The Epidemic in Sales Leadership

By August 21, 2019 No Comments
sales leadership skills

I first wrote about a trend I saw in Sales Leadership in 2014, and now, five years later, its reached epidemic proportions. It’s called “Whack-a-Mole Management.” You remember the arcade game. The moles would pop up and you whack them with a mallet.

Many Sales Leaders today spend all their time whacking moles and putting out fires. They end each day exhausted, having worked hard to answer questions and move things along, but not purposefully, proactively moving the business forward. Experience shows these purely reactive leaders ultimately will burn out or burn up.

Before we discuss why this is happening, let’s talk about what Sales Leaders should be doing. There are five key Sales Leadership skills and/or activities that keep proving critical for success. None of these are a surprise. However, how they are done and how often (with consistency) defines successful Sales Leadership.

  1. Detailed Pipeline/Forecast/Results Evaluations: Of course, all Sales Leaders do some activity here, but “how” is the biggest question. It is typically an inspection, where each team member is questioned about their numbers. Instead, let them report their forecasts and results. Set expectations that everyone has their CRM data up-to-date in advance. If it’s not on the CRM report, it’s not real so don’t discuss it. Holding these meetings at least twice monthly, if not weekly, increases the ability to react to Leading Indicators and take action to drive results. Finally, praise in public and “punish” in private. Having peers on calls creates enough pressure.
  2. 1-2-1 Meetings (aka one-on-ones): Everyone acknowledges how critical these are and yet many Sales Leaders fail to do them, or do them right. There are two key principles that necessitate having regular 1-2-1s, regardless if leading salespeople or Leaders. The first is the age-old lesson, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” The other principle is the “curse of the little voices.” Remote salespeople report feeling, at times, alone and disconnected. That’s when the “little voices” start whispering crazy things, causing them to misinterpret emails, build doubt or mistrust, and consider even looking for new roles. Regular communication is key! Ask just three questions in a 1-2-1 that doesn’t have to last more than 20 minutes:
    1. How are you feeling?
    2. Are there any issues or concerns you are having that I should be aware of?
    3. What can I do to help?

Successful Sales Leaders do these twice per month, but never missing a month, with each person, and don’t mix in other topics, unless they are asked.

  1. Most Wanted/Must Win Coaching: Coaching is not inspecting nor is it just chatting. The lack of good, structured coaching is the biggest mistake we see in Sales Leaders. They don’t have a process or proactive cadence to coach. The excuse typically is “I don’t have time.” Well, frankly, make the time!  This has been proven to be the #1 Sales Leadership activity that can drive results and develop a team of performers that achieve quota. “Most Wanted” coaching focuses on new strategic Accounts or Opportunities and “Must Win” coaching focuses on key pursuits that will most impact results for your year or quarter. Sales Leaders should spend 35 to 40% of their time doing this type of weekly coaching. STORMERS out there know that we help implement a repeatable coaching methodology – PERFORM and a three-dimensional coaching approach by bringing science into the coaching process through the smart use of our Demand Management Sales tools. As we say at Revenue Storm, Coaching enables you to “be in the game but not on the field,” thus more effectively impacting results.
  1. Team Meetings: This is the opportunity to build teamwork and camaraderie. These five things can be done in a 30-minute weekly meeting:
    1. Update team results towards your goal.
    2. Reinforce the strategic direction and sales focus (e.g. Go-to-Market Strategy Level three for selling digital services)
    3. Have someone deliver a short best practice that is replicable.
    4. Ask for general feedback/issues but be ready to place in a “parking lot” if they can’t be solved in the moment and share the answer in the next week’s meeting with a parking lot update.
    5. End by recognizing as many team members for performance and successes as appropriate. It may not be everyone!
  1. Client Meetings: A well-planned week, with established ground rules, should have two to three days available for client meetings. Never go on a sales call without first reviewing and coaching the Encounter Plan™ Template to ensure everyone is aligned on the meeting outcomes and their role in the meeting. The Sales Leader’s role is to support the salesperson, not “steal” their credibility and value to the client. The client should hear that they are available for any required escalations from the salesperson as the Account Leader. Of course, there will also be a group of senior-level contacts in Key Accounts that Leaders should establish an on-going relationship with. However, instead of becoming the “De Facto” salesperson, Leaders should focus on positioning their company and strategy, and opening difficult doors for their salespeople.

Doing these five things well and consistently will almost guarantee great results and enhance your Sales Leadership skills. Certainly, there are other activities expected of a Sales Leader, but they should be done in addition to, not instead of these activities.

Let’s discuss why Sales Leaders don’t do these five things…

  • It has become a habit. It becomes so natural that they forget there was a better way of working. They did it for a special deal or season, but before long it becomes their day-to-day life. They need quiet, purposeful reflection time to see what they are doing and put a plan in place, one by one, to do it less, delegate it out, or stop it altogether.
  • They’re addicted to stress. This is the “Superman Syndrome.” Some Leaders like to put on their “capes” and fly from one thing to the next, saving others from problems. It feels good to save the world. It can create dopamine, similar to the chemical reaction in the brain when there’s a “Like” on Facebook! There’s a ton of stuff written about this syndrome on the Web. But that’s not LEADING, that’s just reacting.
  • They don’t control their calendar and their time. Many Leaders report working for companies where, instead of asking for a meeting, Outlook invitations just show up and everyone is expected to accept and attend. Certainly, there are critical meetings that must be held, but is every meeting critical? And who really owns the Sales Leader’s time? Try saying no to non-critical meetings and negotiating for a more convenient time. Let bosses know that there are certain times each week that are “sacred.” “I will be coaching my Most Wanted and Must Win deals each Friday afternoon, when clients won’t typically see us, and to keep the pipeline healthy, it needs my attention each week.”
  • They don’t have a process for these five activities. But they do now. Hopefully this article will help provide a framework and best practices for putting a Management Governance Plan in place. If not, Revenue Storm will help – call us! We now help Leaders by the hour.

Moving to a more purposeful, proactive Sales Leader who practices these activities consistently, will not only help re-gain control of a Sales Leader’s time and accelerate results, but will also enhance the relationship and trust between Leaders and teams as well as boost their arsenal of Sales Leadership skills.

STOP Playing Whack-a-Mole and START LEADING!

Personal Challenge: Think about where you spend your time today. Create a list of four things to help you establish your management governance plan and foster your Sales Leadership skills: 1) What will I STOP doing? 2) What will I START doing? 3) What will I do MORE of? 4) What will I do LESS of?

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