“You manage things, you lead people.”
I love this quote from Grace Hopper because understanding this is your first step to leading an effective sales team.
Even if your title is Sales Manager, you need to be a leader for your team to smash their targets and reach their potential.
Over my career, I’ve been exposed to many different leadership styles and have learnt a lot leading my own sales teams and businesses.
It was one of my first leadership experiences which was extremely impactful and has shaped how I coach and mentor sales managers into effective leaders.
When I was 17, I became involved with a local charity that provided a safe place for children who came from similar backgrounds to myself, to learn the core values they weren’t being taught at home.
Not long after I started volunteering, the leaders called a meeting to say they didn’t have the energy to continue running it.
Without thinking about it, I asked that if I took on the responsibility of organising and leading the group, would they continue being involved? Surprisingly, they said yes.
Suddenly, I was the leader and responsible for 15 kids and the five volunteers. And, to be honest, I left that meeting feeling both empowered and completely terrified!
Over the next five years, my team and I grew the group to reach over 500 kids each week and our events would attract up to 1,500 children.
Our volunteers increased from a small group of six to over 100, with 20 of them working full time.
Here are 5 things I learnt leading the charity, which you can use to lead your sales team.
Sales is all about influence. The better you are at influencing someone about why they should buy from you and that your solution is the one that will solve their problem, the more likely you are to close the sale.
The same is true with leading people. It’s all about influence. If you can influence your team by connecting them with what you’re trying to achieve (such as your sales targets) and why, then they’re going to be highly effective.
Part of this is leading by example. As the leader of the charity, I committed myself to make it successful, sacrificing my weekends, evenings and spare time to ensure the children and volunteers benefited from being part of something bigger than ourselves. I made sure we were all connected to why we were doing what we were doing – the charity’s vision and mission.
Another part of leadership and influence is motivation. Empower and motivate your team to take action, keep going despite setbacks, and achieve your targets and goals.
However, different members of your team will be motivated in different ways. It is understanding what motivates (and demotivates) each member of your team that is critical.
I’ve found David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory is a useful way to work this out for the salespeople in your team, and you can read more about how to discover what motivates your sales team here.
Effective communication is a necessity for leaders. Everything you need or want your team to do has to be communicated. How effectively (or not) you do this directly impacts whether or not they’ll do it, and how well.
Content-wise, you need to clearly communicate to your team:
- Objectives, goals and targets
- The why behind what you as a team are trying to achieve
- Your expectations
The way you communicate is also important:
- Like with motivation, communicate in a style that best suits each team member (emotive vs logical and rational)
- Use stories and analogies to make it simple and easy for your team to understand and relate to
- Empower them by allowing your team to know they have a say and are accountable for their own actions
Almost every sales manager ended up in the role because they were very good at selling, and worked their way up into a leadership position in their organisation.
You have a wealth of knowledge and experience, which is important to pass on to your team. It’s probably one of the reasons you were promoted or hired for the role in the first place!
The more you develop and help your salespeople grow, the more engaged and effective your team will be overall.
The ability of your salespeople to influence their prospects and customers and close sales is what keeps your business running.
Your sales team is one of the biggest assets in your organisation and they need to be invested in. This can be through your ongoing mentoring and coaching with them, and encouraging personal development through external coachingand training.
My experience with running the charity led me on a speaking circuit around the world, teaching and empowering up to 15,000 volunteers at a time.
Another key component of sales leadership is hiring the right the people and putting them in the right roles. Making sure they fit the culture you’re building and share the values that are being instilled in your team is important.
With the charity, it was critical to make sure I had my volunteers in the right roles and carrying out the tasks that they were interested in and were good at. An unhappy member can have a negative impact on the team as a whole.
There are tools you can use, from personality and behavioural tests to interview processes, to give you the best shot at hiring the right sales candidate. This is something we help organisations do.
If you have people under you, you have the option to view your position as a manager or a leader. Choosing to be a leader and leading your team is what will achieve the best results for you and your organisation.
To be effective, you need to influence, motivate and clearly communicate with your team. Invest in their development and hire the right people for the roles in your team.
We work with sales managers to transform them into leaders and help you develop your team and hire the right people. If you’d like to have a chat about one of these areas.
Sharn Piper – CEO
M: +64 27 733 4333