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Sales leadership strategies

Sales leadership: Strategies to improve team performance

Dmytro Zaichenko
November 25, 2022

Effective and inspirational sales leadership is what every sales team needs to beat off stiff competition. A true leader knows the secrets of how to keep their team focused and encouraged to grow. 

Let's find out what makes a great sales team leader and how they guide their salespeople to success.

Sales leadership definition

Sales leadership is a mastery of encouraging a sales team to achieve success despite any obstacles on the way. 

Understanding the individual differences of each salesperson requires setting clear goals for each individual and common goals for the whole team. 

The main task of a sales team leader is to inspire salespeople to work towards the goal by following their motivation rather than being forced to do their job. 

It is done through coaching team members, enthusing them to grow professionally, and nurturing a winning attitude. 

Sales team leadership works toward eliminating underperforming and lack of motivation among team members.

Sales leadership vs. Sales management 

There is often common confusion between the role of a sales team leader and that of a sales team manager. Who is responsible for what and why?

Both sales team leadership and sales management imply working with a sales team and leading it to reach commercial objectives.

However, a sales manager focuses more on sales forecasting, budgeting, and telling the team how to implement new directions to overcome struggles, while a sales team lead mentors the team, encourages the initiative, and welcomes team members to come up with their own solutions to possible issues.

Steve Jobs once said

"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."

Sales management is hiring smart employees and telling them what to do. Whereas sales leadership is developing a way to help your salespeople grow, so they feel empowered and motivated to drive change.

Sales leadership drive may not necessarily come from a manager, yet as a manager, you should develop a leader's qualities to guide your team to success.

Difference between sales manager and sales leader

Image source

Who is a true sales leader? 

At this point, we have already defined the term 'sales leadership,' so let us dive deeper and clarify what makes a true leader. 

A true sales leader has five fundamental qualities that can be referred to as DRIVE:

Determination
To keep the team focused, a true leader must stay target-oriented, no matter the circumstances.

Reward
A sales team as a whole and each salesperson want to be rewarded for their effort. It is not necessarily giving bonuses or time off. It involves feedback to show that you appreciate a salesperson's great performance and attitude.

Integrity
A true sales leader must establish an open and safe environment within a team. For example, informing your team about upcoming operational or goal changes is essential. Building honest relationships with a team fosters respect and openness to follow your lead.

Value
Showing each salesperson that they are valued boosts their confidence. As a result, they feel more motivated to do better at work.

Empowerment
A true leader will never use a one-size-fits-all approach. On the contrary, understanding your team members' unique qualities can help them reach their full potential more efficiently. Freedom to make their own choices empowers salespeople and enhances their decision-making.

7 strategies to improve sales team performance 

We have singled out seven efficient strategies to help you adapt your sales team leadership style to the new challenging environment and cultivate a winning team.

Understand salespeople's differences 

When working with a sales team, it's crucial to understand that each individual has particular skills and qualities. Your task as a sales team leader requires recognizing the differences and helping each team member to notice their strengths and weaknesses.

Embrace the diversity of personalities, learning curves, and selling styles. You can learn more about each individual through sales assessment testing like SalesGenomix, Caliper Profile, or DiSС. However, a more personal approach would be practicing active listening and encouraging self-assessment. 

You can learn much more about your team members by asking a salesperson what they view as their forte. Consequently, you can help them leverage their skills to grow professionally and boost their performance.

But for strengths, it's essential to understand your team member's struggles if you want to help them develop. You identify a particular issue with a particular salesperson, then assist your sales rep in devising a plan on how to fix it. 

By attending a webinar, one-on-one sessions, or personal coaching, they can overcome their struggle and move on to the next one to improve.

Initiate sales strategic sessions 

True sales leadership entails smart strategic planning with the team. Developing sales goals, creating a step-by-step plan, and devising a sales strategy are great ways to improve performance. 

First, regular sales strategic sessions are a way to examine the current situation:

  • who, how, when, and where closes the most deals
  • which activities generate the most prospects
  • what causes underperforming

Secondly, these sessions are a way to boost morale, as you can celebrate big wins and keep your team recognized for their effort.

