That said, there are some foundational qualities that underpin any good sales manager. These can be adapted and refined depending on the company culture, and they’ll put you in the best position for success.
So if you’re wondering how to be a great sales leader, these attributes can guide you on your personal and professional journey.
At the end of the day, any manager’s main job is to hit the targets set for them. All the other qualities are ultimately personal and professional tools to help you hit your targets. Therefore, the best place to start when thinking about how to be a great sales leader is with your targets.
By definition, sales teams are more bound to their targets than most departments. They are usually the most disciplined and focused teams, but to become a great sales leader, you can’t let reaching your targets be at the detriment of team morale.
Part of how to strike the balance is by knowing how to deploy your team. Targets are a great motivator, but if you’re asking too much of individuals, you risk them becoming demotivated. Therefore, focus on who does what best and make a sales plan with targets for each member, as well as the team as a whole. If that means you have one person covering a whole market themselves, while the rest of your team straddles a range of different demographics, then so be it — as long as you hit your targets.
Like any kind of manager, strategic thinking should feature on any list of attributes of a great sales leader. Your strategy should look at the most effective way of hitting your targets, while keeping costs at an acceptable level.
There is an endless list of areas where you can improve your strategy. For example, you can change how you segment your markets, offer higher commission for more valuable sales, or test different communication tools to see what improves your rate of sale.
As mentioned, a large part of improving your sales performance is to test different strategies side by side. Try working with sales workflows that you can copy and edit to tweak your approach and find out what works best.
But it’s not just limited to how you organize your tasks. To become a great sales leader, you need to work on a motivational strategy that will allow your team to ride difficult waves and stay focused on its primary objectives.
More and more, data has moved into the business sphere — and it’s here to stay. Top educational institutions are including data literacy in their MBA and master’s programs so sales team leaders can at least understand and hold a conversation about data. Nowadays, not being able to keep up with the analytics game is a sure way to fall behind your competitors.
Therefore, when considering how to be a great sales leader, learn how to leverage data and analytics. It helps you measure your success so you can identify which strategies work and which don’t. Use it to look at metrics such as your time per deal, conversion rate, churn rate, average revenue per customer, and more.
For a forward-thinking yet smooth-running team, you’ll need to equip yourself with sales intelligence and analytical reports and get practicing. That way, you can keep your team motivated by giving them a clear, data-driven goal. However, an analytical mind also helps you explain your performance to your superiors and any other stakeholders who need the information.
As a sales team leader, you should recognize that you can’t complete every task sent your way, nor can you keep everybody happy. The keyword here is prioritization. With your targets and your strategy by your side, you need to figure out what is the most direct route to what you want to achieve. Put those tasks front and center and you’ve already done half the battle.
However, the real organization comes in when assigning your tasks. With powerful task management software, you can set deadlines and responsible people, include detailed instructions and supplementary files, and even send and receive notifications when tasks are approaching their deadlines.
As a final tip on organization, we’d recommend using Gantt charts — an easy way to see where your team and each individual’s time is being spent. With a clear visualization, you can plan far into the future and monitor progress along the way.
In your mission to become a great sales leader, listening could not be more important. The most obvious way listening helps is by leveraging user feedback to inform your strategy in the future. It’s common practice to send out customer satisfaction forms and get a clear idea of what people love and what they don’t.
But it’s also a great advantage internally, too. Being a good listener, by default, makes your team feel heard. Keep an open-door policy for impulsive suggestions and arrange one-to-ones for more general discussions. This is excellent for your team morale and keeps turnover down to a minimum.
However, anyone who knows how to be a great leader knows that two brains are better than one (and an entire team is better still). Listening carefully to suggestions for improvement in team meetings is a great source of inspiration — just make sure everybody feels confident enough to speak.
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Among the most common methods for how to be a great sales leader is to put regular appraisals in your calendar where you can motivate your team members on an individual level. As the old saying goes, keep your praise public and your (constructive) criticism private. Individual appraisals are the perfect way to get across a message that could sting if brought up in a team meeting, so plan well and you’ll keep everybody on the ball.
But there are times when you can’t pre-plan your motivation. One of the more natural qualities of a sales leader is to lead by example. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty when the going gets tough, and be sure to put in even more effort than your team. Sales is a tough game, and if your team is feeling down because they aren’t reaching their targets, it’s your job to jump in with an impromptu pep talk.
Part of being a good motivator is giving your team something to aim for. Whether it’s a bonus for good performance, a promotion, or even training in a new area, showing that you are invested in your team is a great way of keeping performance figures high.
Managers who lack confidence tend to veer towards more authoritative micromanagement with a lot of demands and few rewards. Your staff will quickly realize the imbalance here, and even if they don’t choose to go somewhere where they’ll be better appreciated, their enthusiasm is likely to drop.
So if you’re thinking about how to be a great sales leader that gets the best out of their team, look for ways to coach your team and increase their levels of responsibility. Find out where each individual sees themselves in five years and offer them tailor-made training. Perhaps one would like more B2B rather than B2C, while another might just want a higher commission plan.
Delegation is a smart way of showing that you’re invested in your team, but it provides far more benefits in your mission for how to become a great sales leader.
First among them is that you clearly can’t run the ship by yourself. Micromanagers often want to have full responsibility for every area, regularly putting in extra hours to stay on top of things. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is a poor, short-term solution. A lack of sleep and an overload of stress puts you on a one-way journey to burnout.
So yes, delegating responsibility to your team gives them a sense of progression and responsibility, but it’s much more than that. By reducing your workload and allowing you to focus on your true priorities, it is one of the top attributes of a great sales leader.
You can never know how to be a great sales leader if you can’t spot the talent you’ll be working with. And a great resume is only the beginning. A good fit with your company culture, an enthusiasm for what they do, and a willingness to learn will always beat an innate talent with a bad attitude.
Sales leaders don’t have to go through every profile with a fine tooth comb either. Part of finding the right talent is to streamline your hiring process as much as possible so it doesn’t affect your day-to-day.
Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions is that your top sales agent should be rewarded with a management role. The two areas are completely different, and when promoting internally, it’s often better to give your star salesperson a promotion in responsibility and reward without losing their reliable numbers.
You can’t expect your team to want to improve if you show no signs of it yourself. Therefore, as the final point on our list of how to be a great sales leader, we’d like you to allow yourself some introspection. Nobody is an expert in every area, and with the speed that business changes, there’s always some catching up to do.
Whether it’s articles like this one, books, podcasts, or training courses, there are resources out there that can keep you ahead of the curve (and ahead of your competitors). Not only will you improve yourself, but you will keep your team engaged with the latest trends and best practices.
The first place to start is to accept you don’t know it all. As opposed to ignoring your faults, this is a sign of true confidence and it breeds a culture of improvement among your team.
Now you understand the qualities of a sales leader, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: all the best leaders use shortcuts.
We’re talking about technology. Databases, task management, automations, organizational charts, CRMs, analytics, and much more make every leader’s job much easier.
Luckily, you can get all this in one place! Bitrix24 is an all-in-one business platform that takes care of all the boring, behind-the-scenes jobs, leaving you to focus on the personal side.
So if you’re wondering how to be a great sales leader, sign up to Bitrix24 for free and start using technology to your advantage.