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Are you an effective sales leader?

Tips & Advice - March 2, 2015

Head of sales is one of the most challenging leadership roles out there. Effective sales leaders are required to wear many hats, to be the best sellers, coaches, strategists and business leaders. There is no standard way to measure your success as a sales leader, and no education path that will tell you precisely what to do and how to do it as the head of sales. There are, however, a number of key characteristics that effective sales coaches share.

Provide a vision: Sales professionals tend to be a cynical bunch, which means that motivating, definitive leadership is critical to success. While any part of a business can benefit from a vision, sales organizations tend to take the brunt of customer, product or service issues. When such problems arise it is important for a team to have a vision to fall back on, to give them a sense of what they are capable of accomplishing. The sales leaders should embody that vision wholly. Your team will be watching, so lead by example. When creating a sales vision be clear, succinct and make sure your vision meshes well with the overall aims of the company.

Coach relentlessly: Sales leaders often rise through the ranks of an organization, having started off as a member of the sales team. Such people were often wonderful individual contributors, but are unaware of how to leverage their skills to become great leaders. They tend to undervalue training and mentorship, and have a laser-vision focus on their role as a business driver. This can cause major problems within a team and lead to uncertainty and disunity. It is essential that sales leaders dedicate themselves to building capabilities across a team, through coaching and talent development. Being a leader means supporting the team.

Create value in the sales process: Beginners in sales and sales leadership tend to focus on what is being sold, instead of how it is being sold, which can lead to a sales process that is a mere description of a product or service. Experienced and effective leaders understand that sales success means engineering an experience for customers. Sales guru Neil Rackham suggests asking yourself if the customer would write you a check for the sales call alone. Was the interaction between your sales team and the customer valuable? Did it provide insights, new approaches and problem solving ideas to both you and the client? 

Offer recognition: Employees in an position appreciate and deserve rewards and recognition for the work they are doing. In sales this tends to be overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the business process. Good leaders will offer timely and relevant rewards and recognition to reinforce positive efforts and behaviors in their teams. Sales personnel benefit from regular performance feedback, and greater degrees of freedom as they excel. Consider a number of non-monetary ways to show members of your team that the work they are doing is appreciated.

Leverage technology: Leaders are always on the lookout for ways to make sales operations easier on their team. Today's technology offers a number of solutions for a variety of sales issues. Field sales representatives, for example, benefit greatly from field service management software, which can help streamline processes. Effective sales leaders will be aware of current and upcoming tech and will understand what to use to achieve the best results.


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