The Rise of the Modern Sales Leader
The role of the sales manager can vary depending on the organisation but to some degree it has always revolved around one thing – driving a team to meet the sales targets of the business through careful planning, budgeting and directing.
If we think about the traditional composition of a business, we see the sales manager standing towards the top of the pyramid. He/ she is the bridge between the top tier of directors and the bottom layer of frontline representatives. He/she was seen as the thinking head, directing the hands of the business.
However, this traditional business make-up no longer makes sense in the technologically advanced landscape organisations find themselves today. The evolution of sales, which has been fortified by the use of new technology, means that management is no longer an autocratic function carried out by a few. Thanks to things like data-driven selling and performance transparency, the function of managing is quickly becoming a process that can be led by all employees, not just the managers.
And so, the pyramid flattens, turning the core team into self-driven go-getters that have a clear vision of the business targets and enough authority to go after them in their own way.
The New Relationship between Sales Team & Modern Sales Leaders
So, let’s say modern technology automates the basic activities of a sales manager. Can an IT and data clad representative do without leadership? The answer is, absolutely not.
- Yes, technology can automate lead scoring
- Yes, technology can provide a solid knowledge base to feed the team
- Yes, technology can offer clarity into the state of the pipeline
But technology alone cannot refocus the energy and drive of an entire workforce. No matter how clever the tech and how willing the rep, a team without leadership is a team pulling in all different directions. And business 101 tells us this is a recipe for disaster.
I quite like the analogy of the sales leader seen as a sports coach. Think of all the great (well, and not so great) football teams out there. They’re made out of multiple players, some good, some stellar. They can all kick a ball, run for 90 minutes and have a very clear picture of the aim of the game – to put the said ball through the goalposts.
A sports coach stands on the side-lines, observing and learning from the team. Thanks to this outside view, the coach is able to work out everyone’s strong points, their weaknesses, the strategy of the opposing team and the cadence with which they are both playing the game. This clarity will help the team improve their own skills and the way in which they work with each other, placing the strongest players in the necessary places and removing any points of friction. Sounds pretty close to good sales management to me…
But what I like most about this analogy is that a good sports coach does not command a team but serve it. Come to the end of the season, if the expected results have not materialised, it’s typically the coach that gets the boot and not the team.
And so, the modern sales leader should see himself/herself in the same position. It no longer needs to direct but rather facilitate the work of his/her workforce.
New Technology and the Role of the Sales Manager
Emergence of new sales tools and applications is also vastly changing the day-to-day of sales management. The wide mix of CRM add-on products on offer means that you can easily mould your CRM system into a tool that will supercharge the sales process and results you desire.
In recent years, sales technology has advanced to offer sales management:
1. Better clarity into pipeline health:
2. More dialogue with the team:
Conversations are moving from siloed emails to company-wide social tools like Chatter or Slack, meaning that the entire team can instantly be informed of company news and updates.
3. Spotlight into trouble areas for reps:
That clarity into the health of our business can also highlight troubled areas for our reps, opening up training and coaching opportunities that will improve the overall quality of our workforce.
4. Early warning system for deal, customer & rep churn:
Thanks to granular insight like behavioural data, you can now pinpoint exactly when a deal, customer or rep is at the point of churn. This early warning system can help the manager course correct in good time, taking corrective action on deals, offering further training for a rep or special discounts or services for a customer.
5. View into gaps and possibilities for the business:
What resources can we spare? Where are we tight? Thanks to the new detailed insight, it’s easier to appreciate the gaps and possibilities an evolving business has developed over time.
6. Access from anywhere and at any time:
It’s safe to say that the days of 9-to-5 have passed. New technology is increasingly improving the mobility of the workforce, allowing reps to access their email, notes, calendar or contact list from anywhere and at any time. This enhances the quality of the data we have access to – as reps are able to immediately collaborate with each other or add data to the knowledge base as it’s available to them. It also allows leaders to manage even the most disparate teams.
Freed from typical people management duties, a sales leader’s time opens up, allowing for more efficient use of resources. With a team composed of self-served reps that have access to a strong collaborative network, can easily communicate back to HQ and have all the necessary insight at their fingertips, sales leaders can take a step back and revaluate their sales strategy.
Thanks to new technology and data, sales leaders can better serve their team, helping them to navigate the sales journey, providing clear direction and mentoring and discovering new ways to scale up the business, making sturdy decisions based on solid business insight.