Great sales leaders know there’s more to the job than meets the eye. Success in such a complicated and high-pressure leadership position requires ample amounts of discipline, diligence, and savvy.

So how do successful sales leaders do it? It might seem like magic, but it's not. The best sales leaders conscientiously and consistently live these eight best practices. 

1) They seek input from salespeople about their quotas.

The quickest way to upset any sales team is to mess with pay plans. An abrupt change in a compensation plan creates a distraction from results-oriented behaviors. If you decide one day to adjust, reduce, make changes, or otherwise alter a pay plan without being very intentional about it, problems will arise.

Instead of making unannounced changes, great sales leaders get support and suggestions from their team. Begin to make your changes by asking for input. Don’t ignore your team when it comes to their pay. They may have some great ideas.

2) They provide sales skills training for salespeople, regardless of experience.

Unfortunately, many managers believe that people who have a few years of experience selling under their belts don’t need any training. The truth is that everyone -- regardless of experience or tenure -- needs a refresher course every now and then. Sales skills require constant refinement and are always evolving.

Ironically, it is often the experienced “old pros” who really know the least. In many cases they have built their book of business based on relationships and being “professional visitors” and could benefit from sharpening their skill sets.

3) They focus on “in-process measurement.” 

Measuring performance based on pure sales results alone won’t tell you where a salesperson needs to improve or what behaviors drove the numbers. It’s harder to measure performance throughout the sales process, but doing so will give you a great deal more insight into your team’s ability. It will tell you exactly where improvement needs to be made.

Every member of your team is better in some steps of a sale than in others. By more thoroughly understanding where those skill sets lie (and where gaps exist) you can more effectively coach your team in real time and see the benefits demonstrated in your end-process metrics.

4) They free their salespeople to finalize their own transactions.

Salespeople must have the ability to usher a sale from beginning to end. The best sales leaders recognize the importance of “teaching a man to sell so he can eat for a lifetime.” However, others don’t permit their salespeople to complete transactions. 

Simply put, learn how to manage and coach in the field and determine the point at which salespeople must carry the ball themselves.

5) They institute a sales process and coach within that system.

The best sales leaders understand that salespeople who want to consistently make more sales with less effort follow a linked, sequential sales process that leads to completely resistance-free sales. 

When everyone on a sales team follows the same process, wonderful things occur. For example, it leads to consistent handling of prospects, the capacity to seamlessly transfer accounts or salespeople, and the existence of a “common language.”

6) They pay attention to every member of their sales organization.

In many organizations, sales leaders find themselves spending all of their time working with sub-par performers and ignoring top-tier contributors. It’s easy to get dragged down into the muck of helping the poorest performers, but the highest returns come from working with the best on your team.

Top performers want your attention. They want to be told they’re successful and coached to improve. They need you to help them get better. You will see greater impact from your efforts coaching your “A” and “B” players than you will with your “C” and “D” players.

7) They understand the importance of both selling and leading.

Sales leaders have to spend time “in the trenches” with their team members. Without that credibility, leaders find themselves in a weak position to advise and coach.

It's difficult to avoid getting bogged down in administrative or managerial paperwork, but it is essential that you keep one foot in the fire in order to accomplish two things. First, you will gain credibility with your team, and second, you will be better informed about the challenges they face.

You must also fulfill your role as leader. After all, it is what you were hired to do! For many salespeople-turned-managers-turned-leaders, this is the biggest challenge. The requirements for successful sales leadership are completely different from those for success in an individual contributor role. Before accepting a position as a leader, it is important for all candidates to seriously consider the complete change in function.

8) They understand and encourage the individual differences within sales teams.

People are unique. You know that. So treat your team that way. We all have individual strengths and individual weaknesses. Capitalize on the former to cover for the latter.

A team is strong because of the individuals that comprise it. The best sales leaders are the ones who understand the different skills and abilities members of their teams bring to the table and then call on those skills when they’re needed.

What would you add to this list? Share in the comments.

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Originally published Sep 3, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated June 15 2021

Topics:

Sales Management Task Management Software