8 HATS OF GREAT SALES LEADERSHIP

6 Aug

8 hats

First off, I’m going to assume that you have a good product or service. I’m also going to assume that you have built an above average sales team. If you need help in that department, talk to our recruitment arm about helping you assess and hire the right team.

With the good company and team in place, here are the 8 most important hats of a sales leader:

1 – Teacher

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Poor managers exist because they don’t teach, mentor or coach their salespeople. A sales leader doesn’t become great if they don’t pass on their knowledge. None of the other hats really matter without a focus on improving the abilities of your employees. The entire concept of great leaders or teachers being born is baloney. They may have predispositions at birth and nurturing households that advance their abilities; but everyone can learn to be a great teacher. Great teachers listen and give their employees one on one time for learning. Great teachers make sure everyone remembers the lesson a week later. Great teachers measure and challenge their employees individually. Great teachers give time. Research and read about the three different learning styles: (1) visual (2) auditory and (3) kinesthetic/tactile – and adapt your lessons accordingly. Regardless of your natural ability, you can still learn to become an even better teacher.

2 – Math Wizard

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The information that you can collect from your sales team’s activity and from your customers will predict the future. Understand your metrics! You are the one person on the sales team that should see into next quarter. You are supposed to be the calmest person in the room when “surprises” arise.

Great math wizards continually poll their customers and understand their satisfaction level along with the wants and needs of the end customer. Data collection and analysis exposes trends and opportunities that will guide the direction of your sales force. I’m tired of companies with R&D departments that are completely separate from and not continually communicating with the salespeople. Your sales team is talking to your prospects and customers every day. Are they asking questions and collecting this information so that you can see it? Are you doing something with the information your customers are sharing? Don’t be the dope that polls your customers and then leaves the data sitting for six months before you go back and do something about it. Here’s a link to “18 Awesome Survey & Poll Apps”: http://web.appstorm.net/roundups/18-awesome-survey-poll-apps/

Even more important than customer data are the metrics surrounding sales & marketing activity:

  • What sources are providing the most inbound or outbound leads?
  • What is the cost per lead?
  • How many times does your salesperson have to send emails or make calls to turn a suspect into a prospect?
  • How many times do they have to talk to suspects before it becomes a meeting?
  • How long does it take to convert an early prospect to a meeting to a close?
  • How many meetings does it take to become a proposal opportunity?
  • How many proposals are closed?

Additionally, there are probably more metrics unique to your process and industry that you should be analyzing.  These numbers have everything to do with your odds as prospects move down the sales funnel. These metrics need to be broken down for everyone in the sales team and continually shared with everyone in the company. Recognition should be given to the high performers and in turn, their skills and knowledge are taught to the greener salespeople and underperformers. It’s not about exposing the salespeople who are missing the marks – it has more to do with making an example of the stars.

If you are dissecting the sales activity, you should be able to sit down with your salespeople every three months and break down their quarterly goals based on these metrics and their attitude surrounding them. Everyone should know their numbers and how they can improve them. Hopefully the answer isn’t, “Well, I guess we’re just going to have to make more cold calls this quarter.” Instead, it’s about focusing on improving efficiencies. Use the data and predict where you are headed.

3 – Ally

Teamwork-hands-in-middle

Your employees must like and trust you. If trust is built, they will come to you to vent, ask for ideas, and confide in you. You need to listen, help and find them solutions. I recently heard someone disregard “servant leadership” and I was dumbfounded. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be direct and sometimes even confrontational, but great managers spend less than 1% of their day bossing people around. If you tell them what to do like it’s 1946, maybe half of your team will listen. Being their ally is about admitting your faults, going on sales calls with your team, showing up earlier, grabbing the coffee for the sales meeting and helping them become better and succeed. The modern day leader believes in servant leadership (http://www.butler.edu/volunteer/resources/principles-of-servant-leadership/).

Great allies must genuinely care about their employees beyond work. You care that they are getting better. You care about their purpose. A sales leader needs to get to the next level in understanding the motivations and driving forces of their employees. If salespeople feel you are on their side, they will fight for you, they won’t quit, they will put in extra time, they will defend you, they will accept impossible challenges and in the end, they will make you a lot of money and talk about your great leadership. 

4 – Motivator

carrots

A major flaw in many sales organizations is a poor compensation structure. Sales people must have a commission opportunity. Ideally, if they excel, they can more than double their annual compensation. You shouldn’t cap the commission; even better, create a structure so their commission percentages increase as they hit higher sales or gross margin marks. The best salespeople want this and if you don’t have it, you aren’t able to attract the best. As the sales leader, you have control over creating a better commission structure.

