Many of us have been lucky to know a great Sales Leader somewhere in our career. Have you ever stopped to wonder what it takes to become a successful leader? Between all the big wins and hard losses, and everything in between, a true leader is there to support you through it all. There’s something to be said about people who can not only congratulate you on a win but can also guide you through a loss. They are people who get you. They understand what you’re saying and can speak on a level that resonates with the whole team. These aren’t some cookie-cutter managers but are real people who can be as honest with you as they are with themselves. They have the skills and experience needed to guide you through anything.
But what does it take to become a great Sales Leader? Here are 4 skills you can be working on to become a great sales leader.
A skill that is talked about a lot in sales and customer-facing roles and not enough at a management level, is active listening. Active listening is a simple enough concept, but harder to execute than you might think. Listening is something most people would say they’re skilled at, but listening and active listening are two very different things. At its core you can say that listening is simply anything you hear. On the other hand, active listening not only requires you to hear the sound of their voice but to understand the meaning of what they’re saying. How often do you find yourself either thinking about the response you’re going to give or thinking about the things you need to go do while the other person is still talking? It takes a lot of practice to push those thoughts and to-do lists aside and give your full, undivided attention to the person you’re conversing with. So how do you improve your listening skill?
It involves fully dedicating yourself to the conversation and taking in information as opposed to merely waiting for your turn to speak. It’s important that during conversation, you’re not just nodding along thinking about what you’ll say next but staying involved in what the other person is saying. Really, it all comes down to being in the moment with the other person. It’s both an excellent sales skill, and management technique. Sitting down with your team members and truly understanding their needs can be a difficult thing, but paying close attention to what they’re saying, asking clarifying questions, and adjusting your coaching methods based on their needs is an extremely effective way of taking “B players” to “A players”. As a Sales Leader, there is nothing more important or rewarding than helping someone up-level their skills and knowing that you truly took the time to understand what was important to their success because you listened to them.
Bringing authenticity with you is needed when looking at becoming a Sales leader. When you step into a sales management role, the professional milestones that were important to you as a salesperson now mean that you can use your authentic, unique experience to guide others on their journey of professional growth. However, you can’t rush forward and think others can just do the same things you did to succeed. Having an understanding of where others are on their journey is the first step in figuring out how to approach your team, and therefor how your authentic self comes into play.
Start first by starting with why – part of being authentic means sitting with each person on your team and learning about them. Talk about anything other than sales, use your active listening skills, and discover what drives each person on your team. You should know what your team’s key motivators are so you can better enable them. Whether that is by opening doors or clearing roadblocks, you should know how to set every one of them up for success.
Time to apply your authentic self as a sales leader, now. The translation of authenticity into action is the desire and willingness to help others. Some of the best sales coaches have had one common thread - they love helping people. This compassion will drive you to boost morale within the team, push hard to showcase how to close opportunities, and ensure the team has what they need to succeed. Without a certain level of true and authentic and compassion, it will be an up-hill battle winning trust amongst your team and creating the momentum critical to meet and exceed expectations.
Your own journey starts to come into play here. When you coach someone who is struggling, chances are you’ve been in their shoes. Share what you learned in your quest for professional growth and how that applies to them. Share your struggles, your vulnerability, and relate to each other to identify how that applies to their current struggle to find a solution.
Applying your authenticity to your team is vital, and it starts with showing them authenticity, your desire to be their support and provide guidance, and their spark for motivation. Usually what makes or breaks a team is the level of trust they have in their leadership. Being authentic and leading with integrity are key steps to building that trust.
Along with active listening and authenticity, it almost goes without saying that a sales leader needs to be, of course, experienced. Almost. Sales Leaders who start from the ground up learn a lot of the skills necessary to help others grow. Having an understanding of the fundamentals, proving out theories and executing sales, and being able to replicate that success time and time again is the key to having a winning team. Your knowledge and command over technical details can help boost your professionals’ confidence in their ability to find the right answers if they have questions or need to verify information for a customer.
This will also allow you to understand the challenges your team faces, the issues they have with their sales cycle, building pipeline, or even just getting in touch with the right prospective customers. Knowing these issues inside and out and being able to pinpoint a solution for your salespeople makes a quality leader.
Communication is the trait that is the key to making all the others work. Without it, the other skills brought to the table won’t be able to suffice. Being an effective communicator is a must-have for all sales leaders. The way they communicate will affect team morale, which in turn effects their overall success. Without being an effective communicator, having the experience won’t matter, because you may not be able to have repeatable success with your team. This should be the number one skill to refine if you are looking to become a sales leader.
Communication is so important to how your team responds to you, and how your team continues to deliver results. Your clients also have a huge part in how you communicate together and execute strategies. Being able to juggle priorities and communicate those priorities to your team is a challenge itself, but if you know your team and how they function, you know how to approach issues and roadblocks along the way. Knowing how to communicate and achieve the results you want with each stakeholder is the difference between creating success and having a confused team that loses trust in their manager. In order to maintain that trust, make sure you approach each person on your team and know how that person needs to receive information and make it easy for each team member to act on it, so they have a clear path to their goals. Communicate any challenges and clear roadblocks when you can so you both have clear objectives to help each other succeed.
In our current climate effective communication has become even more vital. Working and managing remotely presents some serious challenges. In the age of remote work, it’s up to you to be able to pull your team together and stay connected. Have regular formal meetings as often as necessary – sometimes that means daily check-ins, quick huddles, or extended one on ones. If you are able to stay close and use your communication skills, you can still be effective in managing a team.
If you think back to the great sales leaders in your life, there are many more qualities that make for a good leader, but these 4 skills are essential. Good sales leaders are able to enable, build up, and amplify their team because they use these skills. However, because everyone has experienced their own unique journey of professional growth and have different perspectives, these skills come together and represent themselves in a person differently. Not all leaders are the same, but that is the amazing thing about having your own team – you can bring your authentic self into your role and show others how you can create success for others by actively listening, imparting your experiences, and effectively communicating with your team. If you make an effort to hone these skills on your professional journey to becoming a leader, then these will definitely help you get there.