Business owners, sales reps, sales management and general management all have one thing in common: they know that their sales leaders have a direct influence on their success.
A low-quality sales manager within your company leads to low-quality results, such as a drop in revenue and decreased office morale and team performance.
With a top performer in sales leadership, however, there is no limit to how much your business can grow.
In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review study laid out some staggering data in a comprehensive sales management performance study: 69 percent of sales reps who surpassed their annual quota rated their sales managers as “excellent” or “above average.” 56 percent of sales reps who considered their companies as “excellent” ranked their sales leads as “excellent,” as well.
You can now see how these sales managers have such a heavy influence on sales performance. Whether you are a business owner, a part of the leadership team or a member of the sales team, this probably does not surprise you.
Everyone benefits from this sort of effective leadership. So if you want to improve as a sales leader, pinpoint how to spot a successful sales leader or recruit one of your own, read on to identify 10 key attributes.
What is the Role of a Sales Leader?
Indeed just updated their description of a sales manager for 2021: a sales manager, or sales leader, supervises the day-to-day operations of the sales department.
While they have many duties, their most important ones include:
- Hiring and training sales reps
- Relaying information from upper management to sales team members
- Understanding and accordingly following sales quotas
- Generating leads
- Dividing any and all duties among team members
As a sales lead, you have to use an effective sales strategy to plan and execute all different types of sales marketing. This includes general sales and promotional activities for the business.
Naturally, sales leaders can coordinate with coworkers to produce results, but they are ultimately responsible for the successful execution of strategic sales. They achieve this through many outlets, but some of the most valuable ways in which they do this are by:
- Staying up to date with rules, regulations, and Standard Operating Procedures
- Informing each pertinent party of those SOPs
- Running promotional campaigns and discounted sales
- Establishing price schedules
- Serving as the lead on customer service issues about a good or service
- Conducting analyses of sales statistics using quantitative metrics and consumer data
- Setting and executing the sales budget
- Approving the many factors of the sales budget
- Enacting promotional events on a local and regional scale
- Hiring, onboarding, and training sales team members
We know that is a lot, and if you are a sales leader, you know that is a lot as well since you deal with it all on a daily basis. Your corporation or business relies on you for both goal setting and the actualization of those goals. This is why we list the following 10 key qualities:
- If you are a sales manager, you can make sure that you are at the top of your game
- As a salesperson, you can make sure that your team leader is using the proper management process for your success
- If you are a corporate director or business owner, you can make sure that you either find the proper sales leader or that your current sales manager is using the best practices to deliver the best company results
Without further ado, let’s get into them.
Attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders
Of course, there has to be some variation in how each sales department functions. You want there to be room for creativity. You also want to be unique so you can stand out from the competition.
However, there should be structure actually within the department. For example, if you do not have a Standard Operating Procedure for the sales team, each sales rep will fluctuate in results and use their own discretion as to how to operate and close sales. This lack of structure should never appeal to sales managers because it will certainly not appeal to buyers.
What will appeal to buyers is a winning team of top performers led by a winning and top-performing sales leader. The following key qualities are what your sales manager should exhibit.
Every single member of the sales team needs a mentor. Having a mentor produces individual success and individual success leads to company-wide success on a larger scale.
To be the most effective sales leader that you can be, you should be able to promote strategic sales by readily offering sound advice. Whether you are offering advice to sales representatives or to a client or customer during a meeting, you should be using sales intuition the whole time.
According to Harvard Business Review, the average sales experience for sales managers is 17 years, regardless of whether you are a top performer or have lots of room for improvement.
The top performers say that they reach their annual quota 88 percent of the time for the duration of their careers. The below-average sales managers, however, say that they only meet their annual quota 75 percent of the time.
Those high-level managers cannot achieve these successful numbers without an impressive amount of sales intuition. They use their real-life experiences of people management and active participation in the sales cycle as a reference point. Every time that they accomplish the goals they are stowing away more information to add to their repertoire of sales intuition.
Everybody learns differently. Some people are visual learners, some mathematical and some are verbal. The list is almost endless.
This does not change in regards to members of the sales department and a quality sales leader knows this, recognizes it, and puts it into practice.
Just like learning styles, selling styles are different, as well. Yes, there should be structure within a sales team. But does this mean that every rep is supposed to use a script to sell? Absolutely not. Strategic sales managers alter their own selling styles to match the various ones within the sales representative team.
The statistics we listed at the beginning of this article, where elite salespeople rated their sales managers as “excellent,” speak to this. They would probably not be so willing to laud their managers if they did not contribute to their own professional development by giving them a creative outlet to express their personal selling styles.
HBR also provided the criteria for a team effectiveness factor. According to them, it is quantified by measuring the average total quota achievement against the team size or population.
