First of all, notice that the title is not, it’s not for sales managers. In the often challenging business environment where we all work today, the last thing a company needs is more managers. While managers may have the capacity to require the compliance of their people, a leader has the ability to gain the commitment of theirs. Today, perhaps more the ever before, a key element to success is commitment.
Let’s talk about leading a team of sales professionals for instance. It is not an easy job; it takes skill, dedication and a strong desire to see others succeed.
Skills! What we are talking about here are skills such as the ability to motivate others, to coach and transfer the knowledge that members of a sales organization need to thrive. All leaders recognize the importance of developing their people and most say it is the critical part of their job. They understand that their own success is completely dependent on the success of their team.
Yet, many sales managers today attempt to accomplish this task from behind a desk, assuming that they “know what’s going on” because they used to be “out there.” Funny thing is, “out there” is not the same as it used to be. It may not look like it but our desks are miles wide and we cannot get a decent view of our marketplace from behind them. If you’re the leader of a professional sales team today, and you’re not spending time in the field with your sales team on a very regular basis, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on in the market. Here is a test for you: how many times in the last year has a member of your team lost a good opportunity for business and your first question to him or her was, “What the hell happened?” You’re the leader, you should know! Think about it.
How about dedication? Leaders today have the dedication to make certain that obstacles never become excuses. Leaders don’t let little things get in their way; managers use things like paperwork and reports as excuses for not leading, for not doing the things they say are critical to their own success. Dedicated leaders just plain think differently than mere managers; they know that theirs is an awesome responsibility; maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity, always doing the right thing even when it is unpopular and perhaps most important, setting and sharing their vision for a successful future for the sales team.
Are you a leader who leads their team through challenges or are you a manager who uses excuses to explain shortcomings? It’s a tough question but I think it is a healthy one to ask ourselves from time to time. What do you think?
Having a strong desire to see others succeed is a common characteristic of leaders. A desire so strong that a leader will develop plans to ensure that success is possible. Success just doesn’t happen; it is indeed the result of good planning and ample market intelligence. Ensuring success requires a leader to hold their sales team highly accountable, accountable not just to end results but to the actions required to achieve those results.
Tools like call reports, an almost instantaneous understanding and knowledge of a salesperson’s closing percentage, weekly plans and goals are the hallmark of sales success. Salespeople shun them while sales professionals embrace them. Many managers see these tools as burdensome and time-consuming.
Managers speak of the trust within their organizations and say that reports can violate that trust, all the while not having enough information to really know. Leaders see these tools as vital to a salesperson’s success and won’t attempt to lead even a day without them. Leaders build trust with accountability, managers just hope for the best.
A leader makes decisions. A leader inspires people. A leader has a vision. A leader simplifies. A leader makes things happen. A leader raises issues, debates them and resolves them. They aren’t afraid to go against today’s current because they know what they want to accomplish tomorrow. Leaders don’t get stuck in the past, leaders are open to change! Leaders stimulate and relish change. Leaders aren’t frightened, paralyzed or threatened by it. Leaders see change as opportunity. Leaders inspire and energize others to commit to success. They capture minds. They instill a sense of ownership. They lead by example.
Here are a few more questions for you to ponder: Are you a leader? Are you up to the challenge? Are you willing to do what it takes to really lead instead of just manage? If that means making some changes, will you do it? The choice, is of course, yours to make; but before you do ask yourself one last question, would you rather work for a manager or a leader?
I thought so!