The CEO and Sales Leadership

A CEO or business owner wears many hats, from “chief inspiration officer” to overseeing complex operations and development of new growth strategies. Not least among his or her primary responsibilities, however, is ensuring that the team responsible for selling the company’s products or services is motivated, efficient, productive and forward-thinking.

For most successful organisations, this means doing more than expecting a sales manager to “handle” sales and turning their own attention elsewhere.

Just like all other departmental constituencies, your sales team craves leadership. This doesn’t mean you have to get down in the trenches with them—though an occasional ride-along to a sales meeting with a key client wouldn’t hurt—but they need to know you support their efforts and endeavour to do all you can to make their jobs more effective and successful.

Here are ways to provide the kind of leadership that gets the best sales results:

Make objective data a top priority. We all know of individual salespeople who operate by their gut when it comes to sales, but time and again, the primacy of objective sales data wins out. This includes verifiable, real-time information relating to:

• The status of the sales pipeline
• Identification of qualified leads
• Level of engagement with prospects
• Closed deals

Only with confirmed data can intelligent choices be made about sales strategies. That’s why, as business consultant Larry Alton points out, CEOs and business leaders “must make solid data a bigger priority at the foundational level of their organisation.” If not, “creeping levels of subjectivity near the ground level can muddy the waters” and negatively affect future decision-making.

Insist on alignment between sales and marketing. As we’ve noted before, it’s essential that your marketing and sales teams work closely together, since a lack of alignment “can mean the difference between closing a deal or losing the prospect to another, more closely aligned competitor.”

As CEO, you can promote collaboration by:

• Meeting regularly with individuals from each department and making sure everyone’s on the same page with respect to strategy, new initiatives, etc.
• Ensuring that the marketing message on your website and in collateral materials is emphasised as part of the sales team’s prospecting efforts
• Devising a system of metrics that both sales and marketing teams adhere to, and encouraging collaborative analysis that can avert any decline in sales

Encourage leadership growth at the managerial level. Among salespeople, there’s always a story about a rock-star salesperson who got promoted to sales manager and failed to meet the challenge of leadership. It often makes sense to promote from within, particularly when an individual has demonstrated a high level of sales acumen—but without proper support and training, this person may lack the leadership abilities needed to get the job done.

Spend time with the team. The favourable effect of a company CEO or business owner actually taking time out of his or her day to “hang” with the sales team is incalculable. Remember, these hard-working individuals are out there on their own most of the time. Consider occasionally participating in a sales meeting (or not participating, but showing support by your presence alone). Solicit the sales team’s input on what’s going well and what other resources you might provide to make them better at their jobs. Recognise their contributions at all-staff meetings and elsewhere. The uptick in morale is potentially through the roof.

As the leader of your company, you’re uniquely positioned to inspire, motivate and demand that the sales team give their all to the organisation. The time spent on your part to achieve this goal is well worth the effort.

Want to learn more about sales and leadership? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

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7 Tips for Managing Your Millennial Sales Team

millennial sales team

We often hear that millennial employees are a breed apart, and require a shift in management style and perspective. The same can be said about a millennial sales team and what’s needed to effectively manage and leverage their particular outlook and talents. Generally speaking, think of these younger salespeople as self-confident, positive thinkers who are thoroughly comfortable with digital technologies in all forms, and ready to take on sales challenges unique to your company and industry.

The key is providing the right type of guidance and training to maximize their efforts on behalf of your organization. Here are seven key tips:

1. Zero in on their motivation. Like any other employees, millennials want to be paid a fair wage for the work they do. But perhaps more than other generations, they’re often motivated by the need to “make a difference”—in their community or in the world at large. It’s worth the effort to meet with your sales team members to better understand what drives them on a personal and professional level.

2. Be prepared to offer flexible work schedules. You may have already instituted flexible work schedules in your organization, but if not, think carefully about trying to restrict millennial salespeople to a rigid 9-to-5 routine.

Again speaking in general terms, these strongly self-motivated individuals can be relied upon to attend to daily or weekly sales-activity objectives. But, they also believe they can do in a flexible way—and may bridle at being restricted to a strict 9-to-5 workplace schedule. Look into what type of flexible work schedules enable them to achieve maximum productivity.

3. Offer feedback (and plenty of it). Millennials thrive on feedback, especially when it’s frequent and constructive (as opposed to quarterly or semi-annual performance reviews). They want to hear from their managers that they’re doing a good job, which will make them work even harder. But they’re also open to critiques that let them build on their existing knowledge and experience.

4. Provide training bite-sized portions. Sales training is critically important for millennials, as it is for other generations of salespeople. Adopting a formalized training program, however, may not be the best approach.

Millennials favor shorter, condensed training sessions, not day-long workshops or other, more traditional classroom-style approach. Look into interactive sales training software that plays to their ability to absorb information in quick, interactive programs. You’ll likely see better results this way.

5. Give them guidance on selling to older generations. A key area of training for this generational cohort is guidance on selling to clients who aren’t millennials. It’s important to train millennials on the best ways to reach out to customers with different generational needs and desires. After all, if they can’t understand what drives these individuals and business owners, “they will struggle to maintain relationships with some clients and close sales with many prospects.”

6. Encourage collaboration. Back in the day, companies often found benefits in pitting one salesperson against another. That’s not the ideal approach to sales management for millennials, who tend to favor collaboration over competition.

Emphasize a team approach to sales management, with plenty of opportunities to brainstorm together, pair more experienced individuals with sales rookies, etc. It’s also a good idea to reward the entire sales team for successful deals, rather than only single out individuals for praise.

7. Take advantage of their digital know-how. Remember, millennials understand digital technologies inside and out, including how to sell via social media. Rather than shoehorn them into one approach or another, encourage your team to “continuously adopt new technologies and integrate the latest, most sophisticated digital sales tools into their repertoire.” They’ll benefit from the infusion of exciting new ways to approach sales and your company will benefit from their willingness to explore these new strategies.

You have a unique opportunity to draw upon your millennial sales team’s generational strengths and enthusiasm. Don’t let that opportunity slip by.

Want to learn more about sales management and training? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

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