Sales Leadership for Dummies

January 19th, 2011

In this case, I am the dummy. Sales Leadership is one of those nebulous, hard to define parts of your job. Leaders hire a sales manager as fast as we can so we don’t have to do the selling. While entrepreneurs are passionate about what they have built and love to talk about their ideas and beliefs, we really are not classic sales people, let alone sales managers.
I have taken on the challenge of sales leadership within the last couple years because I view my leadership job as teaching first, leading second and doing it myself third. My goal is to differentiate myself and my team by increasing their knowledge and aiding their production and success along the way. The trouble is, I tend to focus on teaching and leading people and battle to manage everyday activities.
Recently, CBI Group had the opportunity to discuss a major staffing challenge with a large, global organization. The company was contemplating the best way to create a flexible solution for their recruitment department. Should they use contract staffing or outsource (RPO)? We do both and they know it. This was a Fortune 25 and there was a lot of them sitting across from just a few of us in the meeting (or is that just how it felt?). I certainly felt the hot lamp and the full impact of their interrogation (not really, just good engaging questions that I was excited and proud to answer). This back-and-forth inner monologue played out throughout meeting. And than it hit me hard. Would my staff answer these questions the way I would? What could I learn from this process? Wait, this is not my responsibility, it’s my sales manager’s! Oh yeah, that is me. Hmm, guess I better dig in.
I set out to find out how my team would answer the questions. We referred to our meeting notes and divided the “interrogation questions” equally across my business development and marketing team. I asked that everyone collaborate on the answers to share what they know and how they talk about CBI Group. As you might imagine, the learning began when my staff worked together and shared ideas – we even learned extraneous things along the way (we learned how to use Google Docs for collaboration.) You might be wondering how did we did? OK at best. This knowledge-building session will be ongoing. The sales manager in me gets it now. Many leaders would hire a trainer or sales coach to address the knowledge gap. Don’t get me wrong, I know many good ones that I would trust to do a great job, but I am proposing an alternative way to lead. Get in there and do it yourself. Roll up your sleeves and demonstrate.
Sales managers track activities and update forecasts. We go out on sales calls to provide feedback and recognition; we reward and take away. Sales leadership is also showing the way. Actual demonstration of specific skills or techniques will help the sales team when it’s their turn. As Leaders we must work on and in our business to grow. We are programmed to focus on running the big picture and planning for tomorrow and we let our staff focus on the day-to-day. I understand the theory, but there is a benefit to consciously knowing when you are stepping in and out of that theory. To address some problems entrepreneurs must step jump in. Sometimes, we must be the “dummy” to identify the problem(s) worth fixing.
Think this only relates to sales? I don’t. Pick any area of your business. Go sit and watch for a half hour. Did it perform the way you thought it would?
Not sure what to do next? I can help you. Just email me your question.

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