How to Master Key Sales Leadership Skills

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Sales leadership is one of the most challenging roles in any organization. A good sales leader needs to be able to juggle multiple needs, expectations, and responsibilities that come from every direction—from the customer, from the sales team, and from the C-level. Sales leadership development helps managers meet these needs and coach their teams with confidence.

In order to have continued success, sales leaders need to maintain a laser focus on winning mindsets that can help sales organizations achieve their goals in the short and long term.

4 Sales Leadership Skills Your Organization Needs to Keep in Mind

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Mindset 1: Reimagine ABC (Always Be Coaching)

The importance of coaching is a common thread that’s woven through past blog posts, and for a good reason. A lack of mindful coaching leads to a chaotic environment that can be difficult to course correct. While coaching needs to be a continual process, it doesn’t have to be complicated — the following best practices add structure but can be applied flexibly, based on the needs of each salesperson.

  • Observe your salespeople selling on a regular basis. Observation is a coaching priority, especially when a salesperson fails to meet their quota. Take the time to objectively evaluate your salespeople in the field and on the phone, then document your observations. This research forms the basis of your coaching.
  • Define your coaching objectives. Decide what constitutes “success” and use that to create specific outcomes. Specific outcomes are the priority here since you’ll fill in the activities required to achieve them in the next step.
  • Create a custom development plan, and then coach to it. Since all salespeople are not the same, develop customized plans to maximize the time, energy, and effort you put into coaching. Once each salesperson has a plan, apply the right combination of training, reinforcement, role-playing, testing, and technology to improve the specific skills that will lead to better sales results.
  • Evaluate results and adjust the development plan. Continually monitor the progress of each salesperson and assist as necessary to help them through the coaching process. As your observations and interactions provide you with more information, make adjustments to ensure the salesperson is making progress towards the agreed-upon outcomes. The goal is to be sure you and your salesperson are on the same page.

Mindset 2: Perfect Your Flex

Being ready, able, and happy to pivot and adapt as needed, is a skill set every leader needs in their repertoire. Leaders who are both agile and inclusive can be more effectively reactive and proactive regarding the change, opportunity, and potential threats.

  • Seek out diverse viewpoints. Exercise your mental flex by inviting feedback and input from people who think, look, or behave differently than you. Work hard to recognize, acknowledge, and check your own unconscious bias.
  • Be bold, wisely. Time and risk adversity are obstacles leaders need to face honestly. When time is of the essence, it can be easier to fall back on familiar thoughts, people, and behavior patterns. Instead, make the brave choice by encouraging people to speak up, challenge you, and engage in healthy debate.
  • Improvise. Overcome. In addition to wise boldness, sales leaders need to develop their agility—adapting to workplace dynamics and obstacles and rebounding from challenges. Agile leaders shed old processes and procedures in favor of alternative and innovative approaches. That means you need to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and flexible enough to adjust or adapt your plan based on new information or new conditions. Agile leaders are not afraid of failure—it’s part of the process.

Mindset 3: Know When (and How) to Step In

As a sales leader, you need to develop a sixth sense about when it’s okay to let your sales force work through challenging situations on their own and when it’s time to roll up your sleeves and help out. When used wisely, this hands-on approach sends the message that you can and will do whatever is necessary to help the team succeed. It’s a motivating and welcoming experience for everyone.

An additional benefit to keeping your finger on the pulse of the sales effort is that you may learn a new skill or obtain insight into the rationale behind a salesperson’s process. This hands-on context helps you better assess why a deal moves in a certain direction more than just hearing about it from other people.

Mindset 4: Model What You Want Your Team to Be

Mindsets are “sticky”—they will stick with you and your team. According to Suzie Andrews, President, and CEO of Stark and Associates Sandler Training, the mindset you most want to stick to is a positive one.

“Before a sales leader does anything else, they have to decide what their mindset is going to be. It’s their job to create a strong foundation for their organization, and they should get really clear about what’s required of them, and of their employees.”

The mindset of a sales leader can set the tone for the working habits of the entire organization. When a leader manages with a positive, “abundance” mentality, it lays the foundation for growth, progress, and positive change.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” may be a cliché at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Be the sales professional you want your team to be — coach them to develop their skills, be ready to flex, pitch in and help whenever it’s needed, and maintain a positive approach. These four mindsets are vital tools to keep in your leadership toolbox.

When it comes to constantly improving your organization’s sales team leadership skills, it’s vital to look into ways you can master key sales leadership mindsets. Watch our webinar “The New ABCs for Sales Leaders: Always Be Coaching” to discover ideas about staying ahead of the curve.

Sean Frontz

Sean Frontz is the Global Practice Leader over Sales Performance at Performance Development Group, where he is responsible for thought leadership and the design and implementation of transformational approaches that increase the performance of his client’s sales cultures.

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