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5 Characteristics of a Successful Sales Team Leader

sales_team_leaderWhat does it take to become a great sales team leader?

As the leader of a sales team, it can be difficult to manage the different personalities of people you work with. Not only do you need to make sure your sales reps are doing their jobs, you need to inspire them to perform above and beyond the bare minimum.

But sometimes it feels like nothing will work. You can’t be too buddy-buddy because it makes it hard to confront them when they slack off. And you can’t be too stern because people won’t work hard for someone they don’t like or respect.

As challenging as it seems, becoming a great sales leader isn’t too difficult if you develop a few key traits. Instead of wondering how you’re going to motivate your sales team to take your organization to the next level, you can start developing a few habits that will lay the foundation for that success to happen over time.

From working with a variety of sales professionals and effective sales leaders, we know what it takes to lead a team to success. Read about the five characteristics we’ve included below, and see how you can incorporate them to become a more successful sales team leader.

1. Vision

A well-oiled sales process is only possible with a clear vision from the leader. Your team will be more likely to succeed when your goals – and the reasons for those goals – are vivid.

But you also need to turn those big ideas into executable plans. As leadership expert Peter Drucker says, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” It’s your job to know what the right things are so you can effectively guide your team.

The best way to improve your sales strategy with a clear vision is to answer two questions:

  1. What does success look like? In other words, how will you and your team members know whether you’re accomplishing your vision?
  2. What does it take to get there? For example, what actionable steps can people take to move in the right direction?

If you use these questions to create a clear and worthy goal, and your sales team understands how to achieve it, they will get behind you and fight for it.

2. High Expectations

If you don’t expect greatness from your team, you won’t get it. As the leader of a sales team, you need to set the bar high because your organization’s sales are your responsibility.

There are a few ways to incorporate this into your leadership style:

  1. Have your sales reps agree to your clear expectations. When they know exactly what their job entails, it’s harder for them to stray from that promise.
  2. Provide them with resources to attain success. Sales coaching, sales training, and access to your best salespeople and resources are all possible ways to give them the help they need.

Another great Peter Drucker quote says it perfectly: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” If you can set high expectations and help your reps meet those standards, they’ll respect you even more as their leader.

3. Empathy

You need to push and challenge your reps if you want hard work from them, but you also need to understand their situation.

Sometimes people make mistakes. You need to expect greatness, but to also try to be understanding when you don’t receive it. Instead of berating your employees when they falter, help them find solutions to improve and avoid future mistakes.

Additionally, make sure you have their back, even if they’re in a sales slump. Let them know that bad streaks happen to everyone. Encourage and motivate them to keep moving forward while letting them know you still expect hard work.

Stop making quick judgments, dishing out empty advice, and searching for blame. Listen to your team members and really try to understand their situation. When they realize you’re an empathetic leader, they’ll be more willing to do whatever they can to help you accomplish the greater mission.

4. Accountability

The best sales managers know that they are responsible for their team’s sales success. When a new hire messes up, it’s not a big deal because they’re gaining valuable sales experience and it’s a great learning opportunity. But when more experienced sales professionals screw up, you need to take responsibility.

  • Are they making the mistake because you haven’t made your expectations clear? If so, take responsibility and train your employees better.
  • Are they making the same mistake over and over again? If so, you need to take responsibility that you’ve kept an employee who may not be a good fit for your team.

To help you stay accountable, you need to analyze performance. PhoneBurner has great real-time reporting that helps you measure productivity and performance, so you can hold agents accountable and reward sales success. You can only make improvements when you know where the problems are.

Regardless of the situation, always look for the cause of your problems and determine what you can do to resolve them. By understanding that it’s your responsibility, you’ll blame others less, gain more respect, and become a better sales leader.

5. Commitment

Sales leadership is nothing without commitment. When you create a vision for your team, you have to understand that there are going to bumps along the way.

Even when you or your team have been in a long slump, you have to stay committed to the long-term goals you’re striving for, as well as to the members of the team. If they know you’ll stick with them through the bad times, they’ll work that much harder to create success for you and the team.

Sales management is an art. You need to motivate your team and give them a high-level vision, while also providing them with tactical sales tips and training. The complexity can make good sales leadership feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you focus on developing the five characteristics we just provided, you’ll become a valued and respected sales leader in no time.

Chime in! Are you a team leader or part of a time? What other traits do you think a successful sales team leader embodies?