Sales leadership is a challenging role with tremendous upside. A good sales leader can help drive peak performance and accelerate revenue growth. A bad sales leader can have the opposite effect – leading to missed targets, lowered morale, and even costlier turnover. Effective sales leaders are worth their weight in gold. The challenge is that the skillset required for this challenging role can be different from what other leaders may be accustomed to. But there are six specific qualities you need to become an effective sales leader:
Develop and build your own talent.
One of the most important skills to develop in sales leadership is the ability to develop and grow your own talent. You may not always be able to hire a team of superstars right away. Start by creating a plan for how you develop your existing team members. This is how you build a strong bench of leaders who can take the reins when you move on. That way, your legacy isn’t tied to just your results. You can hand off a strong, capable team to the next leader in line. You can also think about getting formal mentoring to learn the skills you need to be effective. Be proactive in seeking out the advice and guidance you need to develop your skills.
Be a strategist, not just a seller.
A lot of times when we think of great sales leaders, we imagine charismatic, extroverted salespeople who can sell anything to anyone. This is a dangerous assumption. Good sales leaders are also great strategists. They have a clear understanding of the industry, their customers’ needs, and the competitive landscape. They know how to position the company’s offering in the market, and how to respond to their customers’ ever-changing needs. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on every single thing your team sells. But you do need to clearly understand and have a handle on the overall industry, your product or service and how you differentiate from the competition.
Cultivate alignment throughout the organization.
The best sales teams aren’t full of individual superstars. They’re full of people who are aligned around a common cause. That’s why one of the most important qualities of a good sales leader is the ability to cultivate alignment within your team and the larger organization. This begins with your sales strategy. When you have a clear vision, you can help your team understand how their role contributes to the bigger picture. Alignment is about more than just strategy. It’s also about communication. As a sales leader, you need to be communicating with your team members and with other stakeholders throughout the organization, continually bringing them up to speed with where the team is at and where it’s heading next.
Be a coach and mentor to your team.
A good sales leader doesn’t just tell people what they need to do. They also model the skill they want their team members to develop. Challenge yourself to think like a coach. Think about how you can help your team members improve. What skills do they need to develop? What challenges can you help them solve? What areas do they need help with? Be a mentor to your team members by helping them build their core skills and master the fundamentals of sales. Offer one-on-one coaching and guidance. Do whatever you can to help your team members develop the skills they need to perform at their best.
Set clear expectations and rules of engagement.
There are lots of nuances that come with being a sales leader. One of them is having to set clear expectations and rules of engagement with your customers. A good sales leader needs to know how to navigate those tricky waters and navigate them effectively. From how to close a deal to how to best navigate the sales journey, there are lots of details a good sales leader needs to master. Make sure to keep up to date on industry trends and best practices. Be a sales leader who is informed on the latest trends and tactics. That way, you can make sure your sales team is setting the right expectations with customers and getting the right results.
Take responsibility for failures, while also recognizing achievements.
Part of being a good sales leader is taking responsibility for failures and missteps. You’re the captain of your team. When something goes wrong, it’s up to you to step up and take responsibility. You need to learn from your mistakes and make sure that the same missteps aren’t repeated. At the same time, you also need to be able to recognize and appreciate the contributions and achievements of your team members. Celebrate wins. Reward accomplishments. Don’t just dwell on the mistakes and things that didn’t go well. The best sales leaders also know how to stay calm when the pressure is on. They know how to stay positive when things are going wrong. They know how to keep their team members focused even when they’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Be prepared to go above and beyond.
Sales leadership is a demanding role. You may need to put in extra hours and travel often. You may need to take on new roles and responsibilities that go beyond your core job description. You may find yourself in challenging situations where you’re forced to make difficult decisions. As a sales leader, you need to be prepared to go above and beyond. You may need to set clear expectations with your team members about the extra work they may need to do while you travel. And you may need to help them understand why you need to make certain decisions. Your team members are depending on you. They’re counting on you to lead them to the outcomes they need and deserve.
If you’re interested in becoming a sales leader, the qualities discussed above can help you succeed. Start by learning about the sales industry and its various roles. Then, explore the different skill sets sales leaders need to succeed. And finally, create a plan for how you can develop these skills and become a great sales leader. With hard work, dedication, and the right approach, you can become a great sales leader.