7 Management Skills of a Great Sales Leader
Becoming a great sales leader doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, practice and a lot of patience. An effective sales leader will have a big impact on the success of the entire sales team and in turn on the company. With that much power, it’s easy to see why they should continuously work on their sales management skills.
In this article, we’ll cover the description of the sales leader role and explain the 7 essential sales management skills they should master. We understand that this should be an ongoing process and everyone has room to grow, so you can use this blog as a to-do list.
Who is a sales leader?
A sales leader is the person in charge of the sales team. They are the ones that hire the team members, delegate tasks and responsibilities, make sure everyone achieves their goals and more.
While these are important qualities for team leaders, the most crucial role sales leaders have is – knowing how to motivate their employees and get them to perform their best.
In order to truly understand the importance of sales management skills, we need to differentiate between leadership and management. Although we could create a clear divide, we understand that in order to be a good leader you need both leadership and management skills. After all, there is a lot of overlap.
A good manager knows how to :
- Manage their team’s time
On the other hand, a leader knows how to:
- Communicate their vision
- Hold everyone accountable
- Help the team grow
You may find that some of these skills come naturally to you, but the good news is – you can work on all of them.
As you’ll see in our guide, these sales management skills can be acquired over time and should be worked on periodically.
Know when to coach
Just like Ted Lasso, a good sales leader should know when to coach the team and when to let them figure things out on their own.
When it comes to coaching you have two goals:
- Creating amazing sales team members who are reliable and can reach goals on their own
- Making sure your team grows and meets its deadlines and goals, resulting in the overall growth of the company
If you’re constantly micro-managing, you won’t help your team reach their true potential and you’ll probably experience a high turnover rate.
That’s why it’s so important to find the right balance. You should be able to coach your team in a way that builds up their confidence and sets them up for success.
This can be done through well-timed feedback, as well as the continuous support of your team members.
In order to be a great sales leader, you need to be able to clearly communicate with your team. Although it sounds like a given, this is one of the sales management skills that are often overlooked.
What does it mean to be a good communicator? It means that you should know how to express yourself clearly and quickly. However, it also means that you understand your audience and learn how to shape your message accordingly.
If your team members are constantly misunderstanding your tasks, you need to change the way you communicate. Otherwise, you’ll waste time, money and effort trying to get your team back on track.
There are different factors that go into good communication:
- Understanding your audience
- Knowing which channels of communication to choose
- Choosing when to speak to your employees individually and when to talk to the group
- Checking-in regularly
Being a good communicator doesn’t just mean that you can relay your thoughts clearly, but also that you know how to listen. A good sales leader should be able to look at the bigger picture whenever a team member hits a roadblock.
Listening and hearing are not the same things. If you’re not listening to your team members, but are thinking about what else needs to be said while they’re speaking, you’re not a good listener.
Active listening entails focusing on the person that’s speaking and trying to understand what they are really saying.
- Observing their body language
- Picking up on other non-verbal communication cues
If this sounds daunting, don’t worry, you can practice active listening. Chances are, you’re probably already doing it. If you change your approach based on the emotions you get from your audience, you’re already halfway there.
When listening to your team members, you need to remember not to make assumptions. That way, you’ll be able to listen without prejudice and be a more effective communicator.
Communication isn’t just important for building relationships with your team members, but also for the higher-ups and your clients. Once you start working on your communication skills, you’ll see how easy it is to motivate others and express yourself.
Giving feedback is a special form of communication you need to work on. It’s an essential sales management skill that leaders should have. While praising your employees might be easy and enjoyable for both parties, you also need to know how to give constructive criticism.
If your feedback leaves your employees feeling down and unproductive, you need to change your approach. Knowing how to keep the spirits of your team members high while you’re critiquing their work is a question of balance.
Start by complimenting something about them – the way they respect deadlines, work great with others, etc. Then explain that you’re interested in seeing them grow and become the best salespeople possible, and the way you’ll help them is by giving them honest feedback.
Keep the introduction short and to the point and once you get started on giving feedback make sure you’re giving actionable advice. Whenever you can, outline the steps you want them to take in order to be better. A 360-degree feedback can also help you remember the most important points to convey to your employees.
On other occasions, involve them in working out the solution, especially if you want your team members to be independent.
Instead of saying – You’re not meeting your goals and I want you to do something about it., try asking them why they think they’re having trouble with their results. That way, they can participate in figuring out the resolution.
How to shape your feedback
The most important thing about giving feedback is knowing how to do it while simultaneously motivating your employees.
If you can package your critique in a way that pumps up your workers to be better and achieve great results, you’ve made it.
Our Head of Partnerships, Zakk had this to say –
Studies have long shown that positive reinforcement works far more effectively than criticism. Become a mentor to your team. Check-in, don’t check-up.
If a sales rep achieves something, reward that win, however small. Even if it’s just saying “good job”. It makes a difference.
