By Stacey Hanke
The key to a company’s success is sales. Without sales, there would be no revenue, no customers, no employees and no leadership. The very center of a company is the sales team.
No doubt, sales leaders are under a considerable amount of pressure. They maintain unique power within their companies to directly influence revenue and sales by coaching their teams to greater levels of success. Many sales directors get so caught up in the day-to-day playbook of office bureaucracy that they fail to coach their teams to win.
I am often called to present to and train sales teams to overcome issues their leaders believe exist. What I usually discover is that the real problem lies directly within the ranks of leadership. Sales professionals will tell me that success lies in sales leadership. A resounding 69% of sales professionals who outperformed their quotas rated their sales leadership as excellent or above average. Most sales professionals believe their leaders over manage and under lead. Here are six ways sales leaders can bridge this gap.
1. Get Ahead Of The Problems
When did you last ride along with a struggling sales professional? Chances are if you’ve ridden alongside someone from your team, they were likely failing to meet quota and having difficulty closing deals. While this ride-along is indeed important, it often comes too late.
Sales leadership can learn a lot by attending sales calls with their team members. Not only does it provide an opportunity to coach those who need improvement, but it allows you to learn from those who don’t. It provides much-needed support to employees searching for success and acknowledges the efforts of those who are successful.
Riding along with employees also provides you with much-needed one-on-one time to connect with team members on a deeper level. It gives you time to discuss problems, goals and priorities. It helps you better understand what motivates their decisions and what holds them back.
2. Communication Cues
Sales professionals can often be clueless about communication cues they’re giving prospects. Without someone they trust there to provide feedback, they may make the same communication mistakes that lead to the loss of sales. By attending their meetings and watching them sell, you can identify areas of opportunity and provide immediate feedback to help them improve.
It's tempting to underestimate the value of communication skills, especially when you believe your product or service can sell itself. Consistency in nonverbal communication is necessary to ensure the message shared matches the delivery every time.
3. Immediate Feedback
Think of your sales team as your favorite sports team during a high-stakes playoff game. They need your immediate feedback to make each play count. Coaching can’t wait until after the game is won or lost; the outcome depends on your ongoing direction.
Treat each sales-prospect meeting like a game play, unique with its own strategy and goal. Every team member has unique strengths and weaknesses, and each prospect is unique in their needs for an outcome. Lead your team one prospect at a time, and give them consistent, continual feedback, which can include both accolades and areas to improve. Don’t wait to discuss your feedback in your next one-on-one, team meeting or quarterly review. Give them immediate feedback so they can use it in their very next sales call.
4. Timing Is Everything
Sales professionals are always chasing the deal. Every prospective conversation brings new challenges to overcome. Sales teams don’t have the luxury of time to wait for feedback and strategy from leadership. If they are going to make the sale, they need real-time advice and direction from those they depend on.
As a sales leader, you must converse and communicate with your team regularly. Make it a point to routinely host team meetings and one-on-ones. Your team needs to trust that you will be on time and fully present for each interaction. Maintain predictable work hours so your team knows when and where to find you when an urgent situation arises. Being consistent will encourage them to lean on you for direction.
5. Share And Share Alike
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to closing a deal. One way to develop your team culture and collaboration is to share successful strategies from those on the team. Find something positive — a communication skill, sales tactic or prospecting strategy — that recognizes each person. In sales team meetings, go around the room sharing what you learned about that professional and how others can benefit from their technique. This gives recognition to your employees as well as provides innovative ideas for everyone to try. It creates a dialogue between team members and a culture of sharing successful practices.
6. Socialize Goals
Don’t ever take for granted that your sales team knows your expectations. Your team is busy in the field and on the phones with prospects, so they may lack insight into global organizational changes. Goals change and priorities shift. It’s your job, as their leader, to keep them solely focused on the goals set forth for sales. Don’t just assume they know.
One study showed that top sales managers performed 27% higher in priority-focused goal setting than underperforming sales leaders. In every meeting, ride along and one-on-one, remind them of their priorities. By keeping your expectations well-defined and communication clear, sales professionals will be able to remain focused and sure of their efforts.
The key to closing sales deals, boosting revenue and seeing success lies within the make-or-break choices of sales leadership. By tuning out daily distractions and investing time and coaching in your team, you will raise the performance bar. So stop managing and start leading.
Stacey Hanke is author of the book “Influence Redefined… Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday®.”