The Top 3 Characteristics of Successful Sales Leadership

sales leadershipIn the comic strip “Dilbert,” Scott Adams bases his comics on The Dilbert Principle, which he created to explain how companies systematically promote incompetent employees to management to keep them from doing the important work. Adams explains, “You want them ordering the doughnuts and yelling at people for not doing their assignments—you know, the easy work.” While many sales reps can identify with The Dilbert Principle, sales strategy expert Steve Martin reports in an article posted on Harvard Business Review that “fifty-six percent of salespeople who rated their sales organization as excellent also rated their sales manager as excellent—compared to only 3% who rated their organization as average.” In this post, we’ll cover the three most important characteristics of successful sales leadership.

(1) It focuses on helping the sales team members who can improve. 

Successful sales leaders know where to spend their time. They recognize that their top performers don’t need a lot of coaching and training. Great sales reps just need to be well compensated and recognized. Really low performing salespeople are likely in the wrong job, and investing a lot of time in them is a waste of time and energy. They will probably not rise in the rankings no matter what the sales leader does to help. The middle performers are where the best sales leaders focus their attention. The middle 60 percent have the aptitude, and they can improve. Here are some ways these leaders focus their efforts on improving their team:

  • They create a consistent process to use across the sales team with proven automated workflows and cadences
  • They create call scripts for sales reps to follow based on what top performers say, but still give them some freedom to make the script their own
  • They provide email templates to save their reps time and provide them with targeted messaging
  • They listen in during phone calls, so they can help coach and steer conversations

(2) Successful sales leadership knows the customer and sets up the sales team to get into more conversations.

Knowing the customer’s pain points at every step in their buying journey is key to leading and training reps to overcome objections. Great sales leaders know which prospects to go after to get more customers like their best customers. They help inform the marketing department’s efforts to map ideal customer profiles, or personas, and their customer journey. And they make sure their sales teams are getting qualified leads to fill the sales pipeline. To get data on the customer, successful sales leadership uses a sales engagement platform to:

  • Understand more about the ideal customer, such as their job titles, and industry, and which content they download
  • Measure and adjust cadences to make sure sales is getting into conversations with the right prospects at the right time
  • Spot customer trends by day, week, month, or year

(3) Successful leadership owns sales analytics.

According to Salesforce, “high-performing sales teams are 1.5 times more likely to base forecasts on data-driven insights. Conversely, underperforming sales teams are 1.7 times more likely to forecast on intuition.” Successful sales leadership uses real-time insights that show what’s going on throughout the sales life cycle. With real-time data that’s native to Salesforce, they are using controllable, leading indicators to base their decisions. Here are some of the ways successful leadership uses analytics:

  • To compare sales reps and identify which among them are getting to more conversations per activity (touch)
  • To determine which lead sources are producing the highest quality leads
  • To identify how persistence pays off by seeing how and when activity converts
  • To determine how consistently reps are contacting prospects/customers
  • To identify how effectively activities are driving prospects to the next stage, and where prospects may be lost in the pipeline

Successful sales leaders may be ordering doughnuts, but they are more strategic than Dilbert lets on. And not coincidentally, some of the best we know use Salesvue. See how Salesvue can help your sales leadership with a personalized demo, or check out a video demo.