There are four very basic sales management questions that a great front line or senior sales leader should be able to answer “yes” to:
1) Do your people trust you?
2) Do they have clarity on overall strategy?
3) Do you make yourself available to them?
4) Do you exist to unleash their potential?
These questions might be basic, but the execution is always complicated. In a world where the speed of sales increases year-over-year, it’s easy to forget that when you peel back all the technology & innovation that have helped increase rep productivity, sales is basically about making connections. Connections with partners, with customers, and—most important—with your team.
Connections create credibility, and credibility drives sales success. But how do you become credible as a sales leader? Start with these evaluation questions:
Is it important for a sales leader to have first worked in sales?
Would you get in a plane with a pilot who has never flown? Of course not. Sales is the same. It’s essential that sales leaders and sales managers have a background in sales. Steven Covey says trust is built through competence and character, and both are only achievable after you’ve walked the walk. That’s why I only hire high-potential, top-performing sales leaders as part of our leadership development academy. With a sales force of 6,500 associates at ADP, it’s critical that we train the best with the best.
Do all great salespeople make great leaders?
No way! The question to ask yourself is, “Do you get more excited by closing the big deal, or seeing someone you coached close the big deal?” The traits that put the best salespeople on top are the same traits that make them terrible sales managers. They tend to overachieve because they’re selfish with their time and accountable to themselves. On the other hand, the great sales leader can channel that overachieving spirit and create one collective unit focused on team results. Being able to identify salespeople who have leadership potential is an art and a science. Fortunately, there are a number of selection tools that can help you identify sales leadership traits.
What should you consider as you move into a leadership position?
Your time is not yours. You exist to drive the performance of others. The great sales leaders who build trust, set a vision, and inspire their teams are the first to arrive at the office in the morning and last to leave at the end of the day. They have a servant’s heart and the clock never turns off.
What do you think it takes to succeed during a transition from a sales role to a leadership role?
I refer to this as “relationship reengineering.” Others need to see you in a new light. Focus on redefining sales success, setting time-bound, realistic goals, seeking feedback, gathering insight, and building a new sense of trust. Most important, new sales leaders that try to lead with the idea that “This is how I did it” generally fail. Be humble, observe others’ strengths, and lead each salesperson with an individual style.