From Sales Manager to Sales Leader
Few sales managers are born with the critical leadership abilities needed to overcome today’s challenges. However, sales managers can be transformed into sales leaders.
Vision enables the sales manager to look ahead and create/plan ongoing missions or campaigns that unite and motivate the sales team. Great sales leaders have vision; they have targets that others may not see. Essentially their targets are often located way “beyond the headlights”. Leaders have the end in mind with defined, precise, clearly set goals and milestones that will realise maximum potential in them, for their companies and their colleagues. Their vision and goals are BIG.
Napoleon once said “Imagination rules the World”. Einstein believed, “imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to what we know and understand”.
Sales leaders are visionary with imagination to see beyond what others see. They become market leaders gaining first mover advantage, becoming first to mind and enjoy the resultant abundance of the fruit of their labour, intuition and courage.
Decision-making is critical to effective leadership. Leaders who make bad decisions are not leaders for long. Know it all Sales Managers actually don’t! Every decision or choice that is made will have consequences – good or bad and sales leaders make good decisions based on using good process of understanding the issues, identifying the problems, generating sound alternatives and choosing the right options. Sales leaders often choose to use consensus as a model to be inclusive and engaging with their teams. In effect, gaining their buy in. We all know that in the majority of cases a group decision will have a better result than one taken in isolation.
Sales Leaders have the ability to understand the “how” in getting their “batting averages” up. No one wants to follow a sales leader who shoots from the hip, delays decisions, or has a low % of “right” decisions. Salespeople are motivated by leaders who have a good batting average, and respond decisively. Sales leaders don’t pursue mediocrity but strive to and are encouraged by the stretch needed to achieve their targets. They know gaining success is dependent on the numbers. Numbers of prospects, numbers of qualified prospects, conversion rates, return on investment, revenue and margins.
Empathy – Understanding and influencing the sales team is always a challenge. That’s why emphasis is placed on empathy, communication style and motivation.
Oprah Winfrey quote in Daniel Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind” captures well the concept as relates to leading sales teams.
“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” – Oprah Winfrey
Sales leaders must practice situational leadership and understand how to identify and support the motivational needs of each of their sales team colleagues. Personal qualities like empathy, trust, ethics, integrity, honesty, listening skills, responsiveness and role modelling are of the utmost importance. Sales leader’s handshakes mean something and their word is always good.