Last week we talked about the skills involved to ‘manage up’ within your organization. If you have people reporting to you, or if your goal is to have people reporting to you, then you need to go beyond merely ‘managing’ but to actively leading your team. I’ve worked for some people that were natural leaders…I could see it the first time that I met them. Others had the capabilities and skills to become very effective leaders. And, unfortunately, some people can never quite make the leap from manager to leader. I believe, though, that with thought, determination, and a desire to learn, that most people CAN learn to be effective leaders.
Let’s look at 4 different skills to help you learn to manage up:
- Get out of your office
- Get to know your team
- Get honest feedback and comments
- Get results
Get out of your office
Part of the job of someone leading a sales team is to attend internal meetings, analyze budgets, and write reports. It goes with the territory and good leaders have to be able to excel with these process oriented activities. However, it is a serious mistake for sales leaders to barricade themselves behind spreadsheets in their offices.
Great sales leaders get out of their offices to talk with people. Obviously, customers need to be of prime focus. Go to meetings with your sales team and listen carefully to what your team’s customers are saying. Salespeople often like to have sales leaders attend customer meetings because it shows the customer how important they are to the sales organization. I would, however, plan your meeting attendance in advance to make the most of the meetings with customers…last minute attendance by sales leaders can be a distraction.
Great leaders also get out of their office to personally interact with others within their own company. In order for a sales team to be both effective and efficient, it takes lot of other departments, and people, ‘rowing in the same direction’ to ensure success. Meeting with other departments will help both the sales leader and the overall sales team.
Get to know your team
I believe that the most effective leaders genuinely care about the people on their team. They have 1:1 meetings, go out for the occasional coffee and lunch, and learn about their team members lives. I’ve worked for some otherwise strong leaders who never got the names correct for some people on their teams…a cardinal sin to my eyes.
Getting to know the members of your team is important because you will learn both the strengths and areas of improvement in your team members. Different roles in sales organizations require different skill sets. Sometimes, you can improve the relationship with a challenging customer just by coaching and mentoring the salesperson who works on that account. Sometimes, you can improve your team’s internal relationships at your organization by having different ‘point people’ interacting with a particular non-sales department.
Finally, getting to know your team is critical in understanding how to best motivate your team. Some salespeople respond better to positive comments rather than negative comments. Learn how your team members think and work and you’ll get the best results together.
Get honest feedback and comments
As a sales leader, the last thing I’m looking for in a salesperson on the team is a “yes-man” or sycophant. I’ve seen some sales managers who surround themselves with these types of people and the result is a sales organization that is not growing and improving. I believe that honest feedback and transparent communication is a key to being a strong sales leader. This communication needs to go in both directions…the great sales leaders are totally open, and asking for, feedback and honesty from their teams. They are looking for ideas from the team to do something in a better way. Great sales leaders also know that, sometimes, salespeople on the team need extra coaching and mentoring to improve their performance and results.
It’s up to the sales leader to create an environment where honesty and transparency are the norm…and that team members are not only ‘encouraged’ to provide honest feedback and transparency, but are expected to do so.
My experience shows me that learning and practicing these leadership behavior skills will result in a successful sales team. As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy sales and sales management because it is undeniably clear as to how you, individually, and your team is performing. Great sales leaders, and future great sales leaders, will inspire their teams to success. They will be out with clients and familiar with the challenges in the marketplace. They will know the strengths and areas for improvement with the individual salespeople. Finally, they will encourage, and expect, honesty and transparency within their sales teams in order to grow, improve, and exceed their sales goals.