What is the principal role of a sales leader?

In leading a sales team, your overriding goal is to enable the success of your sales people. And success for each of them will be different. So always be thinking of ways you can help them thrive – that is, both for them of course (to achieve their goal, make good money, and feel successful and accomplished) and for the company. Although the individual help you provide them is different from one person to the next, there are some key fundamentals, that when discussed and reviewed with the team, lead to their success.

These fundamentals always begin with a regular review of the ultimate measure of their accomplishment in their role – sales results both year-to-date (YTD) and month-to-date (MTD). This is merely a quick review of the “destination” so to speak, so that they don’t lose sight of it. All discussions of a coaching nature should begin with this. No hand-slapping or reprimanding is required at his point, because it’s not the purpose of the review.

From there, you and the sales person will identify a gap from current sales to desired results (goal less MTD). You will also need to review YTD regularly because if he misses his target one month, he needs to make it up in the following months. The gap is filled by turning to the pipeline for that month and this is where you can really provide him help. Start at a high level by looking at the total monthly sales and what multiple of sales remaining for the month should be in the pipeline. As the month wears on and he makes sales, you will see the value in the pipeline change as deals are closed and others move out to the next month (or die). It’s not an exact science but helps them to learn how to manage their activity and know what they need to do to be successful. Through this type of leadership your sales people learn to manage their time and activities and they all need this help, almost without exception in my experience. Of course, you are also ensuring all next steps and associated dates are in the future.

As you then turn to discussing the key deals, I’d suggest ones that are above a certain value or are close to closing, ask them what they’ve done so far to get to this point (so you know and are not offering suggestions they’ve already tried). The goal is not to catch them doing something wrong, but to learn how they’ve gotten this far. Then you can ask them what their plans are for next steps. Again, as a coach you’re asking before offering so they can self discover and learn, and you are able to offer helpful ideas. You can credit them for the approach they’re going to take or gently offer up another idea by saying, “Had you thought of…?” I’ve observed many managers being a little too high level and skimming over the answers the sales people give to the pipeline questions. That doesn’t help them because they don’t get an opportunity to plan ahead and hear from you and your experience. I always stay future-focussed in these discussions because at this stage you’re trying to help them with what’s coming up. There’s a time to learn from the past, but only from a learning perspective and not from a disciplinary perspective. Anything that isn’t going well and requires “discipline” is handled in the moment and again from the perspective of helping and assuming they didn’t know any better.

Along the way insert your own individual style. I tend to have a very fun and light style of coaching (most of the time!). I welcome your thoughts with the above approach (as always) and we can work through them together. Linda@TheKernGroupInc.com or 416-520-4897.


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