7 Sins of Sales Leaders

March 17th, 2019

After years of working with businesses of all shapes and sizes on their sales organizations, I’ve seen how sinful sales leadership can be.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked with and learned from some very strong sales leaders.  But, over the last several years I’ve seen that many business owners and leaders of sales organizations have sinned, and they continue to sin.  How shameful, right?

Now may not be the right time to confess those sins, but there’s no time than now to outline the most frequent ways sales leaders sin, and provide some guidance about how they can repent and be better for their organizations and people.  

Here’s what I’ve experienced as the seven most frequent ways sales leaders sin…

Sin #1 – No Sales Strategy

It is leadership’s role to tell the sales organization what they are to sell and to whom they are to sell it.  To tell a new salesperson, “ok, welcome to XYZ company – now go get them” is an irresponsible, sinful cop-out.

Sales leaders are responsible for defining the target market in as clear terms as possible, and providing information about how their company’s products and/or services meet the unique needs of that target market.  To leave those decisions up to salespeople is very sinful.

Sin #2 – Personas and Value Drivers not Defined

As mentioned earlier, clarity of the target market is one of the most critical elements of a strong sales strategy.  Related to that is identifying the target market’s value drivers – what are the typical problems the target market has that your products/services can solve, and what does the target market value.  

Sales leaders who haven’t fully developed their buyer personas and not identified their associated value drivers will experience mediocrity in their sales performance.

Sin #3 – Salespeople with the wrong DNA

I’m convinced that the majority of strong sales performers are born, not made.  Sure, sales and communications training have powerful positive impact on sales teams, but if sales is not in their DNA, the person will likely be an average performer at best.  Sales leaders who don’t assess “sales DNA” in their candidates, and who allow weak sales performers to remain in the organization are only creating an environment where mediocrity is the norm.

Strong “hunter” type salespeople almost always have high Ego Drive, but is is very difficult during the pre-employment phase to evaluate it.  Use pre-employment sales assessments to evaluate the extent to which a candidate for a sales role has a sales attitude in their DNA.  And, if you end up having someone in your sales organization who doesn’t have sales in their DNA, work with them and coach them up or out.

Sin #4 – Goals without Activities

I’ve come to realize you cannot “do” a goal.  A goal is only a target for which to strive. You can “do” and activity, because activities are behaviors – they are actions that the sales team can implement every day, every week.  

A sales leader who has not worked with his/her team to identify the 3-5 activities and behaviors individual salespeople can “do” every week is acting in a very sinful nature.  Identifying the few sales activities/behaviors that when done well and consistently will lead to goal attainment, is a key element to any good sales organization.

Sin #5 – There’s No Cadence of Accountability

There are few areas in an organization where discipline and perseverance are more necessary than in sales.  Strong sales performance requires a consistent, disciplined approach toward prospecting. Fewer people in a company will hear “no” more often than salespeople and this requires a level of perseverance.

Sales leaders who don’t integrate a consistent cadence of accountability that establishes a culture of discipline and perseverance are leading in an irresponsible way.  The best ways to integrate a cadence of accountability is conduct an effective weekly sales meeting and at least a monthly individual pipeline review meeting. Both meetings should focus on three things; 1) overall sales performance, 2) pipeline review, and 3) review of how well the sales activities are being implemented by sales team members.

Sin #6 – Poor Tracking of the Numbers

Sales is a numbers game – at least up to the point of getting in front of a qualified prospect.  Any time there’s an important process, the sales process in this case, it’s critical to track every number possible.  Sales leaders who don’t capture and analyze every critical number in the sales process is missing an opportunity to improve – and that’s sinful.

Sales organizations should track every step in the sales process from lead generation to closed deal.  Using this data to calculate conversion rates through each step in the process will provide leadership visibility about what can be done to improve sales efficiency, productivity and overall sales performance.

Sin #7 – Inadequate Coaching

Everyone want to be led.  That leadership might be very directive.  It can be challenging to get the full potential of individuals.  It can also be very supportive. Whichever situation an individual salesperson is in, he/she deserves someone who cares enough to provide timely, specific and supportive coaching.  If the leaders doesn’t have time for this, consider hiring a fractional sales manager to provide the necessary level of coaching and sales leadership.

Coaching is hard.  It takes time and care, and leaders who fail to invest the time they should to coach and improve the performance of their people are committing one of the biggest sins of all.  Sales leaders should seize every opportunity to coach their people. They should also establish a cadence of communication that may include one-on-one weekly touch-base sessions, monthly performance meetings, and frequent personal development discussions.  

In summary, these are the sins I see most frequently from sales leaders.  It’s never too late to repent, and implement the actions, systems and methods that prevent future sinfulness.  Best of success out there.

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