There is no question that an excellent sales leader produces teams that get results. According to a September 2015 article from Harvard Business Review, more than two-thirds of salespeople responding to a survey who had exceeded their annual quota rated their sales manager as excellent. More than half of the same respondents gave their entire organization the same high marks.
As we approach the third decade of this millennium, it’s a good idea to reflect on what makes some sales leaders better than others. Do they seem to have the innate skill to motivate their teams or can they learn certain skills on the job? While the answer to that question is unique to every sales manager, certain characteristics of great leaders are common across the board.
Smart Hiring Skills and Emotional Intelligence
The ability to produce a high-performing sales team starts with hiring the right sales leadership. Smart sales managers look for skills such as persuasiveness, relationship building, and insight into every phase of the sales cycle. They recognize future high performers by their drive and willingness to accept feedback and not by sales skills alone.
Sales managers with above-average team performance often have a strong sense of emotional intelligence. That means they know how to read people and have a good understanding of what motivates them. They use this knowledge to provide feedback to sales representatives that will make them want to perform at a level that’s even higher than what’s expected of them.
Good at Building Relationships
Success at sales comes from building strong relationships both internally and externally. This ensures that they have someone to turn to for resources when a challenge comes up. Good sales managers also understand that they must balance the big picture with getting involved in everyday details. That means doing things like observing salespeople in action one day and meeting with board members the next.
Millennial Salespeople Have Changed the Way Managers Operate
Millennials, typically defined as people born between 1980 and 2000, have gotten a lot of bad publicity when it comes to the workplace. Older workers have labeled them as feeling entitled and having unrealistic expectations for the world of work. The 80 million millennials already in the workforce see things differently. It turns out they don’t want special treatment but rather a new approach to leadership. Two of the specific things they desire include:
- Authenticity: These workers don’t want to hear the same canned lines from their sales leaders. They expect vulnerability and truth instead of a sales manager talking about problems in a vague manner. The more specific a sales leader can be, the more respect he or she will earn from the young adult set.
- Frequent feedback or coaching: The old adage of assuming everything is fine unless the manager calls someone into the office doesn’t work with this age group. They desire frequent communication on how they are doing, whether good or bad. They appreciate that their manager notices a job well done as much as they appreciate the opportunity for coaching on ways they can improve.
Although managing a sales team with a range of personalities and ages can be challenging, keeping relationship at the forefront of every equation can go a long way towards lasting success.