When I was a sales rep there seemed only one sales playbook. Having worked in financial service, in the 1990s, I came from the traditional sink-or-swim sales environment. We got given leads, we did cold calling (this was a time when you could), and I typically hit quota 60% of the time. Industry average! Many years later I realised that I was a relationship builder and as soon as I got out of the sales pit and changed my sales process to one based on relationships, and thereafter, easily exceeded quota.
The problem was not the sales system; the problem was that it assumed every sales person was the same. This traditional sales system only made me feel like a failure, it sucked my energy, it did not recognise my natural strengths as a sales rep. Thankfully, the old approach of ‘carrot and stick’ playbook is on its last legs and cracking the whip is now dead!
If the salesperson comes from a culture of command and control, they will demonstrate behaviours to suit the environment. However, buyers want to buy from and not sold to; buyers do not like feeling like a target is on their head and they do not like feeling pressured in the selling system that controlled by the seller.
The sales leader authors the sales playbook setting the sale strategy, process and culture; empowering the sales manager to drive the team to success and leading the sales organisation to generate predictable and repeatable revenue for the company.
Harvard Business Review interviewed over 1,000 sales leaders to better understand the impact of management styles and personality patterns on sales success. Author Steve W. Martin looked at what separates high-performing sales leaders who exceed their quota from under-performers who miss their quota by more than 25%, The 7 Attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders, is the result:
1. Target fixation. The best sales leaders are target and deadline driven. In personality testing, top sales managers scored 19% higher in the self-discipline element, 20% higher in the success-driven element, and 27% higher in the priority-focused feature than under-performing sales managers. They keep their team focused and moving forward with a sense of urgency, regardless of the circumstances.
2. Command instinct. Great sales leaders establish firm command over their team by exercising the power their title and position entail. The leader must create this culture using peer-pressure and “carrot and stick” psychological approach.
3. Hiring ability. The ability to hire quality talent will determine the success or failure of the sales organisation.
4. Sales intuition. A key differentiator of great sales leaders is their ability to mentor and dispense tactical sales advice and add value during customer meetings.
5. Control orientation. Sales leaders who closely monitor and strictly enforce a sales process are more likely to exceed their quotas, and the best seek to control the daily behaviour of their sales teams.
6. Coaching adaptability. Great sales leaders understand that there is a diversity of selling styles by which salespeople can achieve success, they adapt their style to suit each individual.
7. Strategic leadership. All sales leaders are battlefield commanders who must devise the organisation’s sales strategy to defeat the competition.
I cannot dispute the statistics that support the assumption in the article, the 7 Attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders sales leader may have achieved effective results. However, some of the 7 Attributes are based in the traditional sales paradigm, that has now shifted. We must remember any research is based on experience and is not a predictor of future demands.
Sales Leadership Do or Die
The buying power of customers drives that sales leaders must embarrass new technologies, a diverse of their customers and their team and a new sales playbook.
B2B buyers buy the people selling first, the product second and the company third. It is interesting that the sales organisation is looking to understand buyer behaviour but do not yet give equal investment into the sales individuals motivation.
John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
The 5 Attributes of Modern Sales Leaders
1. Sales leadership must move away from command and control management to influence and enablement. Influence and enablement foster an inclusive culture where trusted individuals take responsibility to ask for help, knowing they are accountable to themselves first, the customer second and then the team, appreciating that sales team are a collection of individual and different needs, strengths and weaknesses.
2. Sales leaders are essentially alarm-chair psychologists with the emotional intelligence to understand what drives each salesperson. They must inspire their team to be resilient, adaptable and motivate with positive feedback.
3. Sales leaders must acknowledge the shift from seller control to buyer power and bring the mutually beneficial broad focus on outcomes for the customers, rather than the supplier sales focus.
4. The sales leader, asks the right questions and is open to new possibilities, seeking out a diversity of opinions, experience and perspectives. Knowing diversity enables the decision-makers to understand the perspective of opportunities better. Diversity delivers an enhanced level of risk intelligence, skills, knowledge, experience, education and enriches strategic decision making.
5. The Scale Your Sales Leader understands the relationship between the strength of the buyer relationship to the salesperson and supports the deepening of the bonding relationship:
- Creating a competitive advantage for the customer from the salesperson or sale team strengths.
- Helping buyers make the best decision to generate revenue for the customer organisation.
- Ensuring the salesperson develops their strength further and helping them achieve their personal goals.
- Secure, maintain and grow the revenue relationship between the supplier and the customer.
- Creating opportunities to innovate and build customer relationship into partnerships.
Scale Your Sales is my programme for sales leaders that want to empower their teams to secure, maintain and grow strategic relationships to profitable partnerships. It utilises strategic account sales and social selling tools and strategies in a unique system
Jack Welch: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Scale Your Sales Creates The Role For The Servant Leader
Scale Your Sales system is built of 3 modules: Resilience, Productivity and Attraction.
Scale Your Sales Resilience is more than a personality trait. It is a fundamental principle of effective organisational leadership and the basis of understanding the unique strengths driving success. In the current volatile economic climate, resilience can mean the difference between corporate survival, business success or failure. To build on sales success the sales leader must demonstrate the behaviours that empower their culture of relationships both internally and externally. Integrity is a result of consistency and transparency and builds trusted relationships into a strategic partnership that secure greater lifetime values.
We live in a socially connected world; the internet allows everyone to see and form a view on what is really going on. All fans, followers, employees, stakeholders, potential and existing customers and peers are staking-out on and offline, listening and watching our every move and behaviour. If you or your sales team are not consistent in the behaviours, there is nowhere to hide!
Bill Gates: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others”.
The Role For The Servant Leader
Transparency is fundamental to building integrity; transparency of character and process, consistency of behaviour. The more you demonstrate transparency and communicate consistently the less your team, your peers, your customers and stakeholders both internal and external, can fill with information drawn from sparse and inconsistent sources. You must walk your talk – always!
Trust is developed from the personal connections and the experience from the relationships you have with your team, your peers, your customers and stakeholders both internal and external. Transparency of who you are and what you are doing and the process you take to get the results is an essential characteristic for successful sales leaders.
Scale Your Sales Resilience
To demonstrate integrity through consistent and transparent behaviours and build trust in sales leaders, the sales team and the customer’s relationship. Scale Your Sales Resilience helps answer four essential questions:
1. Who you (they) are and what you (they) stand for.
2. What you (they) do for others and how you(they) make them feel.
3. Why you (they) do it – the reason why or purpose for doing it.
4. How you (they) do it – what you (they) do that no one else can do in the way you (they) do it.
Scale Your Sales Resilience module is form by three elements Youology, Customer and Environment, each part follows the Who, What, Why and How system from the perspective of the sales leader, manager or rep and your customer perspective. The questions change when we look at the customer Environment element to:
1. Who are their competitors, who have market positioning/leadership and why?
2. What do their competitors or anyone else (leveraging other industries) do that is different?
3. Why their environment is driving (lagging) change creating treats/opportunities?
4. How your customer can capitalise on Market/ Environment challenges?
Sales leadership is about enabling the sales team to achieve the desired results; the process of leadership is through mentoring and coaching, empowering and influencing. The best way to develop a leadership style is to exercise the muscle, it needs practice to become second nature.
The new sales playbook states that sales leadership has nothing to do with seniority, one’s position or title. The paradigm shift dictated the sales leaders best able to empower and influence behaviours that deliver valued and beneficial results. Results for the buyer and customer with mutually beneficial strategic partnership, innovative alliances, trusted seller or preferred buyer status – wins every time.