Creating Effective Sales Managers: Are your Leaders actually Leading?


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Sales has a problem—or rather, a shortage. Effective sales leaders are hard to find. Research from over 100,000 sales managers has found that 18 per cent of all sales managers should not be in the role and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The significance of sales leadership

From a lacklustre culture to ineffective salespeople, poor leadership and management is one of the root causes of missed targets and flagging growth. However, it’s not all bad news.

“Implementing good leadership and focusing on culture can double your business,” says Paul O’Donohue, SalesStar’s Founder and Global CEO.

“We’ve helped a large construction group grow over 100 per cent. Their market share grew by 47 per cent, in a market with a growth rate of  only 13 per cent. This was achieved by focusing on leadership training and developing a culture of coaching.”

The difference between leadership and management

Leadership is about people, and management is about tasks. The best managers and leaders are those who excel at both aspects. To quote Peter Drucker: “management is about doing things right, leadership is about doing the right things”.

Good sales managers will know how to conduct effective sales meetings and hold people accountable—the practical aspects of running a sales team. However, they also need to embody leadership qualities, such as listening, asking not telling, and coaching. This last point, in particular, is important to develop a high performing sales team.

3 reasons why sales managers and leaders fail

The first step to improving the leadership capabilities within your business is to understand why leaders and managers are falling short. More often than not it comes down to one (sometimes all) of the following reasons:

1. They don’t coach

A lack of coaching is the number one reason why sales managers and leaders don’t get results—both from themselves and their sales teams.

“Where most companies, and sales managers, get it wrong is they simply don’t spend enough time coaching,” says Paul. Ideally 50 per cent of their time should be spent coaching their salespeople.”

However, research from the Objective Management Group (OMG) shows that only 3 per cent of sales managers actually hit this coaching-time quota.

“A sales manager’s job is to grow people to grow sales,” Paul says, “If you’re not growing people, you’re not growing sales and you’ll never reach your growth targets.”

2. They continue to sell, instead of manage

An elite salesperson does not an elite sales manager make. Many sales managers were once top salespeople, but the two roles are very different. Some struggle to let go of the selling aspect of their old job.

“Many great salespeople become ineffective sales managers when… they want to be hero closers rather than developers who generate revenue through others,” writes global sales expert and founder of Objective Management Group, Dave Kurlan.

3. Their role is undefined

Businesses can also fail their sales managers. Having undefined roles and not setting clear expectations is setting them up for failure. They have no choice but to make it up as they go.

This is particularly evident in businesses that skip over the essential sales analysis, planning and KPI steps.

The top 2 ways to become a better sales leader

1. Start coaching

To start with, implement pre-call strategising and post-call debriefing meetings. Make an effort to conduct one-on-one catch ups with your salespeople each week to explore what’s in their pipeline and help them work through any milestones they’re stuck on.

2. Hold your salespeople accountable

Start reviewing your KPIs at your weekly sales meetings. This is your opportunity to set out what your team’s goals are and what activities to focus on for the week.

“Meetings should focus on some positive news and reviewing the week that was,” says Paul. “This includes inspecting the KPIs, such as the number of discovery meetings, the number of proposal meetings and deals won. It should also inspect the pipeline of what’s coming up.”

Later during your one-on-ones, you can check in on each salesperson to see how they’re tracking towards those KPIs and provide coaching on any issues they’re having.

We coach our clients through this HIGH PERFORMANCE SALES PATHWAY to help them get clear on their strategy, transform their sales team and achieve sales growth, without stress and uncertainty of going it alone.



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