I have been truly humbled in my career, by working with and for amazing sales leaders. Even today in my sales consulting firm, I am constantly amazed at how these amazing individuals exhibit these behaviors and assets. I have not included in this blog assets like honesty, values, proven skills, trust, leadership and communication — I will leave these for another time.
Traits to look for in your sales leaders:
- Curiosity: This is so important for the leader of an inside team, direct group, or whole organization. These people are constantly learning about their industry, their prospects, and their organization. They strive to discover and learn new skillsets to better themselves and help their team grow. It's also key to be curious about new tools and processes that make them and their teams more effective. Do they understand them, how to use them, and incorporate those into daily life? When was the last time a leader or a sales leader recommended a book to read on a better way
- Connection: Great sales leaders are connected: connected with their teams, customers, key deal stakeholders, cross functional teams and their executive partners. They know the people, understand the goals of their direct reports, constantly coach and set examples for others. They know their top deals, top customers and how they are going to make the number. Most importantly, they know and understand what it takes to move forward and get to the next level.
- Metrics Driven: Sales is all about the right metrics. They intimately know and understand the metrics involved. I'm not talking about trailing metrics, I'm talking about forward-looking metrics. They understand it is not the backward-looking result, but the focus on the key activity that gets the result. Are they rewarding the right behavior, are they investing in training or tools to improve the right skillset, and is the forecasting accuracy from quarter-to-quarter as accurate as you need it to be?
Clear transparency on reports, dashboards, funnels and key activities is critical to any organization. You cannot have honest internal discussions, effective coaching sessions, or get to the next level unless everyone from the board to the individual level is looking at the same data and insights.
- Contagious Passion : These people know what it takes to WIN. They also know and understand they cannot do it all by themselves. They need to rally the team, constantly push the organization forward and to become better. People cannot be thought of as just a number or just a deal; new initiatives take passion and commitment to pursue. Passion is one thing, contagious passion is what moves an organization from good to great. Ask your leader her/his "WHY" and you will learn a lot.
- Likeable: I remember the saying, people never remember your success or money, but they do remember how you made them feel when they interacted. People want to follow leaders they like, period. Enough said...
- Strategic and Plan-Oriented: The sales leader needs to set the strategy and plan. They must be able to effectively communicate, gain buy-in and achieve the goal. That involves smarts, listening, seeking advice, looking at other successful models and being disruptive. A clear indication of buy-in is when each group in the organization understands their role, and is dedicated to executing on it. As they say, a pie is made up of 8 pieces. Belief in the plan is as important as the plan itself. How many times have you heard "Thats their plan, not mine"?
Once the plan is set and in motion, the leader must be perpetually looking to tweak or modify the plan based on current events and activity. Neglecting to be proactive to ensure the plan is successful happens way too often. The worst I've seen, and you've probably seen, is when sales leaders are surprised at end of quarter when they did not make it. Why does this happen? The sales leader did not contemplate a plan B or C, and is not connected to the plan and team.
- Detail Oriented: Peeling back the onion, providing coaching through intentional questions, focusing on the detail; this applies to enterprise account planning, quarterly reviews internally/externally, your plan, your people, new technology. The more you question, and BTW you don't have to be a jerk about it, the better the team and individuals will be in preparation and execution. Preparation is key, understanding is fundamental.
- Accountable: Do you know anyone that is perfect? I don't, but I know and respect those who take accountability. Publicly blaming others or people below you, at the end of the day, is not what great leadership is about. No one will never be great if they do not understand this.
- Empowers Others: It's one thing to have a great leader that gets everything done. It's another when you have a great sales leader that gets it all done through his people and groups. The constant focus of empowering others always leads to a better organization. I once interviewed a CEO who said in no uncertain terms "its one thing for a sales leader to miss the number, but it's totally unacceptable to miss the number and not have a better sales organization."
Find any CSO, VP of Sales, or any sales leader that has these traits, and you will find an excellent sales organization constantly reinventing themselves, growing, and making the number.