Is Your Boss Your Biggest Cheerleader?
What makes salespeople and sales teams more successful? I've been asked this question a lot during the past few months. In reflecting on this, I've realized that one of the key features of teams with highly successful salespeople is strong leadership. It's the sales bosses who are in a position to really make a difference in sales culture. It's the bosses who can build culture, change behavior, and rally the sales troops to victory.
In my work as a coach and trainer for sales teams, I notice that some salespeople are more engaged and willing to put their training into action than others. They make extra prospecting calls and have better consultative conversations with their customers. These high-achieving salespeople almost always have strong sales leaders—someone who "carries the flag" for the team.
Sales is tougher than it's ever been before. The economy has changed, buyers have changed—and to survive and thrive, salespeople have to change, too. Sales teams need leaders who can lead them through change and continually rally, coach, and mentor the group into a winning team.
When I look back at my sales years, I can see that my boss, Robert, was my greatest cheerleader (though also my greatest critic at times!). I learned so much from him and loved having him accompany me in client meetings. It was from him that I learned the importance of asking more questions rather than just talking. I also learned to take copious notes to capture what the client was saying, so that I could respond with a solid proposal.
He definitely taught me how to ask for the business, or to secure the next step. Robert's first question after a meeting was always, "How did it go?" I quickly learned that if I responded with, "Great meeting—client is really interested and is going to let me know next week," Robert would ask, "And do you have the follow-up call set up with them next week?" Robert always held me accountable—and I learned to make sure I always had a definitive next step.
When I reflect back on my relationship with Robert, I can see that one of the biggest things that pushed me to become better was his belief in me. He believed in me as a salesperson more than I believed in myself and he encouraged, empowered and coached me to keep raising the bar. I achieved more in the 10 years that I worked for Robert's company than I had ever dreamed of!
Here are some tips to help both sales leaders and sales troops create a stronger sales culture and more sales success:
- Share your vision and goals. Let your sales leader know how he or she can help you achieve these goals. If you're the sales leader, encourage your salespeople to develop vision and goals, and to talk about them with you.
- Ask for constructive feedback. Ask your sales leader to accompany you on your next sales call so that he or she can provide constructive feedback on what you do well and what you can do better. If you're the sales leader, don't be afraid to get involved and act as a coach and mentor.
- Create a winning sales culture of accountability and continuous improvement. Support each other. Strategize and brainstorm about specific accounts. In teams with a strong sales culture, everyone wins.
- Create a sales blitz for the next 30 or 90 days, where each salesperson has to make 10 prospecting calls each day or each week. Use the blitz to create a fun, competitive environment to secure more meetings and more sales.
- If you're reading this and thinking, "But my boss or leader is useless!" or "I'm an independent salesperson without a boss (and I like it that way!)," you can still benefit from leaders. As a business owner and chief salesperson for my business, I am in effect "boss-less." But I have surrounded myself with other "Roberts"—mentors and coaches who understand my vision and goals. They elevate my thinking and abilities to new levels of success. You can do the same.
Thought Provoking Question: We all need a leader to coach us from the sales sidelines. It's too hard to do it all by yourself, and it's OK to ask for help. Who will help lead YOU to your next level of sales success?