It’s not uncommon practice to attempt a boost in sales performance by overloading a sales team with sales enablement, training programmes and incentives. But the fact remains that selling is about people and the indisputable asset necessary to help a sales force be truly successful is a good sales manager.
Sales leaders are key drivers in achieving success in a sales organisation. If you don’t agree, let me ask you this – would you rather have a team of 5 stellar salespeople driven by one lousy leader (who’s going to stifle their growth, demotivate them and eventually cause high attrition) or have a team of 5 average sales reps led by an inspiring, talented and savvy leader who has the knack of getting the best out of people? I know what I would choose…
Only once you have a good sales leader in place, will you start reaping the benefits of your sales enablement programmes, your technology investment and your sacred sales methodology. But what skills make sales managers great team leaders?
Whether you’re a sales manager looking to upgrade to stellar status or you’re the CSO looking to build a strong sales army, here are the top 5 skills that make a strong leader:
1. Good sales leaders boast a strong business acumen:
The cut-throat environment sales leaders move in, requires strong business skills and stamina to achieve the set objectives. A good sales leader will be able to navigate the treacherous complexities of business strategies and be able to place precious resources on only the healthiest looking deals. Not only this, but good sales managers will teach their reps to do the same, enabling them to make wiser decisions, plan better, and effectively allocate their resources based on customer needs and growth potential.
2. Successful sales leaders are fanatical about data:
You can’t expect to lead your team successfully through changing buyer trends and business data if you’re unable to navigate through it yourself. Successful leaders keep a close eye on what is currently happening in the business, as well as using historical sales data to identify any trends taking shape. Only by keeping watch on the performance of their team and the health of the business, can a sales leader allocate resources towards the right deals.
Thanks to behavioural analytics tools like SuMo, sales leaders are now able to accurately predict which deals are destined to fail, which require most support and which are already set on the right path in order to hit the number. Becoming fixated on data will allow managers to place resources on only the deals that have a real possibility of closing, salvaging resources spent on doomed prospects, thus resulting in an increase in sales performance.
3. Savvy sales leaders are excellent sales coaches:
Sales and salespeople are changing. However, most businesses still expect their sales reps to hit their number on their own accord. Simply allocating a rep a target and then beating them down when they don’t reach it has never really worked. Leaders of successful teams have become adept at sales coaching, helping their team meet targets by supporting them at every turn of the sales process.
Every single sales rep can benefit from some form of coaching. Whether it’s finessing their phone manners or suggesting an alternative route to getting F2F with that C-level, no rep is too senior to benefit from the wise words of someone with a fresh perspective.
A sales manager with great coaching skills will not only see improved sales performance but will have better sales rep engagement, reduced turnover and improved job satisfaction. It’s a win/win!
4. Strong sales managers have strong leadership skills:
Sometimes, the main problem with sales managers is that they’re not natural leaders. They may have fallen into the role by being top salespeople and have taken the promotion with the best intentions but very little clue on how to actually manage a team.
Sales leaders require the ability to communicate, innovate, inspire and set the tone for the sales team, helping them to understand the vision of the organisation and paving the way towards their team member’s personal success.
A strong sales manager leads by example, listens to their team’s woes and feedback and continually rewards their hard work with positive recognition and interesting sales incentives.
5. Top sales managers don’t drop the sales performance ball:
If what you want is to really serve your team and increase business value, you must keep the sales performance heartbeat at a constant rate.
Many sales managers shy away from their performance responsibilities, turning a blind eye to those reps not hitting their numbers and not communicating openly with the team or their own supervisor. In the high-stakes world of sales, where you’re always expected to perform at the highest level, it can lead to a problematic culture of embellishment – we shout about the wins but brush our losses under the carpet. This fear of investigating failure will eventually suppress our growth, as we’re unable to learn from our personal mistakes and those of the rest of the team.
Harvest a safe and open environment where sales performance is transparent, wins are applauded and losses dissected. Don’t allow your core employees to sleep in the shadow of your top performers. The sales leader must continually raise the bar on team-wide performance to guarantee sustained business growth.
Now that we’ve outlined the essential skills of a successful sales leader, it’s time to meet the modern sales team. Spoiler alert: they know a thing or two about the new journey travelled by today’s buyer…