Leadership in Sales: Why It’s Important and How to Cultivate It

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By Katharine Janisch, Head of Sales and Marketing, CloudSmiths

Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes 40 seconds

With the customer experience replacing price and product as the key driver behind customers’ purchase decisions, there’s too much riding on sales teams to not prioritize their success. Unfortunately, a lack of strong sales leadership often inhibits a sales team’s growth potential and effectiveness. 

It’s a common misconception that the best sellers make the best sales leaders. While a background in sales is important, being an effective sales leader requires more than being a top-notch sales rep or excellent negotiator. 

Driving genuine sales growth and establishing a sales culture requires a combination of skills and qualities that aren’t necessarily innate, and can be learned by anyone. If you’re looking for insight on how to successfully lead your sales team, or have ambitions to one day be a sales leader yourself, read on. 

How Can Sales Leaders Add Value to the Sales Process?

Redefine what success looks like in sales

It’s time to dismantle the outdated belief that a successful sales strategy is all about hitting monthly sales targets by selling however they can to whoever will buy. 

As a sales leader, you shouldn’t just be measuring success by looking at targets and numbers. You should be paying attention to the quantity, quality and direction of your team’s meetings and conversations.  

The engagement strategy your sales team follows should be aligned with the company’s inherent marketing strategy. This means your rep should have a clear understanding of the business’s client profile and who they’re targeting to maximise their productivity. 

Sales reps should also know your buyer profile well. Reps need to be engaging with and talking to the right decision-makers at the right levels.  

Use data strategically

Data insights, when used strategically, can be very valuable in helping you determine the areas where your team is excelling and where they need to improve. Knowing which metrics to examine is an essential skill for sales leaders to have for refining and improving processes.

It’s important to identify the critical factors for success that exist at each stage of the sales process. You need to strive to understand why opportunities drop out of the sales pipeline at each point and pinpoint what activities help them progress. 

The factors that play a role in driving sales will differ between companies, so having data insights at your fingertips are vital for helping you drive the right actions at the right times to close more sales. 

Consistently build sales capability

In the world of sales, deals can be made or broken over what was said, what wasn’t said and even non-verbal cues. Learning the subtleties and nuances of verbal and non-verbal exchanges that make up the sales process can be very challenging. 

For this reason, you’ll need to invest time and effort in consistently building the sales capability of your team. The methods you use for building sales capability, like coaching, should always be structured by goals that are in line with the broader targets of the organisation, whether they’re increasing sales revenue, onboarding new reps more quickly or decreasing lead turnover. 

What Qualities Should a Good Sales Leader Have?

An authentic leadership style

When just assuming a leadership role in sales, new leaders might feel compelled to imitate the leadership styles of previous leaders they’ve worked under. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s important to understand that there’s no one right way to lead a sales team. 

Discovering and developing your personal leadership style can help you to harness your strengths and characteristics most optimally. It will also help you to feel more at ease and authentic in how you conduct yourself and interact with team members. 

You can draw from your own life experiences, your motivations, values and beliefs to help inform your unique leadership style.

Effective feedback strategies

Giving feedback is an essential part of being a sales leader to drive sales and encourage individual and team development. For many leaders, giving feedback to a rep might make them feel uncomfortable, particularly if the feedback is not positive. However, there are ways to nurture the optimal environment in which to share feedback. 

Firstly, as a sales leader, make sure you’re communicating a specific message to a team member that’s based on performance or data. This helps reps to understand exactly what they need to work on. 

You can also work on the delivery of the feedback. Choosing the right place and time (i.e not on a Friday right before sign out or first thing on a Monday morning) can make reps more open to receiving feedback. Always make sure the feedback you give is constructive and actionable. Don’t criticise or lecture team members, as this could further impact their performance. 

The ability to listen, not just hear

The best sales leaders are generally great listeners. Ensuring that every member of your team feels heard promotes a sense of team unity and cohesion, as well as personal value for each team member. 

Another benefit of being a good listener while leading a team is benefitting from the exchange of ideas and perspectives. Listening to your team members’ ideas and insight when tackling a problem or roadblock could help you find a creative solution you might not have otherwise thought of. 

Being an effective leader means getting the best results out of your team. Developing the necessary qualities and putting the right strategies in place to do this takes time but with patience and perseverance, you’ll be leading your sales team to success in no time.  

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