Leadership matters – a lot. But it’s not that simple.


Posted By Anastasia Bogomolov | Sep 04, 2014


Yes, leadership matters. A successful leader possesses a variety of qualities that range – in no particular order – from integrity to confidence to decisiveness to the ability to delegate to positivity… the list can go on and on. And thanks to escalating content overload, the list does in fact go on and on, so much so that it’s now quite literally swarming with enough overused traits to arouse the curiosity of… Bueller… Bueller?

Identifying the top X number characteristics of influential leaders (often from the relatively distant past) is the same as treating the sales enablement process like it’s something new. In reality, while both are worthy of mention, neither narrative is actually new, so let’s not treat them as such. Instead, we should look at the traits of leaders as building blocks to drivers of action – or the stuff of evident value.

How have extraordinary leaders achieved success? What strategies were instrumental to their accomplishments? How have they inspired and facilitated team action?

Leadership definition - sales management strategy

The recent Market Basket saga presents a noteworthy example of an influential leader whose tactics not only united a team, but motivated them to take cohesive action in the face of immense and controversial strife. No matter your opinion on the outcome of the events that followed (some of us certainly missed our reliable discounts), what’s remarkable is this group’s resilient dedication to the exceptionally valued leadership tactics of Arthur T. Demoulas (the formally ousted CEO) and their steadfast resistance to the poor qualities they envisioned in the new leadership.

That’s powerful stuff. Employees and buyers alike revolted against poor leadership for what they knew worked, what they found consistently advantageous, and what ultimately made Market Basket both a satisfying place to work and to shop. In other words, they really, really, liked what Arthur Demoulas was doing.

Sales leaders in today’s increasingly competitive and complicated landscape, typically already have what it takes to lead – the acquired and hard-earned X number characteristics lead them here – what is important to consider, however, is how to take those qualities to the next and possibly most significant level: empowering a sales team to execute using their utmost potential, by choice. And because buyers today are savvier than ever, when something’s not working with the sales team (take repetitive and plain old erroneous messaging, for instance), buyers feel it -- and that affects your bottom line.

In an ideal world – a world where most highly regarded leaders have either strived to be or came incredibly close to creating – a team’s dedication is a direct result of them sharing the vision for success and incorporating the need for customer satisfaction as a credo to selling. So how can you come millimeters away from achieving this idyllic state of sales? As all things in life, it takes baby steps, preparation, and a good deal of work. Are you ready?


“Believe in the unbelievable”

Anthony Iannarino recently wrote an excellent post highlighting some of those key steps you can take in your journey to inspire and mobilize your sales force. Here’s a selection of a few timely ones that will get the results desired.

  1. A Great Sales Manager who Leads: Every salesperson is owed a great sales manager to lead them. You should expect any salesperson who isn’t provided with a leader to fail, and it will not every be their own fault. This is the first and most important thing to provide your sales force.
  2. Mindset: You have to teach your sales force how to think about what it takes to do their job. You have to help them understand what they have to believe in order to succeed. You might think that you aren’t responsible for motivation, and at some level you are right. But you are responsible for giving them something to believe in. Mainly themselves.
  3. Skills Training: If you want your sales force to succeed, you have to help them improve their skills. One of the ways you best help them improve is by providing skills training. The best skills training is focused on fundamentals. The game is won through blocking and tackling.
  4. A Sales Process: Your sales force isn’t responsible for developing their own sales process. You must provide them with the collected knowledge and wisdom of your sales force on how deals are successfully moved from target to close. They may have their own style, but they should not have their own process.
  5. Coaching: Every great performer in every field has a coach. Or coaches, more likely. Your salespeople have blind spots. If they could see their own mistakes, they wouldn’t be making them. Coaching is how you help people recognize and take advantage of new possibilities, and by doing so, improve their own performance. It also makes them responsible and accountable for their own growth and development.
  6. Tool Kits: Playbooks. Differentiation charts. Sales call planners. Client questionnaires. Sales force automation software. Technological tools. Your sales force needs to be well equipped to be as effective as they can be. You owe them the tools of the trade.

Using this handy checklist as a guide ensures streamlined and energized team efforts that are imperative to the success of every sales organization. Whether you’re the leader, or you need to demand these traits from one, these initiatives will help garner the dedication and cohesiveness every team needs to succeed.