Developing Sales Leaders
Sales Leaders are expected to perform in one of the toughest jobs within an organization. Not only are they expected to be super sellers but must also be great coaches, strategists, and business leaders.
When a sales leader starts in their role there are three areas, that if they focus on will give them a better chance of succeeding. Sales leaders must be able to 1) understand the PEO and their business, 2) understand their true role as a sales leader and 3) operate as a great coach. All these capabilities and skills are important, and one isn’t more important than the other. Sales leaders must be good at each of them.
Understanding the PEO and their business
A sales leader needs to have a detailed understanding of the metrics that drive PEO profitability. They must understand the revenue and profit objectives for the company in addition to the cost of servicing their clients on a per WSE basis, and the cost of acquiring clients. Armed with that knowledge, they can direct their efforts more effectively. They will know when to walk away from clients and recognize prospects that aren’t profitable.
Leaders make hundreds of decisions a week and then direct other people from those decisions. If sales leaders don’t clearly understand what the organization is trying to accomplish, then those decisions might be “off” by a degree or two and that can negatively impact the company by several degrees.
Understanding their role as a sales leader
Most sales leaders get their new role because they were great sales people—because they build great relationships, effectively prospect, and are skilled closing business. Those skills sets and perspectives are often inconsistent with the traits and skills of a great sales leader. Typically, a new sales leader is tapped for a promotion are simply told to teach people what they do – there is no training or guidance. As a result, that sales leader begins by trying to be “heroic sales leader” by closing the deals for their reps, instead of developing others to achieve the same levels of success that they have enjoyed. In reality, the true role of the sales leader is about developing other people. It is important that the sales leader be very clear that their job is managing the sales process versus executing the sales process. In managing the sales process, the sales leader helps sales reps move prospects through the sales process and create organizational efficiency by aligning resources, procedures and people. The sales leader does that by educating people and coaching them through each stage in the sales process.
Being a great coach
At first, new sales leaders believe that coaching is about having conversations around the sales rep’s activity, talking about what they did that week, and telling them what they should be doing next week – often based on what they did as a sales rep. They believe that they must tell people what they should be doing so they can “get it.” Coaching is the inverse of that. It is not about telling, it is about asking. It’s about having patience and trusting that smart, talented people are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Coaching involves jointly diagnosing the situation, provide a framework for developing a plan to improve, as well as holding them accountable to the goals they have set. A coach’s job is to surface things in a way that people can see it, reflect on it, and act on it. In other words, it is a way of effectively empowering people to find their own answers, and encouraging and supporting them as they continue making important choices. As a result, people gain new skills and new self-awareness. They grow and develop as leaders, sales people, and human beings.
Get going in the right direction
Budding and even experienced sales leaders are well served by having a detailed conversation with their CEO or CFO around the business key performance indicators. They should discuss the metrics on revenue per worksite employees, cost of service per worksite employee, and cost of new client acquisition (broken down on a worksite employee basis) so that more informed decisions can be made about what clients are best for the company. Second, the sales leader should reflect on whether they are attempting to be the “heroic” sales leader by closing all the deals for the reps and if this is really helping the reps in the long run. Third, the next time the sales leader has a coaching session with someone, they should treat it like an initial meeting with a prospect—come to it with no assumptions and with no agenda other than to understand—you will find your reps open up to the possibility of being even more productive.