What Does it Take to be an Effective Sales Leader?

by | Jun 26, 2023 | Sales

Sales leadership is not a position but a practice.

As a sales leader you have enormous responsibility for nurturing your salespeople to success in not just achieving their budget goals, but to learn and grow by understanding all the facets of sales.

Leadership needs to remember that their salespeople have enormous responsibility since they are the main people interacting with your clients. They represent your company (or they should be) and they should do it well.

In addition, sellers are responsible for prospecting, presenting, giving demonstrations, gathering the right resources to prepare proposals, negotiations, and qualifying prospects, asking questions, and bringing opportunities to a close. This requires a lot of training and coaching along the way.

The beauty in sales is that every opportunity is unique, and customer situations vary all the time. You’ll quickly realize that you’re always dealing with a new person or decision maker with a different personality.

To be an effective sales leader you need to balance your time between

  • Report to upper management the accuracy of your pipeline,
  • Develop the appropriate reports,
  • Manage your time with upper management,
  • Meetings with your team and customers, and
  • Coach your salespeople, including dedicating time for those who may need more help.

So, how can you manage your time to be a successful sales leader when the traditional breakdown of the sales team is 80/20?

According to Pareto’s principle, 20% of your salespeople generate 80% of your revenue. We’ve also seen that 20% of the customers typically account for 80% of the revenue. What are the key activities to be a successful leader?

  • Prioritize your time appropriately. Successful sales leaders spend time where they know they will see results. Which means the more time supporting your people the better. A big complaint from sellers is that they have more trouble internally with the bureaucracy and red tape than handling issues with the customer. A strong sales leader will help to break down those internal barriers.
  • Coach! You coach to help them grow and succeed, which in turn builds trust and confidence. A coaching opportunity is anywhere from two minutes to an hour. It just depends on the topic. Go on sales calls and observe their skills, so you’ll see where they need help and where they need encouragement to continue the good work.

After the sales appointment, I like to ask the salesperson these questions to review the call.

  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better.
  • What changes will you make to improve on the next call?
  • Being a strong sales leader requires a balance of leading and managing. Leading is doing the right things, including prioritizing your time to help your team grow. Managing is doing things right – working within the process of the company and its policies and procedures. A great sales leader knows from day to day where they need to spend their time based on the situation. That comes from experience.

I believe the best way to learn to be a great salesperson and leader is by experience. Part of that experience is learning from your mistakes. That’s how we grow. Don’t be afraid to take risks to grow as a leader. Sales is an individual contributor role, and a competitive sport.

That’s what I love about sales!

Always look for ways to improve your skills, just like an athlete. As a sales leader, you are responsible for the individuals on your team, just like a coach in sports. Taking the time to grow your salespeople will lead to trust, competence, and loyalty. In the long term everyone will succeed.

Leadership in sales is a practice, and practice leads to success when done right.