Updated: Nov 17, 2019
Moving from managing sales to leading sales success
“Tell me about your product or service.”
This is the line every sales person wants to hear right?
Wrong….it’s a trap to become commoditized by the buyer or worse yet become the product-pushing seller. I so often hear and experience sales people jumping in too early in a sales meeting. They often will end up doing most of the talking when they shouldn’t. How do we help our sales team develop strong sales skills, and particularly communication skills?
We need to give sales people strong leadership - sales leadership.
Sales, or business development if you are complex B to B sales, is a profession of interpersonal skill, selling skill and real time practice. Every sale is different, and every client is distinctive. Why? Because the biggest variables to each sale is the buyer’s personality and company process. Sales success will happen when you take time to learn and understand your client and their company’s behaviours, needs, thinking and process. Closing sale happens when you really know why the client needs to buy and how they will buy.
If you are a sales leader, how do you meaningfully impact your and your team’s success? It will be realized with great sales leadership. Sales leadership is the sum of both sales competencies AND leadership competencies. I think the three key facets of sales leadership are:
Managing – helping your team do their work
Coaching – maximizing your team’s potential by helping them learn and practice
Leading – empowering and inspiring your team to do their best work
Step 1: Growth mindset
The most important aspect of a person’s success is their mindset, or attitude. They need to believe they are capable of being good at what they do. As we all know, sales can be hard. It takes effort and dealing with challenges and obstacles. You need to assess how extensively your sales person is using their growth mindset. If you see aspects of the fixed mindset showing up, help them learn to identify it and move to using a growth mindset.
Step 2: Awareness
I am at an advantage, given my experience and credentials in personality assessment
(I use TAIS), when assessing people by what I see and translating it to their personality traits. Does that mean I am better than others? Definitely not. There are people who have the skills to read and understand people unconsciously. I have to consciously work on the skill of noticing people’s body language and other cues. When you are in a fast-paced conversation with someone, it is hard to listen plus watch and interpret their cues. It all happens so quickly. Practice is what will get you better.
Awareness and self-awareness are essential to sales competency development. The more networking, sales conversations and sales pursuits you do, the more practice you’ll get. There’s no classroom that will allow you to become sales masters; you need to go out and do it. Sales leaders have been successful as they use their ability to pick up cues. It’s what’s made them successful at sales. This skill is essential with their sales people.
A lot of sales advice and many sales resources focus heavily on process. For me, sales success is best realized when the people part of business relationships is focused on. The personality of both the sales person and the client affect the success of sales. As you’d invest in getting to know your clients, invest in getting to know your sales team. What’s their personality, how do they connect with people, where do they do their best work and, most importantly, what really makes them do their best work?
Step 3: Working on sales effectiveness
Systems are important to a business. Leadership is a system. Sales is a system. Design, develop and implement how you and your team will work. Lead to a system that supports the results you want to realize.
Implementing systems to realize effectiveness, or the sales results, includes:
See number 6 on this list. Measurement is essential. Given the outcome, start with planning. Plan sales for your business. Plan sales for each sales person. Plan accounts. Plan pursuits. Plan client meetings.
2. Customer centricity
The value and benefit you bring must all be developed and used from the client’s perspective. Always focus on what the client needs and how they see your product or service.
3. Engaging in sales conversations
Early in the sales process, it’s not a sales pitch or presentation. A closed sale will happen when you understand who your client is and what is important to them.
4. Leverage a sales process
There are lots out there to choose from. Find one that fits and use it. Think of selecting your sales process like buying a car. There are many models and options, but they all do the same thing and are driven to get you to your destination.
5. Use technology and data
CRM, client feedback reports and reporting are the big ones to get right.
6. Measurement and feedback
Results have to be measured. Sales people have to be measured. Use feedback. Both give it and get it. Your clients are the source of the most valuable feedback. When done, loop back to number 1 and keep working.
Sales leaders get to their roles because they have great interpersonal skills. They have both the technical and awareness style. The skills that make them great with clients also make them great at leading people. I write regularly on leadership themes and using leadership for growth.
The article The One Thing You Need For Growth will give you the foundation for using leadership to support growth.
Investing in sales mastery
Let me be clear on the ROI of investing in sales learning, which is not exclusively training. Be very specific and realistic in your evaluation of culture, goals, team and timeline. Ask yourself:
Do we have an organizational sales culture that starts at top and supports our sales function?
Are we clear in the goals we want to realize? Do we have a plan to show industries, clients and dollars to be realized? Does every sales person know what the overall goals and their own goals are?
What’s the potential of the sales talent? Who is leading the sales team? Who is coachable?
What will investing in and working on sales effectiveness for 12 -24 months look and feel like? How essential is this timeline to allow the team to do their best work and realize big B to B sales wins?
We are selling in an environment where 60-70% of product and services solutions can be researched online. This means the buyers can educate themselves before they need to engage a sales person. Does this situation drive or reduce the need for a sales person’s effort?
I believe that it drives more effort of the sales person, and particularly in a proactive way. If you aren’t working early with a buyer in the buying criteria phase, you won’t be able to help, or better yet, co-develop the buying process with them. A core skill of leadership is the ability to be proactive. A sales leader enables the sales team to be proactive.
Sales effectiveness is easily measured. The feedback from your clients. The velocity of your pipeline. What you see when you do joint calls with your sales team. What your sales team is telling you both in words and actions.
Sales is the most important line of your financials. Lead your sales team and company to success. Drive growth with sales leadership.
We have so much more to talk about on this topic; connect with me with your questions and comments.
Mike Weinberg, Sales Management. Simplified
Lisa W. Haydon is the President and Founder of Pivotal Coaching Inc. She left her comfortable corporate career several years ago to follow her passion of helping people realize their potential and companies to realize high performance. Lisa is a growth focused entrepreneur, leadership development consultant and certified executive coach. To her clients, she brings business experience with prestigious corporations and continuous education. Lisa’s work in business operations and B to B sales expertise allowed her to create a differentiated coaching model and client experience. Lisa and Pivotal Coaching are known for 1:1 and cohort Programs in leadership development and sales effectiveness.