Finally, systematically diving into metrics and sharing valuable insights makes it easier to achieve short-term goals and stay focused on the long-term ones. 

Strategic meetings keep the team aware of the challenges, create a welcoming space where everyone can communicate openly, establish a clear strategy to follow and, as a result, foster the company's mission. 

Leverage technology 

Another great option to boost sales performance is using modern technologies.

Through sales automation, like automating burdensome routine tasks, centralizing data, and using CRMs/lead generation platforms, your sales reps can become more organized and efficient and have a better vision of the whole picture.

Apart from sales automation, you can encourage using project management tools, time trackers, help desk software to find sales opportunities, and other software impacting productivity and performance. 

Don't forget about sales analytics and performance reporting. It's easy to do through data connectors and data visualization services. For instance, if you use Asana for tracking sales team performance and projects, connect Asana to Google Sheets, and you'll have insights for improvement in one place

With modern technology, you can:

  • speed up the routine
  • monitor the process of project execution
  • examine employee workload
  • make faster decisions by figuring out which areas are weak
  • collect data from various apps
  • estimate the overall productivity

Nurture feedback culture 

A great sales team lead knows the importance of feedback, as feedback creates more opportunities for improvement. It works both ways: a leader provides valuable feedback to their team, and each employee feels welcome to share their opinions as well.

As a leader, you may use the B-A-T triangle (also known as the Sandler Success Triangle) when working on feedback. 

B-A-T stands for behavior, attitude, and technique:

By identifying behaviors, attitudes, and techniques your team members already have, you can compare them with those needed for success. Consequently, you can give feedback on those patterns of productive behavior and attitude that a particular salesperson needs.

Success triangleImage source

Encourage constant team learning 

To have a high-performing sales team, you need to keep them motivated to learn. 

Employees value career advancement, but working towards it involves constant skills improvement. By regularly polishing their skills, sales reps follow the way to higher personal achievements, which will considerably impact the overall success of a team.

Regular learning and training should involve not only sales but also interdisciplinary studies. 

One example can be motivating your sales team to learn more about related fields, e.g., marketing.

When the sales and marketing teams work together, deal closings are improved by 67%. For this reason, encouraging your team to uncover marketing subtleties can help them understand how to close more deals. 

Salespeople can learn more about referral marketing, cold outreach techniques, promoting through experts and influencers, and other marketing strategies. It'll help them perform better.

Be a mentor

Sales mentoring and coaching are crucial for the success of your team. Having regular mentoring conversations helps to keep your team motivated to improve and reach better results. 

Sales mentoring isn't the same as just giving directions. It requires an in-depth analysis of salespeople's skills, considering all the current situation's subtleties. Then you can discuss with a person how to achieve the desired goals and what steps to take towards it.

For example, during the low-selling season, the attitude may also become quite negative. In order not to lose your employees due to lack of motivation and possible burnout, be with them, talk to them and share some inspiring surveys and educational material on how to keep up with the competition

By being a true mentor/coach and showing that you care about your team's success, as well as the success of each member, you can help them overcome the possible challenges by directing their energy toward improvement. This, in turn, will help you not to lose a valuable employee.

The impact of coaching on sellers' engagement

Image source

Embrace honesty and transparency

Sales leadership entails cultivating an open and transparent environment where everyone values honesty. 

As a sales team leader, you need to promote the values you want your team to have, and most importantly, you should do so by being an example.  

Don't expect your team to be honest with you if you hide some critical information yourself, or don't be surprised to find your team unmotivated if you constantly complain about low sales. 

Foster an environment where people respect each other and work towards the same goal.

Final words 

Efficient sales leadership shows that you can significantly improve the sales process by implementing smart strategies. 

You lead your team to success by guiding your salespeople, nurturing honest and transparent relationships, encouraging initiative, and setting clear goals.

We hope this article will help you start with strategies to improve your sales team performance.

If you would like to learn more and dig deeper, check out our list with the best sales leadership books.

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