When I first became a Sales Leader, I was so eager to create a fantastic first impression, my entire focus was on trying to do everything right. I thought that if I could do this, then my team would be impressed and my credibility would skyrocket. Little did I know at the time, but my relentless pursuit of doing things right would have the opposite affect. It wasn’t long into my tenure as a leader that my General Manager started a conversation around how I was fitting in and what I was learning. I was so eager to impress him that I pre-prepared what I wanted to say, and focused on highlighting how many things I had done right since moving into the role. All of these things of course were based on what I thought he wanted to hear and what I thought at the time were what was required to be a good leader.
Half way through the conversation, he stopped me and asked me a very poignant question; ‘Darren, how many mistakes have you made?’ Before answering, I thought to myself what a ridiculous question to ask. I’m a leader now, and surely it is about me getting things right and that making mistakes was going to be frowned upon. So my response to him was somewhat underwhelming for him. ‘None’ I said. ‘Well then, we have a lot of work to do!’ I have to be honest and say I really didn’t understand where he was coming from, as I truly believed that my responsibility to the business, to the team and to him, was to do things right. And then he said ‘One of the secrets to successful sales leadership is to do the right things rather than trying to do things right’ He said that there is actually a blueprint to sales leadership and if you focus on the elements of the blueprint and follow them, you will be successful. Being the ambitious young sales leader, I was eager to get my hands on the blueprint and put it to work. Here is some of what was in it :
- Identify a clear goal and vision – As fundamental as it sounds, my General Manager said that he was often surprised by the number of sales leaders who did not have a very clearly defined goal and vision to strive for. He said that the #1 success principle was to ‘know your outcome’ and by having this crystallised, not only in your mind, but also written down and shared with your team, it provided a solid foundation from which to grow from. In order to get somewhere, you must know where somewhere is. Having nothing to aim for can often result in stagnation and lack of effort, as there is no purpose. So be very very clear on your goal and vision.
- Establish crystal clear standards and expectations – What do you stand for a sales leader? What standards of behaviour are non-negotiable, not only for yourself, but also for your team? Establishing clear standards provides the catalyst to align your team and get them all on the same page. And understand that sometimes, people will opt out and that is fine. To achieve sustainable success, you cannot afford to carry too many, if any, passengers. What are your non-negotiable standards?
- Having established the non-negotiable standards, you must set the standard and be uncompromising in your pursuit of excellence – this is all about modelling the behaviours and standards you expect, which underpin your ability to achieve the outcome. As I have often said, as a sales leader, your people are listening to everything you say and watching everything you do. They are also listening to what you are not saying and watching what you are not doing. How critical, therefore, is it to model excellence in everything you do and say? Now don’t think for a second that this equates to being ‘perfect’ – it doesn’t. It is about striving to set the right example for your team that will encourage them to achieve the outcomes.
- Be consistent and authentic – there is nothing worse than being a leader who people have to constantly second guess – are you going to be positive today and pessimistic tomorrow? Are you a Jekyll & Hyde character to the point where your people have to walk on egg shells around you? Doing the right thing is to be consistent with your behaviour and authentic in your approach – you do not want your people wondering what they will be confronted with each day. Do this and it will assist you with the next point, being :
- Develop trust – consistently seek opportunities to make deposits into your trust bank. Understand that as a sales leader, trust does not come automatically with the title – this is something I found out within the 1st 90 days. Trust as a sales leader must be earned, so focus on opportunities where you can continually earn the trust of your people.
- A great way to build trust amongst your team is to remain humble and approachable. Often sales leaders who have made the transition from sales executive find it challenging to take their eyes off themselves and place them on their team. Sales leadership is not about you, it is all about your team. And often humility comes from focusing entirely on your team. Also make sure that you are approachable to your team, that you are there to assist them in their development and in their pursuit of excellence.
- Know that successful sales leadership is not a smooth ride, it will be bumpy and there will be obstacles and setbacks. Embrace the setbacks and embrace the failures – know that every setback is a setup for an even bigger comeback, and that the lessons learned through setbacks will only propel you and the team forward. Know that you will make mistakes – it is all part of the journey.
- Constantly provide and seek feedback. As covered in last week’s article, feedback is the breakfast of champions. And without feedback there is no progress. Become a feedback giving and seeking machine!
My General Manager taught me so many valuable lessons on my journey as a sales leader, none more important than this one. I would love to know your thoughts and whether you believe there are any other components that could be added to the blueprint. And remember, as my General Manager said, ‘To be a successful sales leader, it is far more important to do the right things, than it is to do things right’
To your continued sales leadership success.
If you want to know how you can better persuade and influence your team, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If we haven’t already connected via LinkedIn, I would love to connect. Please click this link to send me an invitation.
Also, be sure to download a FREE copy of my e-Book “Lead With Influence – The 7 Strategic Keys to Unleash Your Sales Leadership Potential”. Click on the link to the right of this page to download a copy.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post – I greatly appreciate it, and welcome comments and feedback. Please feel free to comment below, to follow me on LinkedIn, or to connect via Twitter, or Facebook.
Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.