Everywhere you turn there is an article on leadership. Not a day goes by that you can’t find a blog or white paper on effective management strategies. A cluttered space to say the least. At the risk of adding to this already-cluttered-space here’s a hard look at the difference between people that just have the job title of Sales Manager & the people that are bona fide Sales Leaders. Let’s keep it short. Here are 3 clues that you have the job title of sales manager & another 3 clues that you are a real sales leader.
3 Clues that you just have the title of sales manager:
1. Clue #1 is just that: They have the job title of Sales Manager. Meaning that’s their title. At Easter Dinner, that’s what they told relatives they did for a living. But that’s all it is. A J.O.B. title. There’s not a chance in the world that any sales manager (or quasi-sales leader) will ever admit that they “just show up” for the money & the benefits. But they’re out there. You know who you are. You also know if you are working for one. They don’t make decisions. They don’t lead by example. The don’t support their team (although they say they do). They love the word YES (they say it to their boss a lot). They cost their company a lot of money.
2. They “keep hours.” Crazy, huh? In 2017, there are sales managers that work “hours.” They don’t punch a clock (because there is no clock to punch) but if there was one they’d be punching it! Nobody told these people that the role of sales manager was a leadership role. It requires more work. It takes more time. It’s not a 9 to 5 gig! You wouldn’t know it by them. 4:45 rolls around… the computer shuts off… the desk gets re-arranged… & they are outta there. And another thing, this is the first time they leave the office because they sure as hell aren’t riding with their sales team.
3. They have absolutely no idea how to communicate change. These managers take the easy way out. They actually “side with the salespeople.” Sounds like this: “I don’t agree with this but…” or “This is really going to stink, but . . .” or “If it were up to me we would…” or “This will probably backfire on us but…”. One of the weakest moves you can play as a sales manager is to not support upper management to your salespeople. The moment you do is the moment you are not respected as a leader. Happens all the time.
3 Clues that you are a real sales leader:
1. They tow the company line without alienating their salespeople. This might just be the finest quality a true sales leader can master. There are times when a sales leader has to communicate difficult messages to the team. As mentioned above it’s easy to discount upper management. It’s tempting to become buddy, buddy with the sales team (to make the friend). A great sales leader resists that temptation & still leads the charge. There are times when a sales leader has to “insulate” the team from upper management – this is a real art. True sales leaders do that – they know it’s their job & they do it. Is it easy, no. But, it’s critical, though.
2. They understand people & really understand that not everyone should be treated the same way. Call it Emotional Intelligence or EQ (because that’s what it is). These leaders “get people.” Their ability to relate to different people is outstanding. This comes with a real understanding of what motivates people. Understanding what motivates people comes from a real understanding of people’s goals & priorities. You guessed it: all this comes from knowing people – having a relationship with the sales team. The great sales leaders take the time to get to know their team members. They appreciate differences & have the ability to communicate appropriately with people – & it’s not always the same way.
3. They know their responsibility & accept it with open arms. David Cottrell said it best in Monday Morning Leadership. He mentioned that one of the main differences between a real sales leader & a salesperson is comparable to the differences between a driver & a passenger in a car. It’s a great analogy. The passenger pays attention but not nearly as close attention as the driver. A passenger can text, turn the radio station, look at the beautiful building on the right & carry on like … a… passenger. Drivers, not so much. It’s a giant responsibility to be the driver.
As a sales leader, the responsibility is just as huge. One area that comes to mind: making excuses. When a salesperson makes the excuse that “things are slow right now” the sales leader can’t just accept that. A salesperson might be inclined to “blame production.” The sales leader can’t lop onto that one, either – ever. And perhaps the Grand Daddy of them all – when a salesperson says, “our prices are too high.” The moment a sales leader agrees to that the company can kiss full price good-bye forever. Bona fide sales leaders have the uncanny knack of helping their company NOT adopt an excuse-making culture. That culture weakens companies. As they say, a fish always stinks from the head down. Same with companies.
Sales leadership is not for everyone. It’s a tough job. Studies show that 75% of a sales leader’s time should be spent coaching/mentoring, motivating & holding people accountable. If you don’t enjoy these things, you will never be a successful sales leader. You may have the title of sales manager but you know it’s not for you. And guess what, so does your sales team.