One of the great privileges of working in the sales and sales leadership space is that I have the opportunity of working with wonderful people across multiple industries, people from different backgrounds and people with varying levels of experience and capability. And irrespective of the individual’s capability, there is one key ingredient that will either enhance or hinder their ability to achieve sustainable results. This one ingredient is the environment.
It is disappointing to see people of high potential attempting to apply their sales trade in an environment that has not been set up for success. A telling example of this took place this week. I am working with a person who is brand new to sales, and whilst he is exceptionally excited about the prospect of forging a successful sales career, he is not operating in an environment that has been created to maximise success.
When I first started working with him, I asked him to describe his initiation and on boarding process to the role. This was his reply, verbatim; ‘I was handed a spreadsheet with the names and account numbers of 300 customers and ex customers, and told “go sell”’. This was the extent of his on boarding and training. There was no account handover, no background provided in many cases, no contact name, and certainly, no sales training. I was staggered that an organisation of reputable size could have an indoctrination process for a new sales person lacking just about every fundamental. The upside was at least the company now recognised the need for some sales training and sales coaching, however, sales training and coaching could be so much more effective if a strong and solid foundation was first in place.
This got me thinking even more about the incredibly important responsibility that sales leaders have to establish a solid environment for their sales people to develop, improve and thrive. And in reflecting over the last week, I have asked myself and other sales leaders this question – ‘Have you set up your sales team for success or failure?’ A fundamental question and yet a question that many sales leaders (including me) often overlook or discard because they are so focused on delivering results. Based on experience, this is often a trap for sales leaders to fall into, because they are constantly being hounded by senior executives to provide accurate sales forecasts of deals which will close over the next week, month, or quarter. They focus their entire attention on the number. Very few sales leaders will take a step back, analyse the situation and ask themselves the questions that need to be asked, in order to ensure the environment has been set up for success. They are under so much intense scrutiny and pressure that they are reacting to everything around them, rather than being in a position to choose their response.
What I have learned over the years is that the great sales leaders never react to their environment, they always choose their response, despite the pressure and the constant pestering of senior leaders. How do these leaders manage to do this, and what separates them from their competition? How do they always set their sales team up for success? Here are some of the ways they do it:
- Attitude – The great sales leaders understand that their attitude is everything. If their attitude is constantly optimistic and upbeat, there is a higher probability that the attitude of their sales team will also be optimistic. They know that their people are constantly watching their every move, so it is vital to maintain a positive and optimistic attitude. How is your attitude?
- They Encourage Their Sales Team – Great sales leaders are their teams biggest supporters. They will constantly and actively encourage their sales people to go the extra mile, to make the extra call, to take the calculated risk, knowing that the only way the sales team can learn and develop is through being uncomfortable and handling challenges with a great attitude. They will not criticise their team for making mistakes – on the contrary, they will encourage them to make mistakes. This is what separates them. How encouraging are you of your sales team?
- They Create A Robust Learning Environment – Great sales leaders focus on ensuring that their sales team is constantly learning, because they believe that long term sustainable success is founded on constant and never ending improvement. To do that, there must be an environment where learning is a mandatory requirement. And this learning can come in many forms – formalised learning through training programs, informal learning through regular team meetings, as well as constant feedback on what is working and what is not in the field. All of this will create and maintain a robust learning environment which will lift the entire team. How would you describe your environment?
- They Implement A Strong Structure – The great sales leaders understand that long term sustainable success is not achieved by accident. It is a direct result of a strong and tangible structure that everyone in the team can follow and fit into. Within this structure will exist specific standards which are upheld as a minimum requirement. For example, when a new sales person starts in a sales role, they will go through a specific, clearly laid out on boarding process where they will understand the standards of performance expected of them, the processes and procedures to follow, the kpi’s and objectives they are expected to achieve, as well as the training and coaching they are expected to undergo. The great sales leader will leave no stone unturned to ensure the sales person has every opportunity of being successful, as quickly as possible. This structure is so strong that it becomes a template and blueprint which can be followed and implemented constantly. What does your structure look like?
- They Are Visible & Approachable – One of the biggest complaints I hear from sales people is that their sales leader is ‘missing in action’ or only visible every now and then. I am constantly staggered at the number of sales leaders who do not attend customer meetings, do not coach their people, they spend the majority of their time ‘managing upwards’, attending internal meetings and generating sales reports, most of which, never get read or discussed. The great sales leaders understand that there is a direct link between their ability to coach and develop their sales people, attend customer sessions, and the results the sales team achieves. Sales leaders can no longer ‘set and forget’ the targets and expect the results to roll in. They must be prepared to ‘roll up the sleeves’, sometimes get in the trenches, get the hands dirty, knowing that every interaction with their sales team and their customer is an opportunity to teach, coach, and progress forward. Their ability to create this culture is what separates them from the rest. This sets up their team for success. How visible and approachable are you?
I’m curious. Have you set up your sales team for success of failure? How many of the key principles covered above can you stand behind, without question? Your ability to do these well, and consistently, will be the difference between you and your team achieving average results, and achieving ‘best in class’ outcomes – results which are not only exceptionally high, they are also exceptionally sustainable. Set your sales team up for success. This is a must!
To your continued sales leadership success.
If you want to know how you can better lead your sales team, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.