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Sales Leadership

2 Key Actions That Increase Sales Performance

By Michael Leimbach, PhD

True sales effectiveness requires creating and building manager skills and a management culture that adds value to the salesforce.

It happens all the time: The top salesperson gets promoted to sales manager. The organization soon discovers, however, that the skills and perspectives that made this person a top salesperson are not contributing to success as a sales manager, and may in fact be detrimental to the sales role.

Many of the perspectives and skills a salesperson acquires in developing an effective sales approach are inconsistent with the perspectives, skills, and environment of a sales manager.

Multiple studies have shown that effective sales management—with different roles and approaches than pure sales—has a significant impact on positive sales results. If an organization only focuses on the skills of their salespeople, to the exclusion of sales management, they miss an important opportunity to increase performance.

The Changing Role of the Sales Manager

In the past, the sales manager’s job was limited to hiring and then keeping strong sales performers and managing sales activities (number of calls, proposals, wins, etc.). Typically, this sales manager came from the ranks of top salespeople and was rewarded with a management position, often without sufficient training.

Today, sales managers are still recruited from the ranks of the sales team, but they play a more vital role in creating sales effectiveness. Research shows that sales managers who engage their salespeople, coach effectively, and lead through a systematic sales process have higher win/loss ratios, higher revenue, and lower salesperson turnover.

The keys to effective sales leadership are:

  • Managing the Sales Process
  • Leading for Engagement and Performance

Successful sales leaders embrace this dual role. First, they recognize that effective sales leadership involves supporting salespeople in executing the entire sales process. These sales leaders keep current on the status of sales opportunities and provide support and guidance through all steps of the sales process, without trying to take control.

In addition, effective sales leaders recognize that the salesperson’s environment is filled with tremendous ups and downs: win a big sale or account and the salesperson feels on top of the world; lose a customer or a big opportunity and that salesperson feels that the world has ended. Effective sales leaders know that a major part of their job is dealing with this emotional turbulence, providing salespeople with focus and direction, and create an effective sales team.

Done correctly, the coaching relationship is about growth and doing better. It is not about appraisal.

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.