Great sales leaders know that driving the numbers is only half the job. “Sorry I fired you ten years ago,” I said to Tiffany, a former sales manager in my company.
"You didn’t fire me, I quit," she smiled but her tone had an edge. It had been a decade since we last worked together but Tiffany and I agreed to grab coffee to catch up. She had been one of my top-performing sales representatives.
She breezed past gatekeepers, danced through her demos, handled objections with ease, and crushed her numbers.
So I promoted her to Sales Manager, and she failed after just a year. Her team’s revenue was flat, activity metrics were average, and worst of all, the best sales rep on her team quit and went to work for the competition.
I promoted Tiffany into sales leadership, based on her exceptional selling skills. But they are two very different things. Even quota-carrying, competition-loving, money-motivated sales professionals need human-to-human leadership. At least, they do if you want them to sell past their quotas and stay with you over the long term.
Tiffany ended up thriving and climbing the sales leadership ladder in another firm since they gave her the time and opportunity to develop as a sales leader.
With training and coaching, she told me she developed five core habits. The first habit great sales leaders have is the habit of giving immediate, effective feedback. As the TSA says, “if you see something, say something." Most new sales managers find giving feedback easy when it relates to selling.
Great sales leaders have a habit of coaching immediately on all aspects of their team member’s performance.
And they’ve made a habit of giving three-part feedback. They first, mention the specific behaviour. Second, they explain the impact. Third, they get agreement to change.
Many sales managers believe their weekly sales meetings and daily huddles are good enough. And they are for staying on top of the metrics and the funnel.
Coaching conversations: It’s easier to manage by metrics than to lead the whole person. Great sales leaders think of themselves not as a manager, but as a coach. A coach who develops each salesperson to their full potential. Great sales leaders help team members to set appropriate goals.
Leveraging Strengths: Marcus Buckingham has said, “Average managers play checkers, great managers play chess.” In checkers, all the pieces move the same way, they are interchangeable. But in chess, the pieces move in different ways, and you must understand the unique movement of each piece to win.
Gallup research indicates that when leaders focus on and invest in their staff’s strengths, the odds of each person feeling engaged at work goes up eightfold.
Show Caring: Yes, caring can actually become a habit—or at least showing that you care. Nothing happens without trust. Great sales leaders know that the numbers matter, but you get your numbers with people. The leaders greet each team member every morning and address them by name.
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