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Sales Team ‘Leaders’ Ace Sales Team ‘Managers’

A company owner recently said to me. “We have a sales team leader who is gold dust!” I asked about his leader’s job title and he replied, “she is our Sales Manager!” The conversation stayed with me for a while. Unknowingly, he had reignited a view I have held for some time.

Why do companies insist on calling their sales team leaders either Sales Manager, Regional Sales Manager or similar? I believe that’s a lost opportunity?

Business clamours for the important leadership that sales teams depend upon. Why label the lead job ‘manager?’

Change it to leader. See how the combined impact of right incumbent, right title and a sales leadership coaching programme becomes so powerful it will grow your sales team performance faster than ever before.

Managers and leaders are both important to any flourishing organisation, but they each use a significantly different version of influence and communication.

Managers drive, direct, control and supervise people, invariably to meet someone else’s plan. They manage top down processes, systems and contracts on a ‘have to, must do, got to’ basis.

The question is, since when could you ‘control or direct’ people to full potential? Especially sales teams working in isolation? From my experience pushing employees endlessly to make ever-growing contributions to their employer, while their manager looks on in reflected glory, sounds an unattractive proposition!

Conversely, a people leader generates followers and leadership is about using influence to buy-in to a vision of the future.

Leaders encourage people to improve with incisive guidance, mentoring and advice. People prefer leadership. Where cultural language moves away from the management speak of ‘have to, got to and must do’ and becomes ‘like to, want to and choose to!’

After all, everything in life is a choice and leaders focus on making good choices. Choice is a position of self-control and if you attempt to remove that from someone watch for the push back. You might not even see it but it will be there.

Leaders create an environment of the independence, accountability and ownership that thrives over management command and control.

Achieving stretch financial goals through a sales team is a tough-call. It’s a people business where respect, relationships and focused leadership excel.

Salespeople often classically mirror their boss anyway so isn’t it better to observe and copy the style of an accomplished visionary leader rather than a manager?

Front line sales people constantly face important customer decisions every day when influencing an account. Sometimes inadvertently dropping into a below-par performance, allowing the account to slip to a competitor seamlessly.

So what can a successful team leader do differently to avoid that?

As the conduit for company expectations and required results, leaders promote team-wide leadership density. That is the first line self-regulatory inter-team support for any wavering peer group professional. It is a team-building cushion that underpins the leader's motivation and expectation.

Good sales people deserve to be coached with the same effectiveness as competitive athletes committed to winning. Both groups thrive on quality preparation and alignment.

They constantly look for performance improvement, and willingly accept ownership and responsibility through competence assessment and coaching.

Sales professionals spend most of their time in seclusion and that teamwork and learned mental toughness is paramount.

While sales team leaders cannot be out with everyone all of the time they coach their team to be constantly at their best whether the leader is watching or not.

Leaders are always poised ready to help their troops overcome blocks. Catch on though; it is how and when the help is delivered, that is the difference between leaders and managers. Leaping in and taking over, is rarely the best. Teach team players to fish and you feed them for life.

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