The pandemic has tested the capabilities of practically every leader on the planet, but perhaps none greater than Sales Leaders. With selling and working mostly virtual now, Sales Leaders have been forced to step up and adopt new behaviors, both for themselves and for their teams. This is also due to the impact of supply chain disruptions on the ability to meet demand, the dramatic number of job movements, and the revocation of the “pass” we got for last year’s results.
As I have worked with Sales Leaders this year, I have seen five distinctive types in terms of the behaviors they have adopted in leading their teams:
- The Superhero – This leader believes the best way to get results is to do it themselves. They put their cape on and spend their time selling FOR their team, instead of with or through their team. It is exhausting and takes a lot of stamina, especially with a large team and sales plan, and you risk sacrificing the capabilities and confidence of your people.
- The Corporate Suit – This leader spends their time engaged in the internal processes, reports, and politics of the organization, and believes creating the right perception is the key to success. While this is an important aspect of any leadership role, your sales team may feel like you are somewhat disconnected and even indifferent to their success.
- The Inspector – This leader subscribes to the mantra that, above all, people perfect what they inspect. They measure everything and spend their time and their people’s time in meetings reviewing activity, deals, pipeline, forecasts, and results. They have a great handle on the business, however, they are sacrificing the team’s precious selling time as they prepare for and conduct these reviews. The risk is the metrics may paint a picture rosier than it really is as your team focuses on telling you what you want to hear.
- The Coach – This leader is focused on elevating the skills and capabilities of their team, and invests their time in discussing the behaviors, strategies, tactics, and actions their team members should take to drive results. The risk here is you are reliant on your team’s ability and willingness to successfully execute what is agreed.
- The Cheerleader – This leader is focused on creating the right culture and believes the morale of their sales team is tantamount to ensuring good results. They spend their time encouraging and motivating the team to perform and believes a positive attitude will triumph over any adversity. The risk here is your team may feel you are disconnected from reality and do not truly understand the pressures and challenges of selling in today’s environment.
You are probably wondering now which of the five sales leadership types are best suited to drive results. The answer is all of them, and it depends. It depends on the capabilities of your team, your team’s average tenure, your percentage of reps at plan, and whether you are at full headcount. It depends on what time of year it is, your win rate, the health of your pipeline, and your team’s overall performance. And it depends on your corporate culture and the overall morale of your team.
It is all about balanced leadership and your self-awareness in knowing which leadership role to adopt and when. Today’s Sales Leader must be a chameleon, capable of seamlessly shifting roles as you navigate from quarter to quarter.
If you have to choose one, be the Coach. Revenue Storm research shows great Sales Leaders spend 50% to 60% of their time coaching. But if all you do is coach, you are missing other important aspects of your role.
Most Sales Leaders fall into a comfort zone where they perform only one or two of these roles, regardless of performance, and neglect the others.
As we close out 2021 and prepare for another “exciting” year, I wish you balanced leadership and extraordinary success!
I recommend every Sales Leader spend a day each quarter examining what went right, what did not, and what is required for success in the next quarter. Then communicate clear expectations to your team and adopt the leadership approach(es) that will ensure your team achieves the required results.