How to be a Sales Leader and Get the Most Out of Your Team

The rapid shift to remote working has been challenging. How to be a sales leader and adapt your team to this new situation.

Whether you are new to a sales leadership role or an experienced sales professional, you probably think that you already have a pretty good grasp on how to guide, drive, and develop a sales team. However, there is a significant difference between understanding how to be a sales leader, and understanding how to be a sales leader in the ‘new normal’ scenario. 

Is Your Team Reaching its Full Potential?

The rapid shift to remote working has been challenging and disruptive, and it has made even the most experienced of managers question whether they really know how to be a sales leader today. A new need to navigate changes in working environments and adapt the sales process means that many teams aren’t currently reaching their full potential; they’re capable of more, and as a sales leader, it’s your responsibility to draw this out of them. 

However, your approach could make or break your team. According to Gartner, more than one third of sales representatives quit because of poor leadership. And at a time when teams are already reeling from the changes that are being implemented to facilitate remote selling, good leadership practices are more important than ever. 

“Sellers aren’t just leaving because of the occasional ‘bad apple’ manager, they’re leaving because there is a whole orchard of bad managers. However, good managers — and a culture that supports dedicated and effective managers — can help retain high-quality talent by up to 15% to 30% and help sellers onboard faster.” ~ Matt Dudek, Vice President in Gartner’s sales practice

Adapting the Leadership Approach

It can be easy to think that being a sales leader means leading. It’s right there in the name, after all. But the truth is that a good sales leader doesn’t always lead. In fact, one of the most effective leadership approaches is to combine three distinct aspects:

  1. Leadership: Optimising processes and minimising disruption to boost productivity.
  2. Management: Ensuring compliant operations with a firm focus on end results.
  3. Coaching: Guidance and support with a goal of elevating your sales people.

Unfortunately, when considering how to be a sales leader, many focus on leadership alone in a bid to meet targets and enhance short-term performance. Instead, it’s vital to incorporate both management and coaching to build a strong, people-centric approach. Ultimately, being a sales leader means putting your people first, managing, leading, coaching and training your sales team to help them achieve their full potential. And by understanding that, it’s easy to see how being a good leader can help you get the most from your team. 

A 3-Stage Plan for Getting the Most From Your Team

Knowing how to be a sales leader goes hand-in-hand with deriving value from your people and giving your team what they need to succeed. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are three important stages to bringing the two together and increase your sales team’s performance

1: Are you Maximizing your Team’s Full Potential

To get the most from your team, you first need to know what each member of the team is capable of achieving, and look to see how these individual talents align with the areas where you’re really striving to make a difference; where you need your ‘win’. 

With remote working on the rise, there are new obstacles in the way when it comes to communicating with your remote sales team, so embracing the digital revolution really is key. Through video conferencing, as well as other, traditional touch points like phone and email, it is possible to get to know your team well - even when working remotely. This initial analysis may not be your end goal, but it does give you a direction to head in. 

2: Delegate

As much as you may want to prove your ability in your role as sales leader, no sales leader works alone. In fact, to fully visualise the gap between where your team is now, and where you want your people to be, it’s necessary to delegate some tasks to others. 

This could be delegating team and individual assessments to the HR department, or to an independent assessment agency. It could be in company training (IP) services to develop certain skills and identify niche talents. It could be delegating to the team itself, asking individuals what they need in the way of instruction, management, training, and coaching. Don’t be afraid to reach out. 

3. Recognise the Importance of Flexibility

Well-developed but flexible plans that help the business evolve, to shifts in customer behaviors, and related impacts on sales team morale will be critical in providing clearer points of engagement for customers, partners and sales teams alike.” ~ Nick Toman, Chief of Research at Gartner’s sales practice.

As Gartner notes, flexibility is key in being a good sales leader and getting the most not only from sales teams, but from partners and customers, too. Flexibility should be extended to targets, as well as to individuals. It’s vital to set individually differentiated targets that enable every member of the team to boost their own job performance. 

When you already have clear ideas of what a sales leader looks like, it can be difficult to implement this degree of flexibility. A good trick is to learn from others; to observe how others do this, how they overcome their challenges, and how they not only accept the need for flexibility in their approach, but also embrace it. This can help to ingrain practical and proven solutions into your leadership approach that you can build upon.

Taking a Step Back

If you’ve transitioned into a leadership role from a previous direct sales role, it’s natural that your heart is still very much rooted in sales. But no one can do it all. Learning how to be a sales leader - a leader that’s effective at helping their team reach their potential - means learning how to take a step back. Now is the time to start handing over your accounts, managing as few as possible, leaving you with the time you need to focus on developing your sales team and, most importantly, to focus on developing yourself.

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