In the previous article we highlighted the fact that for a business to thrive, sales need to be at the very heart of all business processes.
We showed how creating a positive sales culture within an organisation affects not only the sales team but the entire workforce and the impact this has on the bottom line.
In this blog we are going to look at how strong leadership is vital in order to not only implement a strategy to improve sales culture but to ensure it is consistently maintained.
The Difference between Managing and Leading
Many of you reading this may be thinking, that there is no difference between managing and leading a team or an organisation – we disagree. Look at the following infographic: –
Can you see the differences now?
A leader tends to be charismatic and attract people who will follow them, leaders not only talk the talk but walk the walk which inspires their followers. They are often creative problem solvers and will take risks to achieve goals.
A manager may have many similar surface level characteristics to a leader but, dig a little deeper and you tend to find that they are more rule and protocol driven than a natural leader. They will still get results, but they rarely inspire the staff they supervise in quite the same way.
Some people have the rare ability to combine both the rigid strictures of management with the transformational and inspirational qualities of leadership (see the intersecting segment on the infographic) – if you are one of those people, or have one in your organisation, then you are extremely fortunate!
How is your Sales Force Structured?
Whether you have one sales team or multiple, the way they are organised, the sales culture within your business and the leadership from the top is going to affect their success.
Do you have a sales manager (or managers)? If so, look at the way he/she operates. Are they rule driven micro-managers who leave your teams feeling uninspired and lacking in motivation? Are they purely target driven, forever hammering home the ‘more sales’ message whilst constantly upping their team’s sales targets?
Look at staff turnover within your sales force. Is it high? If you have multiple sales teams, is there a pattern of higher turnover in any of the teams in particular? If there is, could the manager of that team be the problem?
Build Successful Teams
You may have to instigate a root and branch examination of your organisation. Hopefully, if you have taken onboard the advice offered in our previous article on Sales Culture, you will have started that and therefore be already laying the groundwork for a successful company structure.
If you run a larger operation, are your CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and your Marketing Manager working in tandem with your sales team(s)? As discussed in the previous article, you need to ensure that your entire operation is focussed towards maximising your sales potential. This means ALL your management areas need to be linked – finance cannot stand apart from marketing and you cannot afford for your sales force to be working in isolation.
Instigate training sessions, starting with your sales (team) managers. Coach them in how to motivate their respective teams by understanding that there is no one size fits all methodology. Show them how to work with their teams as groups of individuals who all require coaching in subtly different ways.
Hire salespeople who fit within your company and sales culture and ensure they understand the sales expectations from the get-go. Make goals/targets high but achievable and incentivise your teams appropriately.
You need to become the leader of your company
The one that everyone looks to for inspiration, motivation and guidance. The heads of your departments need to have leadership as well as management skills and you must ensure that everyone works together.
Salespeople, particularly those who are managing teams, tend to be target driven, but individuals within a team may not be so driven. It is down to your sales managers to understand what makes an individual tick, what incentives/bonuses work best. Are they team players who like to compete against other team members or do they prefer to compete only against their own past results? Your sales managers will me more likely to take this sort of approach if understand it is part of the company culture and they see you, as the leader, practicing what you preach.
You are looking for mentoring as well as selling abilities amongst your sales teams. Your teams should support and learn from each other and act as a cohesive entity as opposed to a bunch of people constantly competing against each other to be the best.
This is not to say that competition is bad…of course it isn’t! In fact, salespeople are naturally competitive and want to meet or exceed their targets, but you need to find a way that encourages competition whilst fostering collaboration.
Having the right people heading up your sales team(s) is vital. That is not to say that a sales manager MUST also be a sales leader.
Look back to the infographic at the beginning of this article – a leader is ultimately a visionary and strategist, able to see the bigger picture and inspire others to achieve their best in order to attain goals and targets. Whereas a manager is more concerned with the day to day processes and documentation of results.
If you, as the CEO/MD are able to fulfil the leadership role, be the pivot around which the company revolves (hopefully you are already that) then your sales teams can be organised around capable results and data driven managers, whilst you provide the inspiration and motivational input.
Whether that is you as the business owner/CEO/MD or someone you bring on board, what qualities are important to successfully operate in this role?
Here’s a clue…they are all listed in the infographic!
A sales leader should operate at a strategic level, creating and maintaining a positive sales culture throughout the company. Creating and communicating the vision and direction and keeping a 360° overview of the entire business.
A leader needs to be able to pull everyone in the organisation together, working towards the same goals, targets and aspirations – whatever role or level they are.
If you happen to have a sales manager who also has leadership skills, then well done – hold onto them at all costs!
If not, nurture the process driven side of your sales manager and ensure they have the necessary tools at their disposal in order for them to track and measure sales and targets. Encourage them to create and replicate successful processes and share their systems with other teams.
The most successful sales managers are target and deadline driven. They stand and fall by the sales figures they and their team(s) achieve.
In a 2015 interview of over 1000 sales leaders for the Harvard Business School; 75% of well performing sales managers reported holding their teams to a high degree of accountability by consistently measuring results against targets.
This level of accountability can however sometimes mean a lack of empathy and understanding of how to help under achieving sales staff. Ensure therefore that your managers receive the training to help them support their team(s) in ways other than mere insistence that targets are met!
Sales managers should ensure that they recruit the best staff into their teams, so help them to develop robust recruiting procedures. A high sales staff turnover helps no one, getting the right people in – ones that fit your sales and overall company culture – should be an integral and essential part of your sales managers role.
A Cohesive Organisation
We keep saying this, a successful business needs to have the right culture – top to bottom, bottom to top. No matter how large the organisation, every employee needs to know they matter, that their contribution counts.
Individual departments need to ensure that they are integrated into the whole – no one department can function without another and the business cannot operate optimally unless all the disparate parts work together.
- Find and retain the best staff
- Look for managers with true leadership potential
- Compensate your staff appropriately
- Make sure everyone is aware of the company vision, values and ethos
- Ensure sales is at the heart of all business processes
- Work to ensure your departments collaborate rather than compete against each other
- Know your customers and make sure you ‘sell’ to then appropriately
Sell BETTER not just MORE!
Sales are the key to profitability – we all know that but, higher sales may not necessarily lead to higher profits.
This may at first glance seem counter intuitive – your sales figures and thus income are up, so surely profit should be too.
- Maybe the sales figures are up because the bonus levels have been increased?
- What if the sales income is up but you have had incessant recruitment costs because sales staff aren’t staying with you?
- Perhaps a sales drive temporarily increased income but your sales team has been too pushy and there is no repeat custom from these new sales.
Get your sales leadership and overall company strategies right and you should be able to avoid a feast or famine situation and obtain consistent and repeatable sales.
Your sales teams will understand how to sell well, and your customers will not only keep coming back but will actively refer potential customers your way because of the service they receive.
You will also have a wider workforce who actively want to succeed and who understand the power of working together towards a common goal – namely a successful business.
Be a leader!
Steve Knapp is the Founder and Owner of Steve Knapp Sales. With 30+ years of B2B successful sales, sales management and sales leadership experience. Steve created The 5 Principles of Sales Excellence & has used this to drive sustained sales performance in one of the most successful companies in the world. To discuss your sales requirements contact Steve on [email protected]