The sales role has evolved. Salespeople must be more than just a source for product information, price, availability, and other information to survive in a global marketplace. Salespeople need to be able to offer unique customer service by having specialist knowledge (often higher than their counterparts in the industry) and business advisory skills.
The role of the sales leader has evolved just as the part of the salesperson has. It might have been a managerial role in the past. However, some sales teams (or at least certain members) required controlling.
Old-style managers believed that they could control salespeople’s activities if they could find out what they were doing all day. Daily call rates were popularized. It was a simple numbers game. It’s much more than that. While numbers are significant, sales success requires creativity to find unique solutions for client’s problems. You don’t have to be a leader, but you do need to have control.
Motivation… not monitoring
Managers feel that it is their duty to constantly remind their sales staff about the status of their sales figures. Every salesperson who is worth their salt knows how they are doing.
Your salespeople require assistance in identifying and maximizing sales opportunities in an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace. They must be able to use their creativity. This means giving them more autonomy and not less.
For as long as we remember, ‘Extrinsic’ motivators such as bonuses have been successful in sales. However, head office ‘belt tightening’ has restricted these options for many managers. However, it has been proven that ‘intrinsic motivators work better in situations where people want to be creative. These ‘inherent motivators are autonomy and mastery. Every salesperson wants to be a master of sales art. It is incredible what they can come up with when given more freedom.
Visionary leaders see the future. They are aware that operational aspects must be correct, but they also have a strategic perspective.
In my twenties, I was frequently required to travel to new territory in order to sell. I spent many days traveling from one potential dealer in the area to another. Two of the sales managers to whom I was reporting took utterly different approaches.
As I returned, the first one used to stand at the door and wait for me. His opening words were, “How much have you sold?”
“Nothing.” This was my usual answer, as potential dealers in new territories have never purchased on your first visit.
He said, “That’s all. You’re not going to go back.”
The second manager was able to understand and engage in a discussion about potential territory. He had a strategy. He had a vision. He saw beyond the next turn and looked out to the long horizon.
Wayne Gretzky, an Ice Hockey legend, said that “A great hockey player plays wherever the puck is.” Great hockey players play where the puck is going. Visionary leaders are able to spot trends and can keep their team ahead of the game.
Imagination & Insight
Visionaries are able to see the future with their imagination and anticipate its effects. Visionary leaders have the ability to share their vision and insights with others to make them a reality. Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson are two of the best examples I can think of. They offer tickets for commercial space flight tickets.
They can also help sales personnel to see prospecting opportunities they didn’t know existed; provide insight into client behaviors that they weren’t aware of.
They combine their imagination and insight with an uncompromising spirit that inspires people to work together towards a common goal. This is the leader high-performing salespeople love.
The story of two shoe salespeople landing on the doorstep of primitive countries is one of the most famous stories in sales. The first salesperson notices everyone walking around naked and sends a message to the head office saying: “No market here.” Nobody is wearing shoes. The second person sees the same thing and sends this message back to the head office: “Fantastic potential market.” No one has shoes.
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