deals. Making sure they are supported in those (sometimes difficult) situations goes a long way to show that you’ve got their back.

Great managers are great coaches

The best leaders will do whatever the team needs. I’m not sure if you’d call it a methodology, but I adhere to the Situational Leadership model. Every account executive has his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses, and training based on those skills is by far the best way that I’ve experienced being a successful coach. Not only should you focus on the reps’ unique struggles, but also take time to talk about selling situation. Coaching moments can be found around personal traits but also different selling conditions.

Great managers collaborate

This is relevant for every sales leader, but I have been thinking about this more since I’ve taken over responsibility for sales and marketing. Alignment around a common goal is what I have been implementing across sales and marketing. It sounds simple, but in practice it can be hard to do.

The two teams have very different measures for success, but they both deeply care about the overall and eventual success of the company. Rallying around that is the place to start. In general, I’m a fan of finding shared goals. If everyone is driving towards the same thing, it makes it that much easier to extend a helping hand and creates a better sense of camaraderie.

Sales can certainly be one of those professions where it’s every person for themselves but if you create a culture where the team goal is also important, you get better collaboration and everyone is happy when someone closes a deal, not mad that they just got knocked off the top of the leader board.

Overall, leadership is about more than just managing. It’s about serving as a role model, continuously coaching your reps, and motivating each person to strive for success.

 

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