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Four Critical Skills for Today’s Sales Leaders

By May 23, 2024May 24th, 2024No Comments
Four Critical Skills for Today’s Sales Leaders

Sales Leaders have one of the most challenging jobs in the company today. The market continues to be difficult, with the acceleration of automation, AI, increasing competition and commoditization, supply chain challenges, and high interest rates and inflation causing clients to shift their buying behavior and creating general uncertainty.

At the same time, multiple internal organizations are typically involved in the sales process, including Solution and Technical Specialists, Marketing, Bid Support, Legal, Finance, Operations, Service Delivery, Executives, and the Sales Team themselves, many of whom now work remotely. Navigating this internal labyrinth is often quite challenging, and the “internal sale” is harder than the external sale in many companies today.

In the airline industry, the time a plane sits on the ground between flights can be as short as 40 minutes (Southwest Airlines), and there are typically eight different departments involved in turning around the aircraft. Their ability to work seamlessly and in sequence can mean the difference between an on-time departure and a costly delay.

Strategic selling has also become a “team sport”, with lots of moving parts and participants. The ability of the entire team to successfully come together and execute the selling process with precision, speed, and excellence is now a key competitive differentiator.

Orchestrating successful sales execution takes a different set of skills for today’s Sales Leaders.

  1. First, you must be a Visionary

You must establish a clear picture of your goals for the client, how the sales process will be executed, including the strategy, tactics, and approach, and the role each team member plays in the process.

This starts with everyone understanding and believing that their role in the sales execution process is important and respected and that their efforts will be recognized and appreciated.

Sales Leaders must be able to bring together everyone on the team and inspire and motivate them to achieve the mission so that they are emotionally committed to success.

  1. You must be a master Collaborator

Today, everyone on the team has competing priorities and, in many cases, different jobs. You must be able to successfully negotiate for their time and support and then ensure they feel included in the process and not just bystanders in your deal reviews.

This requires strong internal relationships and an open and cooperative approach to your internal deal discussions.

A key mistake often made is not involving everyone, especially early in the sales process, because it’s viewed as being too difficult to get their time or support.

For example, your Service Delivery and Operations Teams may have key relationships that can provide important sales intelligence or become allies in helping you win, especially in existing accounts. These “wolves in sheep’s clothing” oftentimes can see things, say things, get things, and do things that the sales team can’t, making them invaluable parts of the execution process.

Of course, you must also collaborate and negotiate with your internal teams to ensure you get the right deal structure that creates the right value, supports the client’s needs, and makes sense for your business.

  1. To do this, you must be a skilled Navigator

You must build an internal network of supporters and know who to call on, when, and how to enlist their support. You must ensure that everyone does their part on time and with excellence, and you must know how to respond and when to escalate when they don’t.

Besides the challenge of the people you rely on changing jobs or the company reorganizing, you must also carefully navigate the internal politics in your organization, just like you do your clients.

A great navigator is able to represent the needs of their team and the client and ensure that they get the support they need to execute the sale successfully, even when those needs and requirements might be “non-standard” and outside of what is typical.

  1. Finally, and most importantly, you have to be a great Coach.

Without it, your sales execution is likely to be sloppy at best.

According to our research, many sales leaders mistake inspecting for coaching. Both are important but are very different and must be done separately.

In a strategic sale, I recommend bringing the team together at least every two weeks and more frequently if there is a key event like an executive meeting or presentation, a solution workshop, or a proposal submission, for example. As you get closer to the goal line, you might even want to meet daily, if only for 15 minutes, to ensure that no one stumbles in their execution.

Bringing the entire team together to review strategy and discuss progress on a regular basis, especially in a long sales cycle, helps create new ideas, prevent surprises, and ensures that everyone is aligned and feels accountable to execute their part.

Some of the most critical insights that help shape the strategy and tactics often come from offhand comments made in collaborative deal discussions.

These meetings are critical to discussing what everyone is seeing and hearing, the progress being made, and ensuring that everyone understands and is aligned on the next “plays” the team will run to advance the deal.

And to PRACTICE! Every key meeting and call should be rehearsed to ensure excellence in execution. This is where teams typically fall—one of the team members shows up and has their own agenda, rattles on endlessly about something that is not important to the client or your strategy, or inadvertently takes you down some rabbit hole that completely derails the meeting.

Remember, many members of the pursuit team are not salespeople. They need your guidance and coaching (along with your salespeople) on how to execute their part in the sales process, which sometimes might require them to say or do things that are uncomfortable. That means you must gain their trust and, through your coaching, give them the courage to take risks with the client.

The biggest mistakes Sales Leaders make today are not gaining the support of the team, not leveraging all the resources available to them to help in the sales process and failing to orchestrate their actions carefully.

Leveraging these four skills to execute a well-prepared, well-rehearsed sales campaign will help you gain a competitive advantage and support your success.

Personal Challenge: Identify your top 5 most critical pursuits and bring the entire sales team together to kick off ongoing deal review sessions focused on strategy, tactics, and execution using the Revenue Storm tools.



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