Sales Management Leaders: This Is How You Effectively Lead a Sales Team

Sales Management Leaders: This Is How You Effectively Lead a Sales Team

Reps are struggling. 

Right now, sales management is seeing this trend run rampant in their sales teams. And that’s because everyone is reading the same report that says each year, more and more sellers are missing their quota. 

What’s it doing to the whiteboard of sales managers everywhere? It’s giving in to the temptation for organizations and leaders to look for the secret sauce. 

Right now, there are thousands of tools out there designed to help you sell better. Do a Google search for “sales training tools” and you’ll see that everybody is looking for AI or some tip or the hottest new methodology to unlock performance. 

But here’s the truth: There is no secret sauce. 

Just like learning to play golf or the violin, if you’re going to excel, there’s a certain set of capabilities required to be successful. There are no shortcuts. At ASLAN®, we’ve worked with hundreds of organizations over the last 20 years, and here’s the number one driver and key to success: the front line leader. If the front line leaders don’t know how to drive change, change will not occur. Instead, change happens one-to-one.

Here’s what we found: 

The first step for sales management is to redefine the rep’s role, and it’s based on what drives results. 

Three levers drive results: desire, productivity, and capability. First up is desire, and it’s about what the rep wants. If you can’t figure out what the rep wants, nothing else is going to change.

Secondly is productivity: The actions that are required to achieve optimal results. That’s very important because it’s the to-do list for what the rep needs to do.  If it’s a productivity problem, then I manage it because it’s about measuring and reporting.

Lastly, there’s capabilities. What are those set of abilities required to succeed and perform at the highest level? This is how well they do it, and this is where I put on my coach’s hat if needed. It’s my job to figure out how to help come alongside the rep and develop their capacity to be successful. 

And the best leaders understand how to drive those three dials. They understand that they have those three roles. They wear three different hats. So, if there is a, let’s say a desire problem, they put on the hat of lead. How do I drive that desire? How do I find out what the rep wants?

We consistently see that the number one thing — the most overlooked dial — is desire. 

I’ve watched hundreds of coaching sessions, so there’s the call, there’s the meeting that just happened, and we’re trying to figure out how to get better. And we’re looking at how do I drive results, and so we overlook the most important issues. Does the rep really want to change? So I have to step back and figure out, well, what do they want and how does change help them get what they want? 

If we can’t connect a development plan or change to what they want, they’re never going to change. This is why the coach plays such a key role. They drive culture, they drive engagement, and ultimately, they drive our performance.

If you’re ready to have the conversation, start off with a question to the rep: “Is this something you want to work on? We just came out of the sales meeting and obviously we didn’t achieve these results.” 

Now obviously, if it was an incredibly successful meeting, there’s nothing to do but celebrate. However, if I need to develop and support the rep, what I say is: Do you genuinely want to do better? Do you want to improve? Because in good coaching, the development needs to be owned by the rep, not the manager. If the manager is always pushing, then it’s about the leader, not the rep. 

What we need to do is figure out what the rep wants and how you can help them get there. Essentially, there needs to be a shift from a self-centered approach to leadership — which is what we gravitate to because we are passionate about the number —  to how can we help the rep be successful. 

Why? Because if you’re there for them, they will follow you.

This is also a good question for sales managers to ask: Why would the rep want to stay? 

Ultimately, there’s four barriers to change and the key for a leader is to figure out what’s that barrier. What is it that is keeping the rep performing? It could be fear, it could be the payoff is not there, but until I address that and figure out what’s important to the rep and quit focusing on my agenda, I’m never going to be able to get them to the next level.

I’ve constantly heard leaders talk about coaching sessions that are actually just meetings. If you only talk about what happens and then share some advice, that’s just a meeting. When you involve development that extends past one meeting, that’s coaching. We have to first observe the seller in the field, be able to watch what they’re doing, whether it’s on the phone or in the field. I need to help them understand and diagnose where the gap is. I need to help them with what needs to be improved. Only then can we have an alignment meeting to develop an ongoing plan of action. To make coaching successful, there needs to be practice. So, there are three really elements to coaching: diagnose, align, and develop.

Here’s the takeaway: If there is no desire, there can be no development. Desire is the key that opens the door to development because I will invest a lot of time with you if I’m going to put on the coach hat and help you develop. But that also requires that the sales rep be open to development. 

If you want to explore more about how sales management can lead more successful sales teams, check out our white papers: 

Any questions? We’d be happy to help. Feel free to reach out to us on our contact page, check out our Catalyst leadership workshop, or leave us a comment below. 

As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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