The Importance of Sales Leadership

According to a VizQuest study, 60%+ of sales managers are currently under performing against sales targets and 70% of CEOs lack confidence in their sales leaders. If sales leadership is such a critical role within any organization, why are sales leaders struggling?

In any business environment, you’ll find that most people have already developed their own concept of a “great sales leader” and it is typically one of two stereotypes: 1) the amazing sales person who consistently surpasses their quota each quarter, and rewarded with a promotion, or 2) the “proven leader” from a Fortune 1000 organization, hired to take the company into the future. Not only do these simple notions utterly fail to describe a great sales leader, but their widespread acceptance by executives hinder companies from actually cultivating and creating great sales leaders. However, if a carefully constructed sales performance environment is created by a company, then great sales leaders can be cultivated and created through either organic development or by recruiting top performing, outside candidates.

Cultivating Sales Leaders – It is ALL About Development

In too many firms, top management has long treated sales managers with benign neglect, partly because of a limited understanding of the diverse roles these managers can play. Some executives seem to believe the primary job of the sales manager is to be a kind of “super-salesperson” role model for the reps, showing them how to sell and driving them hard to meet sales goals. To keep and develop the best sales leaders, companies must nurture, develop and invest in the following:

  • Strategy – Help the leader develop and implement a 12-month strategic blueprint aligned with business objectives, to include key goals, strategies, initiatives and milestones.
  • Training – Without it, new managers often suffer from role ambiguity and find it difficult to prioritize their activities in terms of importance.
  • Transition – Accelerate the leader’s role adoption so he/she quickly becomes effective in the new role and achieves fast results.
  • Mentoring – Reduce the failure rate of these leaders by providing an independent and objective temporary mentor, sounding board, and counselor.
  • Change management – Support and guide the leader in initiating new ideas and innovation to transform sales performance.
  • Relations – Provide personal assistance in effectively dealing with difficult people, situations, and circumstances.
  • Evaluation – The movement toward bottom-up and 360-degree evaluation appears to be a positive trend, especially when the evaluations are used primarily for managerial development in conjunction with training.
  • Compensation – Develop compensation that is directly mapped to the success criteria of the role. Criteria should include: profitable growth, sales effectiveness, channel leverage, team morale and leadership competency.

By combing these sales leadership qualities with a frictionless sales environment, a company will be able to cultivate and create great sales leaders and see their sales performance goals attained.

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