Competitive. Numbers-driven. Results-oriented. If these words describe your sales team, you as their leader are likely under constant pressure to perform at the highest level. That kind of tension can help increase sales performance, or it can drag everyone down.
When you’re the most visible and accountable for their performance, it’s easy to get lost in short-term results. Especially if you were a stellar sales person before moving on to the management track.
In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, authors Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, and Sally E. Lorimer posit that many managers continue to be driven by a strong motivation for personal achievement. Unfortunately, this can impede their willingness to:
- Let others take the lead with customers, especially when it comes to closing sales
- Show discipline and patience when it comes to dealing with headquarters
- Take a backseat while giving team members credit for success
As a salesperson, you win through your activities; as a sales manager you increase sales more indirectly, through the activities of your people.
Taking your team to the next level requires you to think like a CEO. Here are three essential leadership strategies that can help you push past the short-term fix of telling people exactly what to do, which often yields bad decisions and unhealthy competition.
Love him or hate him (and his products), Steve Jobs honed the skill of communicating his vision to great effect as Apple rose from obscurity to prominence. Not only were new products revealed with inspiring fanfare, but Jobs took this tactic inside the company. He met with executives as often as weekly, and they in turn communicated his feedback to junior level staff. This strategy tied the front line to organizational goals coming from Jobs himself. But he took this one step further by making sure every member of the rank and file knew exactly what their goals were and how they related to Apple’s overall vision by designating a “DRI,” or directly responsible individual.
As CEO of Select Strategies, Paul O’Day recommends:
Let your vision be seen as the purpose and signpost that keeps you on track. All team members should be able to see the vision reflected in your decisions. Make sure your team sees how results achieved are connected. Let your vision demand and inspire extra effort and motivation from all.
Always Be Developing Talent
Sales leaders need to step outside their own desire to help their team increase sales, and they must close the loop between pushing salespeople toward performance metrics and encouraging the development required to meet those goals.
Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel is a big believer in the power of mentoring and feedback to encourage staff. Company-wide initiatives include one-on-one mentoring and surveys that yield up to 300,000 responses.
Keith Rosen, author of Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions writes:
So often, managers think they already know what their people’s developmental gaps are, simply by looking at the person’s activity, results and a spreadsheet. You can’t manage from a spreadsheet. Data only tells you what is going on. It doesn’t tell you why; it doesn’t provide you with the root cause of certain beliefs, attitudes or behavior and it doesn’t provide insight into the quality of their activity and how effective and skilled they really are at performing a certain function, task, facilitating a conversation or their true selling acumen.
Rosen advises seeking out and listening to each salesperson’s opinion and point of view. You don’t need to agree with them, but you need to respect it in order to guide them to succeed.
Expressing Gratitude Goes a Long Way Toward Increasing Sales Performance
Thank you’s are often in short supply within competitive sales teams, writes Dr. Tara Jones for the American Management Association. She recommends managers take the time to tailor support and remember to show gratitude individually and collectively.
People need to know when they’ve done a good job and when there is room to improve. Both are fundamental for high performance.
Saying thanks is an easy way to make sales staff feel valued. It costs nothing and is a proven driver of talent retention and productivity.