There have been all kinds of leaders through human history. Some good, some bad, some neither. But no matter their qualities, the one thing they all have in common is power—and the ability to influence those they led.
In a much less grandiose sense, for any organisation it is the sales leader who is ultimately responsible for the outcomes of everyone in their team. Which is why so many sales teams fail to achieve to their actual capability.
So what should sales leaders be doing to help grow sales?
1. Implement progress metrics
Progress: the development towards an improved or advanced condition.
Result: a thing that is caused or produced by something else; a consequence or outcome.
(Oxford English Dictionary, 2017).
Looking at these two words side-by-side shows the difference between good and average sales leaders. Leaders who have teams that succeed better than most, typically implement metrics that measure progress through the sales process. Those who report purely on results usually experience less-than-impressive outcomes.
Both terms have their place in the sales process, as progress is about forward-thinking, and the latter is focused on looking back. Sales leaders who use a weighting factor are also able to incorporate a forecasting model to help their team meet their targets.
For even greater success, leaders should also make sure their sales team:
- Knows the sales process.
- Understands where each and every opportunity is in the process.
- Are coached and held accountable.
2. Prioritise coaching
One of the single most crucial qualities a sales leader needs to have, is to recognise the impact of talent and skill development.
Steve Bambury, Head of Marketing for SalesStar, says that the number one role of every sales manager is coaching to proactively develop his or her team, and that it should occupy around 50 per cent of their time.
“We know that it sounds like a lot to most leaders, but for a sales team to be successful, it is imperative that they are regularly coached by their manager,” Steve says. “Research shows that this is the single biggest thing that sales managers can do to consistently grow their sales revenues.”
Why finding good sales coaches is hard
“Despite the fact that 96 per cent of sales people are coachable, an extensive evaluation of sales managers across Australasia revealed that on average, only 46 per cent had half the skills needed to coach effectively,” Steve says. “So while the overwhelming majority of salespeople have the ability to be coached, sales managers in Australia and New Zealand are, generally, not very good at it.”
3. Focus on ‘how’ to sell, not just why
As buyers’ habits continue to change, so does the way in which they want to be sold to. It’s not always about the product or service on offer, but also “how” the product or service is packaged and presented.
So because of this, sales leaders need to always encourage their teams to consider how they are selling, and how they can create a great experience and added value to the customer. A great leader understands that there’s more to selling than just listing “features”. It must be a two way communication between salesperson and customer that discusses insights, possible new approaches, ideas for solving problems and potential innovation that could benefit the customer and help them to do their job better.
“In the increasingly commoditised market of today’s selling environment, feature benefit selling is completely ineffective’, says Steve. “If you don’t have a sales team that can show your customers how to make money, save money or be more efficient or compliant, you’re going to lose out to someone who can!”
4. Encourage a sales and marketing relationship
The world of selling has changed more in the past five years than in the past 50. So too has the world of marketing. Today, more than ever before, it is critical to have alignment between these two fundamentally-important parts of a successful business.
While there are certain functions of sales and marketing that remain separate to a degree, it is essential that these two areas of a business focus on a relationship that benefits both parties. A great leader knows how to work with marketing to help their sales team find leads and generate sales.
But, this is not about waiting for marketing to produce leads and pass them on to sales. It is about working in conjunction on mutually beneficial activities that grow brand presence and generate interactions with the right target market. It is about shared and common goals and a clear understanding of what each department contributes, and how that influences the overall success of the business. Without this partnership, a sales department could be missing out on extraordinary opportunities to gain interest from inbound leads.
It’s true that some sales people can become great without a strong sales manager to guide the way. For the rest, coaching from a team leader is the best way to raise the bar and get them to the next level. This is only possible with an exceptional leader who can not only coach to greatness, but also influence a first-rate sales strategy.