Unlike some other more complex aspects of business, the role of sales is simple; generate revenue. For a business owner to achieve this goal, a high-performing sales team must leverage its comprehensive understanding of customer needs and its mastery of the sales process to manage a pipeline of prospects and produce reliable revenue growth.
But while the role of sales is clear-cut, sales management is a more complicated process. Actually, we think of this as sales leadership, which we define as closely monitoring and measuring every salesperson’s aptitude for either supporting sales or doing the actual sales themselves. Effective sales leadership involves goal-setting, ongoing support and training, as well as refining sales strategy to meet ever-changing market conditions.
Unfortunately, businesses both large and small are challenged in their attempts to master the art of sales leadership. Teams are burdened with a lack of resources, ambiguous sales stages and milestones, contradictory guidance from both managers and executives, along with inadequate training and poor pipeline management.
Where Sales Leadership Comes In
The key responsibilities of sales leaders include:
- Crafting the best possible sales strategy
- Recruiting and retaining a skilled team
- Defining the best compensation plans, quotas and territories
- Setting appropriate projections
- Motivating individual salespeople and the sales team
- Resolving internal conflicts
- Coaching and training sales staff
- Managing CRM and other processes
A long and sometimes difficult list, to be sure. But that’s where effective leadership comes in.
Every salesperson—both veterans and rookies—can benefit from leadership and coaching. For newcomers, more hands-on guidance is often involved. This includes (but isn’t limited to) the following:
The Socratic method – Teaching a salesperson to ask the right questions of prospects and then practicing the skill of active listening. What prospective customers have to say is far more important than a sales rep’s ability to rattle off a laundry list of product features, which may not address the prospect’s real needs. Those can only be uncovered through a series of focused questions and listening closely to the answers.
Role-playing – Conducting an “imaginary” conversation with a team member who plays the role of the prospect. The salesperson offers his or her elevator pitch, tries to schedule a meeting (or meet some other sales call goal), while encountering the possible range of objections they might encounter in real life. As a result of effective role-playing, the salesperson will be able to respond to virtually any question, complaint or concern a prospective customer might raise.
For veteran sales staff, coaching often entails getting out of their way and not micromanaging their style and tactics. The focus instead is on finding out what additional resources these seasoned pros need to do their jobs, and making sure they have those resources.
When sales fall flat, a sales leader must uncover the source of the problem, whether it involves poor skills on the salesperson’s part, or a deeper issue like poor product quality, non-competitive pricing, delays in delivery or customer service, etc. A sales leader must be adept at communicating with other departments within the organization, isolating where the problem lies and coming up with a viable solution.
Effective sales leadership drives better results, which means more revenue for your business. It’s well worth committing all the time, training and resources needed to achieve the goal. In fact, your business depends on it.
Listen to the Catapult Business Growth Podcast: E003: Stop Managing and Start Leading