The Idea

When you're looking to develop a high-performing sales team, strong leadership is the key to unlocking great results. But how do you develop this powerful leadership capability within your business - and how exactly does a great leader differ from a manager? Let's take a closer look.

The definition of a leader

There are many academic definitions of what constitutes a leader, but essentially they all capture the same three ingredients, describing a person who:

  1. Has a vision
  2. Sees a path to achieving the vision
  3. Is there to make sure their team has the tools and support needed to achieve it.
Leaders can be born but are also made through circumstances, development, and training. We may automatically think of a leader as a charismatic 'larger than life' individual, but leaders can be quiet and determined too. Personalities differ, but key traits such as integrity, drive, passion and a genuine interest in others are always present.

What makes a good sales leader?

A strong sales leader will have a target-driven remit, a challenging role, a high degree of responsibility and the opportunity to make things happen - by unlocking the full potential of his and her team. These are the traits that you'd expect to see in a great sales leader:

  1. Great leaders have a positive mindset and the desire to make things happen. They are passionate about what they do and can inspire that same passion in others.
  2. They are visionaries who can communicate what that desired end goal looks like - and inspire others to take the journey with them.
  3. They are natural change drivers. This means that they are ready to embrace change, positive about change, and also ready to encourage those who can drive change at the team level.
  4. They are great listeners. This can surprise people who might assume that great leaders are always powerful speakers. But fundamentally, great leaders are powerful communicators and they really listen to others to understand their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risk areas.
  5. Great leaders are expert networkers and always know what's going on in the business and wider industry. They have their ear to the ground.
  6. Great leaders are also driven and personally accountable. They promote their team when things are going well, and take personal accountability for poor results.
  7. At the heart of it, great leaders are true believers in the possibility and potential of others. They delegate expertly to keep team tasks flowing and optimised, they develop others to unlock potential, and they are compassionate - using their skills to encourage, stretch, challenge and praise others as necessary. They have no qualms about developing their team to more senior positions because they are comfortable in their own success and abilities, and love to see others get ahead too.

So how does sales leadership differ from sales team management?

Great leaders are often good managers. Great managers can also be great leaders. But the two skill sets aren't the same - nor are they always both automatically present in one person. But both are equally important to the success of a sales team. Let's look at some of the key differences:

  1. Leaders define the vision, and managers set the goals to achieve that vision.
  2. Leaders initiate change, and managers deliver it on the ground.
  3. Leaders are authentic and original, managers adopt accepted leadership styles in line with the company vision and values.
  4. Leaders take risks to break new ground, and managers control risk using procedures.
  5. Leaders look into the future, and managers manage the day-to-day.
  6. Leaders focus on relationships and managers focus on systems, tools and processes.
  7. Leaders coach others to excel, and managers direct, delegate and train others to perform - and excel!

As you can see, the two roles are vital and complementary, and both are needed equally to ensure the success of a sales team. In some cases, they may exist within the same person, but often, different individuals will take on different elements of sales leadership and sales team management to get the best possible results.

What tools do you use for leadership?

Great leadership may focus on vision and the softer skills of inspiration, engagement, networking and change, but the outcomes need to be managed at all times. especially in a target-driven sales environment.

This analytical stage is often where the art of sales leadership blends or hands over to sales team management. Today's sales team management software makes it far easier to see where teams are performing and succeeding - and where they may need to invest in further development, coaching or training to get better results.

Sales team management software such as Salessound gives sales leaders and managers the tools that they need to manage their outputs, in a single, integrated and holistic model. Salessound is cutting-edge cloud-based software for sales team management, reporting, feedback and planning. Using a cyclical model, it integrates key reporting areas such as people, ideas, objectives, snapshots, reporting and insights to evidence performance at every stage.

Find out more about the structured approach to management in Salessound tools

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