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—they need to know you support their efforts and endeavor 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 favorable 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.