With a great comp plan in place, a good manager can evolve into a great motivator by creating a positive sales culture. Are you skipping on your way to work excited to increase sales? An authentically fired up manager creates a fired up team. A motivating sales culture fixes problems and holds efficient meetings that create action. Everyone is polite and enthusiastic, but direct with one another. There are no cliques, no excuses, and zero never-ending grape vines. Laziness and insubordination are not tolerated.  A motivating culture for great salespeople has high standards but accepts mistakes from which to learn. The team is willing to openly talk about their flaws and problems – and everyone is striving to find and share solutions. Accounts are won because stuff simply gets done.

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your sales team, customize your approach to every salesperson. I don’t care if you are managing 20 people directly, you can’t worry about being fair by treating them all the same. Leave the superstars alone but set a higher mark. Challenge the middle performers and pester them periodically. Scrutinize and help the poor performers and be crystal clear (repeatedly) as to what it takes to succeed and in turn, how to get you out of their hair. Determine what personally motivates Tom, Susan, Bob, Lucy, Joe, Curly and Moe and cater to it.  It all takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it. And it’s a lot better than firing people.

5 – Race Car Driver

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You are the one person on the team that needs to understand how to adjust on the fly. The sales leader is responsible for understanding the needs of the targeted customer. Those needs change. You should be the first person to direct the organization through a shift in the economy, customer demand, pricing challenges, technology, and chaos.

As change takes place, your employees will accept it if you are clearly communicating why is it happening, explaining why is it a good idea, and showing how you are in it together. Most salespeople are worried about this week and this month. They don’t embrace change any better than any other demographic. Salespeople are definitely prone to speak up when they don’t like something and poorly managed salespeople can become the biggest whiners in the entire company. You need to be the one looking ahead with the rest of the company leadership and discussing change with the sales team. You need to take the time to listen. As you race around another bend at 200 miles per hour unsure of what’s around the corner, you can convince everyone that it’s going to be okay – and that it’s probably getting better.

6 – Axe Man

axe-hatchet

At some point, you need to be tough and stop investing time in the underperformers. You should encourage the team to falter as long as they learn from their mistakes. Only allow people two chances to royally screw updon’t give them three (and only give them one if you hired them a month ago!). Three strikes and you’re out might sound heavy-handed, but we are in sales. Salespeople should want to grow and compete and succeed. I understand how you can be overly patient. Through the years, I’ve consistently given people 1-2-3 chances too many. But every person I fired, I knew should have been canned 2-3 months earlier. If you are slow to fire, you are slow to find the next sales star that could be producing and wowing your customers and prospects.

If you have a sales force of twelve, three bad salespeople can easily spoil the bunch. Firing usually inspires those that are still around. But if you allow low performers to bend the rules, skate through their 9-5 day and consistently survive, you lose the respect of your top performers and the rest of the organization. Have clear standards and insist that your employees meet them. You can help them reach these expectations without being a babysitter. Let the sloths move onto a better career with another company (ideally your competitors).

7 – Closer

Green Check Mark Symbol

You should be the best closer in your company. Unless you are an incredible recruiter, don’t expect more than one person over the next twenty years to be as good of a closer as you. Everyone in B2B sales has big, medium, and smaller deals. All of the big deals require your help and attention. Everyone you hire needs to learn how to close the small deals on their own, but you probably need to be a lot more involved with the mid-size and big deals than you are at the moment. I know too many sales managers that go weeks without speaking directly with customers and it’s ridiculous. If your sole responsibility is leading the sales team, than you should be meeting face to face with prospects, calling on your key accounts, looking at most of the proposals and you should be sitting in the room when it’s closing time. Great closers show others how to close.

8 – Parrot

parrot

SQUACK SQUACK AWW AWW. Sorry, it’s not cool, but you also get to be a parrot. Pay attention to the Fortune 500 CEO’s – they repeat the same messages over and over and over again. It’s monotonous and dull to be the person that has to preach the same stuff repeatedly, but it’s necessary. You should be reminding them about your company’s values and the sales fundamentals that make you a top tier organization. You can deliver your verbal soapbox through written communiques and by rewarding the behavior that reinforces it. Hold challenges, run through meeting exercises, and hand out homework assignments to reaffirm the fundamentals.

What are your top 5-10 fundamentals? Everyone should be able to repeat them off the top of their heads. This is our ideal target market, this is why we rock, this is our pricing program, this is the most effective pitch, this is our meeting workflow with clients, and this is how we close Be a great parrot – repeat the fundamentals over and over.

There is a balance between wearing these eight hats and it varies widely based on (a) the number of salespeople you manage, (b) their level of seniority, (c) their level of success, (d) the maturity of your company, (e) the maturity of your industry and (f) certainly your personal style. But you are likely flawed in 2-3 of these categories and need to strive for improvement. The two most important people in any profitable company are the person that leads the operations and the person in charge of business development. So if you are leading the sales charge, be great at it. You need to master these eight roles in order for everyone else in the organization to succeed. As always, good luck! Reach out if Blue Octopus can help.

Make it a great day~ Drew Schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/131nqty

Twitter: @drew_schmitz

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