The Changing Face of Sales Leadership and Professional Selling: It’s a Reality…New Age Leadership for Changing Times.

There is a difference between leadership and management. Leadership is of the spirit, management is of the mind. Managers are necessary, but leaders are essential. We must find managers who are not only skilled organizers, but inspired and inspiring leaders.” ~ Field Marshall Slim

Sales productivity is a strategic issue. For companies to remain competitive in these economic times, sales leaderships and organizations must change to the new realities. As businesses strive to re-establish customer orientation, sales partnerships, and strategic approach to selling; there are greater demands on the sales organization and salespeople to be productive and adaptive.

And, sales leadership must provide the assurance that the appropriate sales methodologies are widely practiced and smoothly implemented. This includes any problems that stem from salespeople being unclear about company’s priorities or strategy (i.e., messaging, products/ services, value proposition, and target customers). The sales manager’s role is changing with industries’ trending to more ‘flat’ organizational structures, which removes layers of management between the sale force and the general manager.

This highlights the changing sales manager role as the essential link between company strategy and customers. Sales managers must not only grasp the corporate vision but be able to communicate it to the sales force in terms of its real effects on sales best practices and customers.

In the article “The Rapidly Changing Face Of Sales Leadership…And I Mean Rapidly!” by Jonathan Farrington writes: Old ways of doing business no longer work: the increasingly intense competitive challenges of the world economy challenge everyone, everywhere, to adapt in order to prosper under new rules. As business changes, so do the traits needed to survive, let alone excel. All these transitions put increased value on emotional intelligence.

Star performers show significantly greater strengths in a range of emotional competencies, such as the skills of persuasion, team leadership, political awareness, self-confidence, and achievement drive. Empathy, one of the key elements of emotional intelligence, is central to good management; it is difficult to have a positive impact on others without first sensing how they feel about and understanding their position.

People who are poor at reading emotional cues and inept at social interactions are very poor at influencing others in the workplace. Coaching is an important element for effective salesmanship, and trust is crucial – when there is little trust in the coach, advice goes unheeded. This also happens when the coach is impersonal and cold, or the relationship seems too one-sided or self-serving.

Coaches who show respect, trustworthiness and empathy are the best. One way to encourage people to perform better is to let others take the lead in setting their own goals rather than dictating the terms and manner of their development. This communicates the belief that employees have the capacity to be the pilot of their own destiny…

In the article “The Changing Face of Professional Sales Leadership: A Roundtable Debate” by Paul McCord writes: We know that the role of a sales leader is to translate the organization’s vision, mission, and values into a meaningful context that sales teams can relate to and feel excited by. If this is achieved, then the sales leader will have created a sales team with a shared mental model. This transforms an ordinary sales team into a high performing one.

We also understand that for a group of people to remain “consciously competent” at optimum performance levels, they require frequent injections of stimulation, motivational guidance and prompting, otherwise they can easily lapse into “unconsciously competent”, or worse “unconsciously incompetent” After all, the primary objective of a professional sales manager has to be: “To achieve consistently superior results, through the performance of every sales individual on the team.”

Today, more organizations are waking up to the value of building a strong coaching culture. Analogies to athletic coaching are common, but especially apt. Training alone does not guarantee that a great athlete will deliver a gold medal-winning performance. Equally, top sales professionals need expert coaching support from their managers to stay at the top of their game.

Whether coaching is delivered face-to-face, on the telephone, or via e-mail, those organizations that have a strong coaching culture attract and retain the best salespeople.  This is why the sales leader’s role is evolving, and – in fact, it is becoming crucial to the success or failure of most commercial organizations…

In the article “Increase Sales through Effective Account Manager Coaching” by Jim Searls writes:  Our job as leaders is to accomplish our goals and objectives by developing other people. This requires coaching them until they are able to stand on their own. Every time there is a change in the way you do business, then you are required to coach your team until the new skills needed for success are part of their everyday behavior. Here are three tips for effective coaching:

  • Invest the majority of your coaching time with your “B” players: Why not the “A” or “C” players? Because “B” players have the greatest potential for growth. Most leaders spend an unbelievable amount of time trying to make “C” players into “B” players. That’s like a head football coach spending all his time coaching the 3rd string quarterback. I have not yet seen that as a successful strategy. At best the “C” player becomes a “C+” player.
  • Use your “A” players as mentors for your “B” players; Coaching is the most important activity for leaders. Even so, there are many other demands on a leader’s time. Additionally, many people work remotely these days which makes it difficult for leaders to coach their teams. “A” players are a good source of support, because they have already demonstrated that they excel at their job. Mentoring helps them grow in their coaching skills and prepare them for future leadership roles.
  • Know your stuff: Don’t try and fake it…

In the article “What Makes A Great Sales Leader?”  by Jayden Briggs writes: Sadly, most superior sales performers, when promoted to leadership positions, are unable to truly lead. They have trouble analyzing and teaching their personal sales processes in such a way that their sales teams can properly digest. Typically, when a salesperson moves into the management sphere they tend to manage people versus coaching critical competencies and behaviors…

To be effective, sales leaders must understand and know how to integrate knowledge of sales systems and processes to their staff. They need the majority of their salespeople to accept it, own it, and benefit from it. Going one step further, it is crucial for sales leaders to have experience in identifying and measuring critical core competencies and essential performance metrics. True sales leaders shine a light on the most critical competencies, enabling the highest percentage of their sales force to routinely win.

Sales leaders, like great business leaders, spend time developing systematic approaches to essential competencies. And they do it so that their people can outperform the standard. It’s important to set realistic goals that are in line with performance expectations, then set “benchmarks” for each competency and train specifically to those benchmarks. Sales leaders believe that sales people will be accountable for results, provided that leadership does it job:

  • Identifies the important competencies, expectations, accountability for success.
  • Supplies targeted training with appropriate structures for learning and application.
  • Provides the relevant coaching and measures the degree of improvement.

In the article “Jesus CEO…The New Age Leadership Concept” by Saji Daniel writes: This concept of leadership may be the new mode of leadership for the corporate world for the 21st Century, but many will recognize it as a First Century idea. It’s the “management program” set forth by Jesus. Jesus taught that you did not have to be a hero to be a leader. He taught just the opposite; that to be leader you must be a servant. He taught that there is no need to pull rank on each other and that “the greatest among you will be your servant”… Think about it

  • One person trained twelve human beings who went on to so influence the world that time itself is now recorded as time in memorial.
  • This person worked with people who were totally human & not divine…a staff that in spite of illiteracy, questionable backgrounds, fractious feelings, and momentary cowardice went on to accomplish the tasks he trained them to do.
  • His leadership style was intended to be put to use by any of us.

Now, two thousand years later, Jesus has over 2.1 billion followers, which makes Him the undisputed greatest leader of all time. No one else comes close!  Jesus as a leadership role model is offensive to nobody. To be a good leader, you have to study the patterns of the most effective leaders who have ever lived. “In my opinion, the most effective leader was Jesus. He spearheaded the concept of servant leadership — Jesus knew who he was and showed that being a servant is the best way to behave in leadership.”

The management concept that has been shaking the corporate world is the idea that hierarchies in corporate management are dead. The leader’s authority does not result from the position or degree but from the shared vision and acceptance by members of the organization.

This concept is called “post-heroic” leadership (or “servant” leadership) because the focus is off the single magnetic leader at the top of a hierarchy (the “hero”) who authoritatively sets policy. Above all, post-heroic leaders are willing, as Time magazine says, to “walk the talk”, to “live by the values they espouse.” In studying Jesus’ leadership style there are three leadership strengths:

  • The strength of action.
  • The strength of self mastery.
  • The strength of relationships.

Let’s face it, the business world has changed and is changing every day. It’s changing at a pace faster than anyone has ever experienced. My question to you is, “Are you changing?” I continue to see people using outdated leadership methods, outdated sales methods and expecting the same results as in the past. They are surprised when the results aren’t there. Continuous learning is a must in our business world today…

“One of the very few things to come out the deepest recession in living memory was that sales leaders in most industries, faced with decimated training budgets, were forced to roll up their sleeves and coach their teams themselves. As a consequence, I believe that more and more sales leaders will develop their coaching skills, and look for external mentors themselves, because it is highly likely that sales skills training budgets will never be the same again – ever. And therein lies the clue – sales leaders will expand their roles… ~Nancy Bleeke