Sales Leadership



of Highly


by Jim Pratt

   Certain characteristics emerge from very successful companies. And these traits are neglected or even absent in less-successful organizations. Here are the primary accomplishments observable in highly-effective sales teams:

   1. Communicate Your Vision Constantly: A well understood vision is the platform for high achievement. Our team members not only must understand our corporate vision they must believe in it and live it. It is the CEO's responsibility to define that corporate vision and to communicate it often to all company associates. A sales leader will break the sales department's vision down into an annual mission statement and specific quarterly goals. Having team cooperation in quarterly goal setting, rather than dictating sales quotas from on high, creates a higher buy-in by team members. Next, it is the sales leader's role to assist each individual in defining his or her personal mission statement. One-on-one quarterly progress reviews then can be used to commit sales professionals to their individual 90-day goals.

   2. Conduct Quarterly Progress Reviews: Quarterly progress reviews are one-on-one, conducted outside the office and used to discuss progress towards the individual's goals. Motivation occurs whenever the sales leader can help an individual bring his or her personal goals and the corporate goals into alignment. People do things for their reasons, not the corporation's. A very constructive exercise is: "I need to learn _____ so that I can____". After the leader explains what he is doing to improve, then it can be addressed to the sales associate to fill in his or her blanks. Lead by your example! In the final analysis, as we have discussed in past issues of Transaction World, it is not the sales leader's responsibility to increase sales. It is the sales leader's responsibility to improve the productivity of each salesperson.

   3. Recruit Talent: The future of our company is directly related to the talent of the people we recruit. Successful sales organizations attract and retain superior talent. Every sales leader must be accountable for recruiting talent to his or her group. Start by creating a skill profile of your ideal candidate. Circulate this profile to every center of influence you have. Create a prospect database from your own observation and the input of your associates. Stay in regular touch with your database of prospects. You'll then have put together your "red-shirt" team for future recruits.

   4. Replace Underachievers: We have discussed in past issues of Transaction World that the most expensive time in a sales leader's career is between the moment when he or she loses faith in someone and the day they do something about it. Compare each of your existing personnel to your profile of an ideal salesperson. Needed replacements will be suggested by the answers. Ensure high future levels of productivity by establishing minimum performance standards when hiring new salespeople. Set your expectations for each person individually, based on his or her sales experience and industry knowledge. Create a set of standards for each new salesperson to reach at 30, 60, 90, 120 days and so on. Let your associates know clearly that meeting these standards is necessary to remain on the team.

   5. Create a Learning Organization: Every sales associate needs and deserves sales skill training at least 4 days per year. You probably observed this need when comparing your current associates to your ideal salesperson profile. As you move forward, measure each associate's progress both by sales production and also personal growth, not just on seniority. Remember that achievements reached by your team need to be enthusiastically recognized.

   6. Quarterly Field Coaching: Each of your sales associates needs constant coaching to fulfill his or her potential. Few people reach higher and higher levels of production without constructive coaching support. Our practice is that someone will do ride-alongs (or sit-ins) with every outside (or inside) salesperson at least one day per quarter more often for new sales associates. Also, create a mentor system and have each sales professional visit and ride along with another on a regularly scheduled basis. This mentoring of each other can be very productive. Coaches must be invisible on ride-alongs. A coach is not a player. The coach does not take over the sales call. A good coach observes several calls in silence and then offers one or two suggestions for improvement.

   7. Department Head Joint Calls: Within most companies there is a gap of understanding and communications between inside departments and outside sales. To open lines of communication it is recommended that each company department head and all senior managers devote at least one-half day per quarter to making field calls with a sales professional. And each salesperson will spend some time in every department at least once a year. Communication and understanding will improve dramatically as a result.

   8. Provide Sales Support: Support personnel must make it easier for salespeople to comprehend your many product variations and effectively demonstrate these options and opportunities to customers. Most marketing materials are heavily features-oriented and short on benefits. Yet benefits move people to action. New product instructions must include live demonstrations on how to present the product or service to customers. Including sales professional role practicing sessions to fine-tune presentations is strongly recommended.

   9. Recognition Systems: After basic necessities are satisfied, recognition is more important than money. With sales professionals this is particularly true. However, we are very quick to criticize and very slow to recognize. Ask anyone in your area of responsibility if he or she is getting too much recognition at work or home. The answer is a given. Someone on your team did something today that deserves recognition. Let them know you recognize and appreciate their hard work. Create a recognition system such as starting every meeting with a standing ovation for someone who has done something remarkable since the last meeting. Hang a bell on the wall in a prominent place and have high achievers "ring the bell." Work to build an upbeat environment at all times.

   10. You Are The Message: We must always remember that as leaders our actions will be emulated. It is what we do and not what we say that really matters. It used to be that when a ship went down the captain went with it. Conventional wisdom has abandoned that barbaric practice, but the concept is still valid. If there is a problem in your unit or company, you are responsible for resolving it.

   Above all, remember the definition of integrity. Integrity is doing exactly what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. These are the ten most observable accomplishments of those who lead world-class sales organizations. Improve your actions in these ten areas and your results will soar!