Stepping into the role of sales leadership for a business can be scary. There is so much pressure on sales managers to be great leaders through the acts of creating a positive culture within their sales teams, hitting impossible revenue goals, and doing it all again next year.
Again and again, we’ve seen different types of sales leadership crash and burn in their valiant attempts to be great leaders. And we don’t want that to be you.
The good news is that while there are many different types of businesses, the needs of every successful sales team remain similar. And that means there is a clear-cut process you can follow to become someone worthy of your role.
Now, let’s dive into the 5 things you need to know as a new sales leader!
#1: What new team leaders should do first
When you enter a sales leadership role, it’s natural to focus on more surface-level pursuits like getting to know your team, building unity, and even figuring out how to manage your own time. And while these are noble efforts, they aren’t where you should focus your immediate time and energy.
Instead, what new team leaders should do first is twofold:
1. Establish a good relationship with marketing leadership. Ninety percent of sales and marketing professionals point to a number of disconnects across strategy, process, content, and culture. Tending toward strenuous, most sales teams and marketing teams fail to get along—and it’s always the fault of the opposite team as to why. Sales blames marketing for not generating enough qualified leads. Marketing is upset by constant last-minute asset requests.
But as a sales leader, you shouldn’t think of the marketing team as marketing at all, but rather, as the pre-sales team! They are at the very beginning of your sales process and can also be valuable in their support of nurturing potential clients in between sales calls or meetings with various assets. So, building a bond and communicating the needs of your team is crucial to success.
2. Be brutally honest about numbers. Holding yourself accountable, especially when things aren’t where you want them to be, is hard. But when sales leadership isn’t honest with themselves or their stakeholders on reporting results around things like revenue, promotional costs, and ROI, it’s a lot harder to make the necessary adjustments that can spark success.
#2: What makes a great sales leader
One thing you’ll notice in your sales leadership role is that things are constantly changing. Team members come and go, the market swings up and down, and your sales process seems to be forever evolving. And when life around you is steeped with change, it can be easy to think you’re the problem.
But what makes a great sales leader isn’t necessarily tied to any of those things. Rather, what makes a great sales leader is:
1. Your ability to coach. And note that we didn’t say, your ability to resolve problems or your ability to train new team members. This enabling behavior only gives your team more reasons to rely on you, adding work to your already overburdened plate.
A great sales leader is there for their team, of course. You should host weekly 1:1 meetings to review progress, goals, obstacles, and long-term vision. In fact, 45% of managers say they spend 30-60 minutes individually coaching sales reps each week. By doing so yourself, you can empower your team, support them through mistakes, and remain aware of anything going on that may affect performance.
By encouraging everyone to think for themselves and asking “how” questions rather than “why” questions, you create a culture where team members are viewed as fully capable humans. That is where true leadership emerges.
2. Your ability to hire: A good sales rep understands that even when they’re good, they still have a lot to learn. Finding reps with not only the skills necessary to be successful but also the will to accomplish is key.
#3: Your Reps Need a Why
Traditionally, sales reps are considered successful when they hit specific revenue targets. And when they don’t, they’re viewed as a failure in their role. The problem is similar for sales leadership. When your team isn’t hitting goals and revenue is down, those you report to may place the blame on your shoulders. And that’s not fair, is it? After all, you're not the one setting these goals!
Bottom line, a sales goal is just a number with a bunch of zeros behind it— and that’s not very motivating. A great sales leader will provide background information and the ‘why’ behind the sales quotas, helping their team find vision, purpose, and motivation.
Ask your team: What impact could this goal have on their professional or personal lives?
Ensuring that a goal resonates with the individual is key to helping them succeed.
#4: Meeting Goals is About More Than Earning Revenue
Sales teams and sales leadership have little control over sales results. You can’t force someone to do business with you or invest their money in your products and services. But what you can control—and what your sales reps can control—are the activities that tie to achieving those results.
We’re not saying that sales reps can’t be held accountable or that you shouldn’t know your team’s numbers. But a good leader goes deeper and helps their team set KPIs that are activity-based, ensuring that focus shifts from just celebrating earnings to celebrating efforts too. How many times are your reps picking up the phone and cold calling? How many times are they following up with a prospect? How many pieces of educational collateral do they share with potential customers each week?
When you make this change, you can relieve the pressure of obtaining a pie-in-the-sky monetary goal and show your team that they can obtain success by remaining steadfast.
#5: Know That You Never Know It All
Being a leader goes beyond being “in charge.” So, if that’s why you entered your sales leadership role, it’s time to take a step back and do some re-evaluation.
It’s important that as a sales leader you’re a student of the sales game, always willing to learn or to pivot in order to help your team, generate more sales, or both. Your ability to keep at these tasks and constantly evolve is what will have the greatest impact on how people view you as a sales leader.
Need help meeting your sales goals?
Peer can ensure that you have the assets and touchpoints needed to build relationships and close deals. Connect with us today!