A common issue for companies looking to grow is a lack of leadership. Top salespeople often get promoted into a leadership position, when in reality the skills required are very different. The result is these people then fail, as they focus on what they are strong at (selling) instead of growth strategies, processes and analytics.
Sales leaders today must investigate, track and measure the effectiveness of all lead generation sources, from cold calling to social media marketing, and review forecasts and targets. Not only must the Sales leader make sure his/her salespeople are hitting sales targets, but whatever sales technique they use (cold calling, face to face sales, etc.) must be conducted in a manner that is ethical, legal, and successful. They also need to understand the sales process of their company, identifying potential problems with sales methods or technology that can cause salespeople to fail.
Understanding data is an important part of Sales leadership, as data helps to inform good decisions. Being able to manipulate the data to report on activity, revenue and productivity is an important part of Sales leadership.
Essentially, Sales leadership is about managing salespeople so that they consistently take actions that drive revenue towards hitting their targets. The Sales leader must motivate, coach, train and mentor others within an organisation or company so that they achieve maximum productivity levels.
Sales leader or sales manager?
There’s a big difference between a Sales manager and a Sales leader. While leaders strategise, plan and execute, Sales managers are more responsible for the day-to-day performance of the Sales team. The Sales manager shares a lot of the same responsibilities around reporting, productivity, processes and results, but typically doesn’t have the same strategic mind as a Sales leader. Sales managers are people managers. They work with salespeople to improve actions that drive revenue.
Leadership is about creating a vision and being able to effectively communicate it. Sales leaders who are able to create a strong selling culture within their company will be the ones who succeed as the Sales industry evolves in the future. The sales world is changing dramatically. And with that, Sales leaders need to change with it. Especially with new technologies and techniques changing the way we sell.
The future of Sales leadership
As the industries we sell too change, so will Sales leadership. What was an important focus for leaders years ago won’t be the same now. With that, the traits needed for successful Sales leadership will change too. As technology continues to innovate and transform the world, digital capabilities are now required to improve productivity and sales performance. And today’s leaders are expected to be able to analyse the wealth of data they have at their fingertips to make more informed decisions and changes across the team. While pure leadership qualities around being able to train people, communication and culture remain, there a few things that look set to shape the future of Sales leadership.
Executing strategy over Sales: Leaders shouldn’t just focus on selling. They need to ensure their teams are focusing their efforts on the right targets and the Sales approach is aligned with the business goals and the go-to-market strategy. This helps to maximise the efforts of every salesperson and put resources on the most profitable areas. With a strong strategy execution, you can wave goodbye to Sales reps targeting the wrong people or engaging with industries with low conversions.
Using data to improve Sales processes: If you really want to stand out as a leader, excellent data analytics skills can set you apart. Data is no longer simply a KPI tracking activity. With the amount of information generated from every touchpoint with a prospect and customer, data can be leveraged as a competitive advantage. You can work out where deals typically fall through in the pipeline, which reps have the longest time to close, what techniques convert better than others, and so on. Each time, you can make a more educated improvement to make the Sales process more effective. Leaders with a tight control of processes and data typically have a well-oiled and high-performing Sales team. Remember, most Sales teams have the data, few actually get significant value out of it.
Continual Sales coaching: Coaching and training is a huge part of Sales leadership. While some businesses have quarterly or monthly training sessions, the best Sales leaders work continuously on a weekly basis to improve certain areas of Sales. These regular sessions result in a meaningful impact on Sales. Training should not be seen as a semi-regular activity, it should be built into the very heartbeat of the team. Better training results in better Sales performance.
With markets moving at pace, businesses looking to grow fast, and companies emerging from the global pandemic, great Sales leaders will be in high demand. Exceptional leaders are worth their weight in gold.