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A Great Sales Leadership Formula

Does great sales leadership have a formula? Maybe not, but it will be found that all great sales leaders who achieve great sales success share common characteristics.

Throughout my 25-year career in corporate sales, I’ve had the pleasure of working for (and with) a good number of fantastic sales leaders. They were highly inspirational people who empowered salespeople to succeed, and developed compelling sales strategies. They achieved extraordinary success both for the business and for their people. I also, of course, came across sales leaders who were less than inspirational, who struggled to consistently achieve extraordinary success.

Over time, I happened to recognize that such great sales leaders possessed characteristics that were similar. These characteristics consisted of six personal qualities (6P) that leaders need to be so as to create dynamic sales cultures, and four core competencies (4C) that such leaders need to do in order to to drive ever-increasing sales growth.

Based on these characteristics, one could suggest that a winning formula for great sales leadership is:

6P x 4C = 1 Great Sales Leader

While I do acknowledge that creation of a great sales leadership formula might seem futile, let’s explore these ideal qualities and competencies further and determine their relevance.

The 6P’s of Being

  1. Principled
    Strong sales leaders embody moral and ethical principles throughout their daily interactions with clients and salespeople. Ethical principles of great leadership are widely known, and include trustworthiness, honesty, respect, integrity and fairness. But they also evaluate their behavior and impact while influencing others, to maintain high ethical standards. These leaders attract good salespeople and valued clients.
  2. Passionate
    “Passionate” is widely used to describe powerful leaders, but how is this quality best applied when it comes to sales? Passionate sales leaders enthusiastically execute their sales strategy and confidently promote the products/services of the company. More importantly, they are passionate about understanding their team’s motivations and guiding them to achieve corporate and personal success.
  3. People-Focused
    A genuine interest in the development of their salespeople is essential for success. Great sales leaders consistently praise and coach their team, no matter how experienced, to develop the skills, behaviors and beliefs that promote sales excellence. They utilize a “team-first” approach that promotes a collaborative, inclusive and supportive culture.
  4. Planner
    Great sales leaders instinctively develop highly collaborative and detailed sales plans that outline the what, how and why of sales excellence. They develop key measurables and persistently execute and evaluate the plan on a regular basis.
  5. liable
    Behavioral studies denote that we all have a dominant leadership style; however great sales leaders recognize the importance of adopting a flexible approach to leading their sales teams. Typically a learned discipline enables them to moderate their style to ensure at any time they can energize, enable, agitate or enforce their people to effectively execute their sales plan.
  6. Patient
    Leading salespeople to effectively deliver the goals outlined in the sales plan requires a degree of patience. Protracted results may challenge them or competing management priorities may distract them, but great sales leaders have confidence in their plan and their team to patiently persevere. Of course they are also aware of when to simply replace patience with revised planning and/or better coaching.

The 4C’s of Doing

  1. Clarity
    Strong sales leaders always provide great clarity. Nothing can be clearer than that (excuse the pun). I fondly recall a great sales leader I once worked for consistently reminding me about the importance of providing clear direction, and he was right. It is essential for sales leaders to provide clarity on the specific growth strategy of the business and resourcing requirements – including roles and responsibilities. Sales teams with clear and specific strategic direction always outperform teams without.
  2. Confidence
    Great sales leaders who invest time in identifying key activities and skills required for success generally create highly confident teams. They meet with their sales people to understanding their expectations and challenge any limiting beliefs that may impact their confidence.
  3. Consistent
    Many sales leaders hold regular weekly sales meetings and/or periodic catch-ups with their salespeople. More often than not there is a limited (or no) agenda and no formal coaching provided, leaving the sales team somewhat uninspired. Great sales leaders formally adopt a consistent coaching cadence – coupling regular performance reviews with quality training – that inspires dynamic sales conversations and greater team success.
  4. Culture
    MIT professor Edward Schein described culture as the “way you do things”. Every sales business has a culture. Some better than others and the key difference for most organizations is the sales leader’s attention to processes and people.

Great Sales Leadership

So is there really a formula for great sales leadership? Perhaps not …. but understanding the key qualities and actions you require to be a great sales leader and achieve extraordinary success is important. Work with your team to understand what they are seeking from their sales leader and take active steps to create your own winning formula.

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