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What Makes a Great Sales Leader?

The key to achieving great sales results lies with an organisation’s sales people. This includes and begins with having a great sales leader who is capable of leading his or her sales force towards greater performance.

But what makes a great sales leader?

While all great sales leaders are individuals with their own techniques and strategies, in this article we take a look at the traits and characteristics that are common in most great sales leaders.

1. A Strong Mindset

In today’s tough business environment, great sales leaders need to have a tough and resilient mindset to be successful. Acquiring new and retaining existing customers has never been more difficult in these harsh economic times. This means that sales leaders need to be courageous and willing to take risks if their sales force is going to stand out from the crowd and drive performance.

2. Passionate

Great sales leaders are passionate about their sales team’s performance and have a positive attitude to their work. Their passion and positivity is contagious across the sales force and instils a desire in their sales people to chase and close down deals that provide a quantifiable step-change in the team’s performance.

3. Credible Vision

A leader inspires their people and stakeholders with a positive vision of where they are taking the company or division. The vision should describe a mix of aspirational performance levels and descriptions of what the experience will be like for employees, customers and competitors. The plan to get the company there should have a strong analysis of the marketplace and the company, should draw conclusions on opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses, and should lay out a set of clear and specific actions to reach the vision.

4. Agent of Change

Change is inevitable in any business environment. And with change comes new opportunities such as innovative new ideas, projects and clients. Unlike followers who tend to resist change, great sales leaders embrace change to take advantage of such new opportunities. Often, they have leadership models in place – such as Kotter’s 8-step change model – that help them to successfully plan and implement change within their sales force.

5. Listener

In an earlier post we talked about how important it is for sales people to listen to (rather than talk at) their customers in order to understand their world and draw out their specific needs and desires. The same is true for sales leaders. Effective sales leaders have a great understanding of their prospects’ needs because they take time to listen and take appropriate action.

6. Proactive

The best sales leaders are proactive and hard working individuals that are committed to getting the best out of their sales people. To build a successful sales team requires many hours of hard work and an action-oriented mindset to make your aspirations a reality. By setting a standard for commitment and effective action throughout the sales force, great sales leaders instil a proactive culture and attract the brightest and best sales people to their team.

7. Networking

Great sales leaders are great networkers. They build a diverse network of partners across multiple industries that have different skill sets to their own. By teaming up with firms that have experience and expertise in fields where they do not, these leaders are able to depend on these external partners without having to spend valuable parts of their budget on training or hiring new skills.

8. A Shift in Beliefs

Being a great sales leader involves challenging employees’ and one’s own beliefs that tend to otherwise limit behavioural scope and the team’s ability to realise shift in performance. By actively exposing and challenging their own beliefs and the beliefs of their people, great sales leaders are more capable of adapting to different situations and choosing the right responses to the challenges they face.

9. Compassionate

To be a great sales leader you should be people-oriented and have the ability to bring together a wide range of personalities and egos within a team. Like any team – whether it be in a business or sporting environment – a great leader will effectively resolve disputes and conflicts to ensure that there is a harmony within the team that, in turn, will prevent any distractions from the real objectives that are in place.

10. Delegation

Finally, great sales leaders delegate responsibility to members of the team rather than dictate. By sharing responsibilities, great leaders encourage their people to grow as both individuals and sales professionals.

Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director of Sterling Chase