In the past, leadership was a born quality. Over the years, the perspective has changed significantly. Thanks to the evolution of management science. Adequate training and experience in handling challenging situations can bring out the best leadership qualities in individuals.
Now, if we focus on the sales team in organizations today, the general opinion of scholars and experts are that it is always underperforming. For example, 67% of sales executives do not attain their quotas. Many statistics paint the performance of sales team in grim colors.
The Real Problem
Pointing fingers can never give a lead to any solution. The need is to identify the underlying issue. The observation of Greg Keleman opens new insights into the actual problem in a sales team.
If we try to identify some of the critical problems and analyze them in-depth, we see that salespeople have only a limited hold on the act of selling. Here, it implies that however, a sales team may try, if the deals are not closing and if there are only a few takers. Then, the problem may be with the business strategy. It may need new effective management strategies.
Secondly, the selection of a manager in the sales team follows a strange convention in many organizations. The best performing salesperson often becomes the manager of sales. The observation of Harvard professor, Frank V. Cespedes is significant in this scenario. He believes that the problem arises when the best salesperson cannot fill his new role as a team player.
The job of a salesperson is more individualistic, while a sales manager has to be a team player. It is more about getting things done with the best skill available to the leadership. So, a person with impeccable sales skills may not perform as a good manager.
Sales are one of the most dynamic fields to work in, simply because the needs of customers are also dynamic. Just consider Blackberry phones, no sales team could save them. Therefore, it is a reality that the sales team are confined to the general appeal of the product to the public. If your product falls outside the need and aspiration of the consumers, your sales team can hardly help you sell more.
All this comes to effective and responsive management. The feedback and insights from sales manager can save a product’s demise. Real-time exchange of sales response with the other departmental heads is critical to surviving in this era of swinging customer expectations. It can help in identifying the areas where your product doesn’t meet customer expectations and remodel it to suit the new expectations.
Tips for Effective Leadership in Sales
1. Clarity and Transition to the new Role
The manager or team leader should have to be aware of the shift in his duties. They need to realize that they are wearing a new suit with a new job role. Most often, the managers who climb the ladder for being the best salesperson tend to hold on to their previous position. They unconsciously choke the working space of the current sales executives. Hence, the underperformance worsens.
A clear definition of the roles of the sales manager and proper training on the position can solve the problem to a great extent. But the final effort has to be from the side of the manager. He needs to be conscious of the line that separates his role from the other.
2. Recruit the Right SalesPerson
Hiring the right talent is one of the essential qualities of a sales manager. A wall can stand only on the strong bricks. Weak bricks will one day let the wall fall. So, for every big venture, the small steps are of prime importance. The individual is the building block of an organization. Hence, the salesperson has to be an appropriate candidate if the team has to succeed.
Selling is indeed an art; hence, the manager must choose the candidates very carefully. They should look for qualities like depth of understanding that she has about the product, her ability to integrate the various departmental inputs to push sales and market well.
The role is more about talent management for a sales manager. The manager must have the right assessment of the talent mix in his team. Good coaching and performance reviews can help the manager to develop his abilities to hire salespersons correctly.
3. Balancing people and processes
A sales manager has to look after the various processes as well as the people. He or she must be able to identify the right time for backing the salesperson and support them. There is a need to understand that the adage of working in an office from 10-5 may not yield significant results. The manager must instead look for the productive hours that a salesperson put in at work.
New parameters of measuring productivity should reflect the unique situations that technology offers at the workplace. For example, the latest innovations in the field of mobile app development simplify work in a significant way — office apps, social media apps, webinars, meetings, etc.
Being present for customers at the right time, timing their activities efficiently, and self-discipline to harness the best of the few revenue-generating hours in a day are some of the yardsticks.
4. Communicate for Feedback
While communication is an essential quality of managers in general, to communicate for feedback is different. The “storming – the – office – door” one to one sessions are not the right way to communicate with salespersons.
Direct meetings with the salespersons are the best way to gather insightful feedback. The manager should make inferences from the body language of the employee to identify stress, lack of confidence, etc. A manager needs to be open and whenever necessary, admit one’s mistake. It often helps in breaking the ice and emulates sincere feedback.
Finally, management and selling are two different aspects. A sales manager has to blend the two subtle arts to be successful. Hence, at the heart of it, a manager must be clear about his ambition. If he is good at selling and wants to go at it, management may not be the ideal platform for him.