Four Traits of Tomorrow’s Sales Leaders
It’s been almost one year since work from home became the preferred—if not mandatory—occupational setup for many workplaces across industries. The past year, however, has not changed the fundamentals of sales: the goal remains to build relationships and find ways to best serve a growing customer base. The goal is still to use your product to solve another’s problems.
But that central goal is about all that remains unchanged. Everything else—from the tools of the trade to the targets, from the product offerings to the modes of communication—is essentially unrecognizable for many sales teams.
It was bound to happen: some sales teams were able to take advantage of the circumstances brought on by COVID-19 and have adapted extremely well to the post-pandemic sales landscapes. But this just isn’t the case for all teams. Maintaining the spirit of those teams struggling to keep up, or those flatly left behind, is crucial to regaining that lost ground.
The Role of Leadership in Sales
For decades, sales leadership has held a peculiar role. Sales Managers and Directors have been the top of the ladder; generally uninvolved in the day-to-day operations of the team but available if a matter escalated. This high level visibility keeps leadership out of the weeds and focussed on the big picture.
Now, Managers and Directors—if they haven’t already—must also redirect energy to those daily goings-on previously considered too minor for leadership’s attention.
For example, Zoom. Or Blue Jeans. Or Microsoft Teams. Or Google Meet. Which has the features best suited to your team’s goals?
If you can’t answer that question, you’re not well enough embedded in the functioning of your team. And if you aren’t well aware of their day-to-day undertakings and the specifics of their challenges, it’s much more difficult to preserve morale and build confidence in your people. Today, the role of leadership in sales is to roll up your sleeves and get to work with your team.
Keep Spirits High: Invest In Your Sales Team
It’s plain logic. If your boss stepped down from their Ivory Tower for the first time in months and said, “hey, just try a little harder,” would that not grind your gears? In order for leadership to truly drive and rally a sales team, especially one that is struggling, there must be faith that leadership is invested on a personal level in that team. Leadership must prove their belief in the team.
From there, all else can follow. We will always work harder for someone that we trust and respect. We’ll work even harder if there are incentives in it for us.
There are two different tacks useful for developing such programs but both begin with honest, open communication. Ask what your team needs. Listen. And deliver.
If your company has some funds available, invest them in your team. Encourage your salesforce to enroll in courses for higher learning and to develop their craft. This benefits both of you and it also demonstrates that you’re willing to invest in the potential of your team; you are showing that they deserve investment. Similarly, bring in the tools they need to succeed. Spring for Zoom Webinar, so your star salesperson can host lectures and talks with gravitas and purpose-built functionality. If their work computers are faltering, replace them. Prove, in money and in time, that you believe in their success. Your business depends on it.
Go further, if you can: set up incentive programs. This might look like quarterly or annual bonuses, more vacation days, or maybe it’s simply a gift basket sent to their home as a thank you for a job well done (just make sure it’s a nice offering!). Incentives often don’t proportionally represent the actual value created by a salesperson—but the gesture remains just as powerful.
If your company is struggling—for any number of completely understandable reasons—it can be difficult to find the funds required to invest in your team. In this case, you can use personal commitment and institutional intervention to support your team.
Higher learning and technical courses can be very costly. If your team members are interested, offer to set them up with a mentor from your own networks (or meaningfully mentor them yourself). Folks want to feel like they have potential and usually, given the right tools, they do.
Then, meet with HR to design policies that support the health and well-being of your teams. Visibly advocate for your people. During peak season—especially if things aren’t going very well—sales environments can become incredibly toxic places. Long days of hard work but still not meeting targets very meaningfully wears on people. With the help of HR, create and enforce a healthy work-life balance that counteracts those long weeks of late nights at the computer. Burning your team out year round will not stoke their investment in the company; it will discourage their commitment. Rally and work hard in peak seasons, but then let them relax! Encourage your team to take vacations—they deserve it.
All of these tactics serve to create an atmosphere marked by health and happiness, engagement, and potential. The bottom line is a simple one: if a salesperson feels healthy, energized, and that leadership believes in them, they will perform. As leadership, all you have to do is set the conditions.