We all know that the world has changed forever.  Some of the previous ways of working and doing business have been challenged and altered to better fit the new environment we now face.

But some time-honoured truisms remain, maybe even with greater focus now.  One clearly is that the need for strong sales leadership has never been greater.  Many businesses have seen their markets shrink and have been forced to reduce the size of their sales teams to reflect that.  Or maybe just to try to bounce back from the impacts of a 2 – 3 month period of little or no revenue.  With the need to keep costs in check and try to improve productivity, the temptation is to watch your people closely to make sure they’ve done what they were tasked with doing.

And, to a point, that makes sense.  However, every sales leader needs to consider this key question:

How much am I monitoring what has happened, rather than influencing what could happen?

The danger is that we get so focused looking in the rear view mirror, we don’t put enough focus on helping our team to put in place the behaviours that are most likely to lead to success. It’s often referred to lag versus lead measures – lag measures look at what has happened (“we were 18% behind budget last month”), whereas lead measures look at what is influenceable now and in the future – the behaviours we can develop and encourage that we know are likely to lead to success.

I see it so often.  Sales managers who are so focused on getting the weekly report from their team members, poring over spreadsheets or CRM completion data, reviewing customer spends, or maybe even having the daily or weekly phone check in (How was your day/week?, Who did you see? What issues came up?).

All of that is fine, but it often means that they have neither the time, nor the head-space to think about how they could work with their team to develop sound sales strategies and tactics, to hone their prospecting skills (vital in this post Covid-19 world), define their value proposition (do they even know and can clearly articulate your USP?) and generally coach them to improve their chances of sales success (and I mean genuine coaching – not telling them what they should have done!).

Many sales managers / leaders were successful salespeople before moving into their leadership role.  They knew what it took to sell effectively, to keep their customers happy, to meet and exceed budgets.  So, they’re given the opportunity to step up and be the boss – it seems logical, right?

Certainly, some of the skills that helped them be successful in sales will be useful in their new leadership role.  But many of the capabilities (and mindsets) required to be a good leader are very different from those needed to be a successful salesperson. Sadly, they’re often thrown in with little or no training and expected to be amazing (BTW – a recent study in the US found that the average age someone started their sales management career was 30, whilst the average age they had their first sales management/leadership training is 40 – for 10 years, they’re shooting blind!)

It isn’t easy.  There’s so much pressure on leaders to hit the numbers, keep their team focused and motivated, retain good people and attract even better ones.  But the absolute top requirement of a sales leader must be to help their people to grow their skills, increase their confidence and develop the mindsets that enable a lift in performance and results!

And that can’t be achieved if most of our focus is on monitoring what has happened, rather than really identifying and committing to developing the behaviours that can boost sales revenues and margins!