Sales teams, arguably, are a key component to any B2B companies success. They’re the ones on your frontlines, day in and day out, turning leads into paying, converting customers. While much of this comes down to the individual skills and talents of your salespeople, a good part has to do with having a great sales leader guiding and directing those skills and talents towards where they will be most effective. When I talk about “great leaders”, a lot of you might have an image that pops in your heads.
While there are many ways to describe what makes a leader great, I have found that there are four characteristics that are absolutely crucial. You might have a jumble of several of the others, but these are the four that should be non-negotiables in my opinion.
Great leaders have the right stuff when it comes to attitude.
While “leadership attitude” isn’t easy to codify within a few descriptors, we can all agree that there are several traits we recognize in great leaders. For one, they have naturally positive outlooks. No one will follow a leader who’s all doom and gloom. People want a leader who believes and acts like their team can smash goals set before them. They’re also confident, fully believing in their and their team’s capabilities. These are refreshing attitudes to have—especially in the high-stress environment of sales.
Beyond that, great leaders are also naturally great communicators. No matter who they’re talking to on their team, they manage to match the pace, cadence, and rhythm of each one’s personality to come across natural. Because of this, they’re an excellent bridge between their team, customers, upper management, and other teams that they might be dependent upon. This attitude is something you usually are able to notice right off the bat—but it should never be your end-all and be-all. Why?
Great leaders have a vision.
All the positivity and great attitude in the world will be meaningless if it isn’t guided by a vision. Great leaders certainly share your company’s vision—that’s a given. Why bother hiring someone who doesn’t want what you want. That being said, they also have their own vision specific to the team and its success. Of course, this isn’t just limited to how they feel about their team, rather this is defined by very clear parameters and goal posts to reach.
You wouldn’t want a leader that just tells you their team is going to be a smashing success. You want one that tells you the clearly defined measures that determine whether or not they’ve achieved that success or not. Realistic key performance indicators are the hallmarks of a great leader’s vision. More than just KPIs, however, the very best B2B sales leaders have a clear process and dependent parameters that guide their team clearly towards their vision.
Great leaders are data-driven.
From having the right attitude to having a clear vision, there will be many points in which you expect your sales leaders to make key decisions. Here’s where a lot of leaders tend to stumble. Be it emotionality or a too-strong sense of self-pride, there a many who base their decisions on how they feel. While it’s impossible to separate emotions from any decision, the best leaders still place the greatest emphasis on what the numbers tell them.
These are the leaders you want driving your sales team forward. Even when it’s their own plans and processes that are found to be lacking, they’re willing to bite the bullet and find better solutions—even when the ideas aren’t theirs. Looking to promote? They select those towards whom the numbers favor. Needing to rework the budget? They can objectively look at what tools or processes need tweaking or even replacing. Data-driven leaders are grounded in truth and reality and are what you want to have.
Great leaders are great listeners.
Finally, balancing everything out, you want a leader that listens. To you, certainly, but also to their people as well. However great a leader, however experienced, there’s always room to learn and grow. Leaders that close themselves off to everyone will tend to keep doing same old practices even when they’re proving to be ineffective. You might think that—if they have the prior three characteristics—they’re pretty open, but it’s not always the case.
Humility is a very tough virtue. Even the best of us finds ourselves feeling stung when someone calls us out on something we aren’t doing well. Great sales leaders allow themselves to be corrected and taught even by those who work under them. This is especially true when you consider that many of the technologies and platforms relied upon for sales—like social media—are far more familiar to the younger among us. Leaders who are great listeners open themselves up to learn and understand their team better.
Enjoy better sales today.
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