Leadership

What a pleasure and inspiration it was to be a part of today’s historic inauguration of Barrack Obama.  The president’s speech got me to thinking about the role that you and I can play in transforming America.  You may be asking yourself similar questions.

  • Can salespeople be leaders
  • What does sales leadership look like?
  • Can I really make a difference?

I offer you the opportunity to think about how we as salespeople can make a really big contribution in the worlds where we work.

Sales Leadership

Sometimes being a leader means taking ownership for things even when you aren’t the one in charge.  Who better to stand at the forefront of your company than you?  Consider that your friends in accounting, I.T. and human resources are looking for you to take the lead.  If they could do what you do they would.  Taking a sales leadership role can take several different forms.

Teamwork:  Too many salespeople act like they’re hired guns, independent contractors or the proverbial “lone wolf.” Going it alone in the sales game spells disaster.  Enlisting the support and feedback of those in supporting roles not only makes your job easier but also helps others feel like they are contributing to the efforts on the front lines too.  Let me give you an example.  For most of us the folks in accounts receivable, legal and sales administration are referred to as the “sales prevention” team.  In working with clients I create teams where members of all these groups collaborate on a sales effort.  Legal provides some greater flexibility once they really understood the scope of the deal.  Accounts receivable is able to offer flexibility on payment terms and sales administration offers to create a calling campaign to drum up add-on product revenue.  To get this going it means that the sales role needs to morph into a leadership role.  The salesperson becomes more like a head coach leading their players into the big game.

Ownership: We’ve all gone out with our sales buddies after a tough week and started to complain about how everything that’s wrong with our quota and earnings is because of engineering, product marketing, legal, management, etc.  After all, we’re just the salesperson right?  Think again.  We are the front line.  We take the lead.  We live by the motto “Sell What You’ve Got.”  I liken this to the role that President Obama (or any president) is taking on.  Whatever he inherits is what he gets.  He doesn’t get to choose.  He builds a team, prioritizes the challenges and starts hacking away.  Stop the grousing and start the team building.

Reporting and Transparency: One of the biggest changes one makes when transitioning to becoming a true sales professional relates to reporting.  In interviewing salespeople over the years I’ve found that forecasting and reporting are their least favorite parts of the job.  Wouldn’t it be nice to go into your next forecast meeting and feel in control?  Well, it’s all about building a “peer to peer” conversation from the start.  How about looking at your executive (owner, manager, etc.) as part of your team?  To many of us treat these people as our enemies.  We’ll often say “All they want is for me to tell them what they want to hear.”  The biggest change for me and for many salespeople was when I began to see these people as my equal, a peer, as a part of “my team.”  When this transformation takes place the conversation takes a consultative tone.  Opinions are shared.  Challenges are discussed.  Priorities are agreed to and teams are built to help each other out.  This requires what most salespeople hate the most – transparency.  We don’t want to give up our “secrets.”  We tend to “sandbag” those deals we’ll pull out at the last minute so we look like a superhero.  What we fail to realize is that this makes it a one man show.  We’re not allowing anyone access to our world.  Subsequently, when we do need help it’s often too late to build the teams and get the partnerships necessary to pull off the deal in time.  We’ve all seen it.  It’s the end of the quarter and the deal you squirreled away falls apart.  What’s the first thing you do?  Run right to your manager and start begging for a discount.  How different it might have been if this would have been an ongoing dialogue with management and you had multiple brains working on this right beside you.

Homework

Begin by prioritizing your deals and deciding who would be best to assist you from all parts of your organization.  As soon as possible, set a meeting with these team members and share your sales opportunity.  This could be a new account, a large sales opportunity or a problem account.  Share honestly about your challenges and where you could use support.  There is nothing better than obtaining multiple perpsectives on your opportunity.  One final thought – Don’t forget to update all your team members as things progress.  Everyone needs to be part of the feedback loop.

Happy Selling!