Leadership, especially sales leadership, is not easy. Not only do you have responsibility for yourself, you also have responsibility for a group of sales people who are often driven by different things. Combine that with the responsibility of managing upwards to senior executives and senior stakeholders, as well as being responsible for customers, and the role of the leader is certainly not for the faint hearted.
What I discovered through my sales leadership career is that leadership also can sometimes be very lonely. It is not easy to share challenges and concerns with your 1-up leader, and often near on impossible to share with your peers, based on the competitive environment that is often established in sales organisations. Collaboration and sharing is not necessarily a core value for many companies; judgement often is. As a consequence, it can be very easy to develop a habit of creating a ‘safe leadership zone’, a zone which you operate from as a default, a zone in which you feel comfortable in and which provides you with a feeling of normal.
For many, this zone is functional. The danger is, is that as the habit is formed and ingrained, your leadership can become very one dimensional, and by being one dimensional, you are now in a position where you are not effectively communicating with all personality types in your team, your communication with senior stakeholders may also be impacted, as can the relationships with your customers. Whilst one dimensional leadership can be comfortable and safe for you, it can become beige and uninteresting for others. The effect of this is potential lost opportunities, sales, revenue, and sometimes, relationships. As hard as it may be, you must ask yourself this question, “Am I a one dimensional leader?”. And be brutally honest with your answer. If you believe you are one dimensional and argue that you have a highly engaged team, then consider this – you are either kidding yourself, or you have developed a one dimensional team that lacks spice and variety, meaning that you are leaving huge amounts of potential on the table.
In studying successful leaders and their teams, there is one attribute that shines through time and time again. The first aspect of this attribute is that the leader has multiple ‘strings to their bow’, so they are not one dimensional – they have a level of flexibility that they use to advantage. The other aspect is that the leader also employs salespeople who are different from themselves and different from each other. Instead of building and developing a one dimensional team, they build a multi dimensional team which brings ‘colour’ to the team and with that, a higher level of energy and vibrancy. This allows the leader to bring flexibility in to the team, which results in better matching of sale executives to customers. It also enhances collaboration and teamwork. This attribute is characters.
What is your default leadership character? Are you highly energised, always bouncing off the walls, or are you more conservative? Your style has a big impact on the environment you create and maintain within the team, and therefore can have an impact on how your team interacts with customers and key stakeholders. There are 5 main character types that I would like to cover. These come from the work of Virginia Satir and each character type will produce a different internal response in your sales people, your key stakeholders, and your customers. Being able to utilise all 5 of them depending on the person/people you are communicating with, will only enhance your ability to influence more effectively. You will become multi dimensional. Here are the 5 categories, and as you read them, ask yourself the question as to which one is your default, and which one is outside of your comfort zone. This will give you an indication as to where your focus needs to be directed.
- The Placator – the Placator is always speaking in a deferential way, always seeking to please, and never disagreeing, no matter what happens. The Placator is the stereotypical ‘Yes Man’ and is always seeking other people’s approval. They are only ever thinking of other people and how they can serve them and will always agree with any faultfinding made about them. As a leader, the Placater is not a strong category to have as a default, however, this category can be very useful when you need to ‘soften’ some information or key messages, especially when in a confrontational situation.
- The Blamer – the Blamer is a dominator, a person who exudes authority. They are typically more of a ‘boss’ than a leader, will speak loudly, do a lot of finger pointing, tend to breathe in tight little spurts and use their eyes really effectively – the eyes often become ‘piercing’. The Blamer will not tend to ask questions to build collaboration – rather the questions will be quite judgemental, such as “why did you do that?” because it is literally their way or the highway. In some circumstances the use of Blamer can be quite effective, particularly when you are working with someone who isn’t getting on board or not recognising that things must change. The Blamer presents a very strong presence of authority that often ‘jolts’ people into action.
- The Computer – the Computer is very reasonable and very matter of fact. There is little or no emotion shown in the communication, and the way they communicate is almost monotone. Often long and important sounding words will be used and when communicating, the Computer is literally motionless with no animation and certainly no movement. Everything they say is right and they can back it up with statistics and data. The Computer can often be used when dealing with very analytical people who are simply searching for the facts and figures.
- The Distractor – I often see the Distractor as a court jester, always having fun, making light of things, and doing things that are not quite relevant or to the point. They will often flail their arms out asymmetrically, making it difficult to concentrate on what they are saying, which is exactly what the Distractor wants. Whilst the Distractor can be a great category to use to ‘lighten’ things up, especially when things get tense, too much of it can reduce credibility and believability. So only use this character sparingly.
- The Leveller – out of the 5 categories, the Leveller is the one person who is ‘normal’. They are candid and forthright and wants you to know the truth. They speak in a slower tone, sometimes even slightly hushed, as if they are sharing a major secret with you. Everything they do, oozes ‘telling the truth’, and this category is extremely powerful to gain credibility and when you want believability.
Each of the 5 character categories has a role to play in leading a team for sustained success. What I find though, is a majority of leaders default into 1 category and that becomes their natural style and it never changes, hence they become one dimensional. As a sales leader, it is important to be able to move into multiple character categories as situations change, because it adds another dimension to your leadership, as well as increasing your level of influence. Why? Because, through becoming multi dimensional, it will enable you to be able to more effectively communicate at the level of your customer, salesperson or key stakeholder, therefore your message has a better chance of resonating and the outcome becomes more predictable. Be multi dimensional – it will deliver you exceptional results.
To your continued sales leadership success.
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Darren specialises in working with Sales Leaders to create, implement & embed a sales leadership game plan that will deliver outstanding and sustainable sales & revenue results. He is also the founder of the Australian Sales Leadership Network, a LinkedIn Group for sales leaders to share insights, strategies, resources and best practices, in order to build high quality, engaged and successful sales teams, delivering profitable and sustainable sales results. To apply to join, please click this link.