Sales drives the business.
All of the ideas, innovation, strategy, interpersonal relationships and process initiatives don’t matter much if you don’t have the revenue to turn on the lights.
Want a cure for the business going sideways? If layoffs, furloughs and salary freezes sound familiar the solution is simple.
You can sell your way right out of a recession. There are great examples all around us (the coffee shop I am sitting in now achieved explosive sales growth and expanded during the great recession).
Increasingly, sales growth requires strong leadership.
Ironically, sales success as an individual contributor doesn’t automatically translate into the requisite skill and competency to lead other individual contributors. I know this from personal experience. I know this from our consulting work. Yet, sales organizations routinely move their top individual contributors into management roles as a matter of practice and risk missing twice (weakening the territory and the team if the top producer isn’t prepared to lead and is no longer closing).
That doesn’t mean it can’t work. It simply takes work and is far from a sure thing.
I’ll have the good fortune of spending tomorrow morning talking Sales Acceleration with a room full of gifted Sales Leaders and C level executives preparing to push their business to the next level of breakthrough performance.
3 key themes I will reinforce:
1. Lead From The Front: You’ll get attention and effort around what you inspect. You’ll earn respect based on your own ability to contribute value to the process, people and performance. Set the tone. Drive the pace. Never demand more than your are willing to give yourself. If the performance isn’t where it needs to be look in the mirror first. Own your number. If the CEO is spreadsheeting all day long encourage him/her pick up the phone or join a call once in a while. All hands on deck. Your team is watching.
2. Protect & Serve: Lead in the service of others. Sure, we’ve all heard of servant leadership. What it means is that your existence isn’t about you. It is about them. You exist to help, guide, develop, teach, counsel, coach, correct and consistently elevate their potential and performance. Your success is entirely their success. Fight with them. Stand by them. Hold them accountable. Firmly accountable. Your team is watching.
3. Let Go: Hire great people (you need great HR because as a Sales Leader you likely don’t have the art of selection perfected). Develop their talent. Earn buy in to your process and program. Put them in a position to fulfill their potential and blow past plan. Then…get the hell out of the way. Autonomy is a coveted culture characteristic of top producers. Let them learn by doing. Proposals and power point presentations don’t need your approval. Not if you have the right people in the right job. Let them do the work. Celebrate their success every step of the way. Your team is watching.
When others entrust you to guide and shape their sales talent and career path it is an awesome responsibility. Embracing the weight of that challenge is incumbent upon today’s effective leader. It is a phenomenal time for emerging leaders to add more value to the business, impact people and accelerate growth by doing the right things.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.