Since the best sales managers typically scored 81 percent for their team effectiveness factor compared to poor sales managers averaging 55 percent, it can be said that the highest quality leaders are more capable of widespread coaching adaptability.
HBR also took into consideration quota risk pool factors, which they define as a calculation where you add all of the sales reps’ quotas that are reported to the manager together and divide that number by the sales manager’s quota.
Top-performance sales leaders have a higher quota risk pool factor than those managers who underperform. You should also think about this when weighing the benefits of a leader with coaching adaptability against one without.
Strategic and Critical Thinking
It is the essence of a sales lead’s job title to rise above the ever-growing competition by employing strategy and critical thinking.
They have to regularly hatch plans that consider how they can best increase company profit by scaling their pipeline.
An effective sales manager knows when to use an internal employee, where to put them and how often they should employ external resources. They also know where market opportunities are, how to capitalize on them and when a vertical market would be the best option instead of that of a horizontal.
Additionally, when they are coaching a team member, they can lead by example through this strategic and critical thinking. This encourages sales reps to mimic that behavior and conduct and learn how to develop their own. The growth of every sales rep, led by the example of a sales leader, results in the growth of your business.
How is a team of sales representatives supposed to succeed if they are run by a sales leader who never puts their foot down and lets their power sink to the bottom of the barrel? Simply put, they cannot.
One of the best practices that a sales manager can apply is that of commanding instinct. They should hold their team of reps accountable for their actions and inactions. Here is where more data from the Harvard Business Review comes in.
75 percent of top team leaders in sales reported that their team is consistently held to a high standard when it comes to their quotas. This is in stark contrast to the 58 percent that was reported by lacking sales managers.
When we say that the most successful managers assert themselves and hold their team members accountable, we do not mean to say that it is done in a dictatorial manner.
Instead, they use their intuition and lead by example, as we mentioned before. They foster a productive work environment in a healthy way. This is done through psychologically beneficial tactics such as positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment.
The top performers in the sales department are rewarded through public praise, for example, while those who are lacking are rebuked and shunned to a certain extent. The positive influence of peer pressure and peer validation is hard at work.
This then cultivates a department that genuinely wants to win and cares about how their company is faring against the competition.
There are deadlines and goals that need to be met daily, weekly, monthly, and annually for a business to reach its fullest potential.
HBR’s data-heavy article refers to a series of personality tests to show just how target-driven the best sales leaders are.
These high-performing leaders had the highest percentages in different categories like self-discipline, a drive for success, and a focus on appropriate priorities.
All of those combined equate to a natural yearning to aim for the targets and accurately shoot their proverbial bow and arrow. This means that they encourage that same sense of responsibility to reach the general goal for the rest of the team, no matter how “small” the rest of the team thinks their role is.
By avoiding distractions that could be detrimental to the success of the business and its revenue, they can focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and the positive results that come with having a target and successfully executing it.
Acting as a talent manager for the rest of the sales department is key to effective sales management.
High-performing sales leaders search for, hire and retain sales talent who care about the customers and clients, want to build relationships with them, offer them a compelling sales experience, and play off of their experience to close the sale.
Here is another statistic for you from the HBR studies: a mere 28 percent of the best sales team leaders ranked their team as “average” or “below average” while 46 percent of the underperforming sales managers thought the same.
Responsibility and Dependability
There are always some less-than-desirable situations that have to be dealt with as a sales manager. For example, dealing with an upset customer is not something that anyone looks forward to.
But a quality sales leader can always be relied upon to deliver customer satisfaction responsibly and with the best interest of the business in mind.
Without responsibility or dependability from the manager, a sales team will sink.
It might go without saying that to be a high-functioning leader, you have to be highly functional in your communication skills. However, it can be overlooked when you are looking at the big picture. It warrants a category in and of itself because of just how crucial this is to company growth.
If you cannot listen to your team members and coach them according to what they need, then the customer will not get what they need and you can consider them a moot point as a buyer. Likewise, if a sales manager does not communicate and actively listens, they cannot learn and grow.
Almost everything else builds off of interpersonal skills, communication being of utmost importance.
Good Decision Maker
Using sales intuition comes into play again here, but being a good decision maker should come from that intuition.
As a primary decision-maker, you make decisions with the wellbeing of your company and everyone in it at the forefront of your mind.
Otherwise, loyalty will falter and the whole operation could come crashing down.
Great Team Player
Your team is your access point to winning and growing. Working together facilitates more ideas and more ideas lead to innovation. Most customers have heard and seen it all. Without innovation, you might bore your customers to the point that they block out what you are saying, thinking that you are wasting their time.
If you find that you are lacking in any of these imperative attributes as a sales manager, it might be time to consider some further leadership training.
We can help. If you need help finding proper training for either yourself or your sales lead, or you need any advice on how to grow and succeed as a business, book a call today and we can lead you in the right direction in just 20 minutes.