If you do need to deliver negative feedback, do so appropriately. Be empathetic. Use verifiable data where possible, provide solutions, and let your personal experience aid your perspective and understanding (you were likely in their shoes once).
How you deliver your feedback can directly impact your team’s morale and performance, and it can be long-lasting. Be the leader you would want.
As Zakk suggests, once you get started with your feedback, don’t turn it into a play with intermission. Be direct and brief. There is no reason to dwell on your employees’ mistakes. Making specific points will help your team members learn from their mistakes.
The best way to end your feedback is with a plan. How will your team prevent these mistakes from happening again? Will you check in on them more, will they be more confident asking for help or else?
Walking out of a meeting like this with a clear plan makes it easier for everyone to understand what is expected from them in the future.
Lead by example
The best way to build credibility within your team is to lead by example. You must put your money where your mouth is and be able to take criticism, change and evolve. Out of all sales management skills, this is the one people most frequently have trouble with.
There is no cookie-cutter way of being a leader. A true sales leader will understand the needs and wants of the company, clients and their team and find the best approach.
You can’t expect your employees to follow your lead if you aren’t reliable and don’t follow through on your ideas.
As Richard Branson likes to say – You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.
It means that even when you fail, you should take your own advice and get back up. That type of behaviour will help your team members build confidence in their leader.
Build a great team
Who better to hire a great team of salespeople than a sales leader? After all, the biggest capital you can have are your employees. If you choose the right ones, you’ll experience amazing results and will love going to work.
When hiring people for your sales team, it’s important to find the right balance between skills and personality. Your team needs to have experience, and be knowledgeable and skilful, but they also need to be personable.
They need to be able to make people feel at ease and confident in their choice to buy from you.
If you’re struggling with finding the balance between hiring for personality and skill, Zakk has some more words of wisdom –
In my experience, the greatest sales professionals are born, not made.
They are quick-witted people with natural charisma, determination, adaptability and confidence. Also, they are natural communicators and problem-solvers. People who ask questions and listen. They discover, understand and empathise with the needs of the customer, connect the dots, and position whatever is being sold as the ‘obvious’ solution. Being goal-oriented, they generally do this instinctively.
When it comes to a sales hire (particularly a junior role), personality IS the skill you’re looking for. And it’s the role of a great sales leader to provide the right tools, training and support to focus and harness the very best from that skill.
In an age of digital overload, the ability to be personable and create meaningful and memorable human-to-human interactions within the sales process cannot be overstated. You need dynamos.
But a good sales team also needs leadership. Experienced aspirational figures who see the bigger picture, implement processes, maintain consistency, identify training opportunities, give constructive feedback and ultimately keep their ‘dynamos’ shining brightly (whether it’s with a healthy competition that garners reward, or by illustrating the trajectory of success). Without this, chaos reigns and sales reps get burnt out.
Every business is different, but for a ratio, 30% highly-skilled and 70% ‘personality hires’ (as ambiguous as that may be for sales) wouldn’t be a bad starting point.
Motivate your remote employees
Obtaining a good level of productivity is one of the most important roles a sales leader has. When you manage a remote sales team, things can get tricky. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure your employees feel motivated.
Firstly, make sure to conduct regular video calls with your team. You don’t have to exclusively talk about work, a regular check-in is also very valuable to your team. Think about it, if you worked in an office, you would run into each other and talk about current events, sports, pop culture and other topics. This can be done through well-timed feedback, as well as the continuous remote support of your team members.
The more interest you show in your team members, the more excited they’ll be to share in video meetings. For better understanding, you can use any video converter for more clarifications.
Secondly, find the best way to award your top performers. While cash rewards are popular sales incentives, they can feel strictly transactional. A personalized gift, like a spa day, gadgets and even subscription boxes might just do the trick.
If you’re interested in a list of creative sales incentives, check out our guide that dives deeper into the research behind non-monetary awards.
Lastly, make sure to keep an eye on any red flags. If your team members are having a harder time adjusting to working from home, try to change the way you delegate their tasks. Explain to them which tasks need to be done first thing in the morning and which can wait.
That way, they will have a better understanding of their schedule and won’t feel overwhelmed.
A big part of delegating is of course hiring the right people. Once you have a reliable team you will feel more comfortable delegating your tasks and giving them more and more responsibility.
The key to successful delegation is – not looking at it as passing off work to someone else. When delegating tasks, you also need to delegate authority. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself micromanaging your workers and making sure they do everything exactly as you would.
Try following these steps when delegating sales tasks:
- Find the right person/group of people
- Provide them with quality instructions
- Be available in case they need help
- Give them clear feedback
- Acknowledge their effort
Over time, your employees will naturally slip into different roles, but you should always check in on them and make sure they’re being productive.
Working on your sales management skills is a never-ending process. You’ll surely see the changes in your approach based on market changes, new employees, company culture, etc.
If you’re looking for a new way to better your sales process, sign-up for a free Better Proposals trial and start converting more while saving time.
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