Be A Leader

by Bette Price, GMC

   Quotas and goals may symbolize achievements for sales results, but the best of sales leaders realize that without a motivated team of sales people, all the quotas in the world won't get the job done in tough times. People have to feel valued, supported, and inspired to move beyond quotas to generating long-term momentum. That requires people building on the part of the sales leader. These tactics don't have to be expensive or elaborate. They do have to be genuine and they do have to be consistent. True leaders recognize that it is their responsibility to set this tone from the top and to ensure that people-building philosophies are adhered to at every level throughout the sales organization. A consistent people-building philosophy encourages people to capitalize on their strengths, it recognizes contributions both formally and informally, it makes sure that systems and processes are put in place that help foster continual growth and well being, and it ensures that the sales leaders themselves model an environment of growth through caring, support and trust. Here are eight simple ways that sales leaders can set the right tone:

  • Give your sales people the right tools to get their job done.
    Paramount to having the right tools is training--training at all levels and at various stages. Far too much sales training is spent on the tactical elements of selling, failing to deal with the more critical understanding of maintaining momentum. The difference is huge and can be seen in long-term results.
  • Self-Discovery and Coaching Programs.
    "The best idea anyone ever had is one they came up with themselves," says David Novak, Chairman and CEO of Yum Restaurants. That's why self-discovery and coaching programs are integral parts of great companies with great sales records. At IBM, sales leaders worldwide are put through extensive training so that they can effectively coach their sales people one-on-one. This helps to refine individual strengths that significantly contribute to the overall team. As the sales leader, who coaches you? Knowing yourself and getting honest, objective feedback about your own style of leading is a good place to start.
  • Model expectations by leadership.
    Container Store co-founder, Garrett Boone, says its not good enough to talk about the company's principles and expected performance´┐Żleadership has to model these expectations to show them in action. How good are you at modeling the standards to which you hold up your sales people? Are your words and actions always congruent? Do you reward sales people who demonstrate all principles or only those who get the best results and possibly skip some of the stated principles?
  • Encourage your people to do something special.
    Mike McCarthy, Chairman of McCarthy Building Companies, encourages all of his people to get involved in charitable activities. "One of the reasons I get our people involved is so they get a larger view of who they are," McCarthy says. The nature of sales can tend to allow people to get very self-focused, forgetting the important role that others play in the overall process of achieving company-wide success. Encouraging your people to give of themselves will help to balance their view.
  • Get rid of blame.
    David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, says, "You've got to make mistakes´┐Żno risk, no return, no innovation. The key is to learn from them and try not to make dumb mistakes." Get rid of the blame, increase accountability and non-accusingly share the learning from the mistakes so everyone can benefit for the future.
  • Create opportunities.
    Sales leaders help people achieve their own personal success. Bill Matthews, Managing Director of the accounting firm Plante & Moran, believes you should always be looking for your replacement. "That requires taking a sincere interest in people, giving them the freedom to make choices, to encourage and guide them, and just have a caring attitude toward their careers without worrying that they are going to take over my job or show me up." Worry less about yourself and help others to become more of what they have the talent to become.
  • Create WOW stories.
    At MascoTech, near Detroit, Michigan, leaders make a conscious effort to catch people doing something incredibly right. Then they publish it as a WOW Story in the internal newsletter. "People like to be acknowledged for what they do right," says CEO Frank Hennessey. "They need to know that you know the contributions that they are making." Find ways to visibly recognize not just the big accomplishments, but the little things as well.
  • Put "good stuff" in writing.
    Every week in Tim Webster's staff meeting the CEO of American Italian Pasta has the leadership team write a hand-written note of accolades for good deeds, good performance, and exceeding expectations. Everyone on the executive leadership team signs the note. Now, that's a WOW story! True leaders understand that a few sincere words personalized and written in their own handwriting, can often mean much, much more than a small monetary recognition. When a sales leader takes time to demonstrate that they care enough to find ways beyond quota recognitions to honor and build their people, they, themselves, become more recognized as a significant leader.