In Sales, Leadership Always Comes First

dv1492001Every organization needs to know where it’s going. The job of the sales leader is to define and communicate the team’s high-level sales goals that serve the organization as a fixed point of reference—a destination. What value will you bring to the marketplace, how will you approach the marketplace, where you will fit into competitive landscape of your industry considering which direction the economy is headed? The sales leader must provide clear answers to these big picture questions.

Once that vision has been established, it remains a reference point unless some considerable change—in competition, market, technology, or something similar—renders an adjustment necessary. Leadership then redirects focus onto what needs to be done and goes to work aligning and creating a motivated sales team. If the change has negative implications for the organization—the entrant of a new, major competitor into the marketplace, for example—leadership may need to reframe that negative into a positive, focusing on the new challenge and opportunity and your team’s ability to do what needs to be done.

Leadership establishes where your organization is going, management determines the structure and process to get there, and coaching equips your team members with the resources they will need to accomplish their goals.  Sales leadership is most important for startups or the creation of new divisions or branches. You’ll never not wear your leadership hat, but you’ll wear it less after the sales organization is stabilized. When things are smooth, the sales leader helps sustain the team’s momentum, only stopping to redirect in times of difficulty. Otherwise, leave it to management to make sure that systems and processes are efficient, structurally sound, and observed.

The majority of the time as a manager, or as a director-level manager of managers, you really should be doing more coaching than anything else. Leaders still maintain momentum, management refines and enforces structure with feedback from the field reps, and coaching never stops because the sales environment is never static and because no salesperson ever achieves perfection.

But without processes and performance metrics to coach to, the sales coach will have nothing at which to aim. For the sales manager to create those processes and performance metrics, the sales leader must first paint a clear picture of the goals the organization plans to achieve. No sales organization can get very far without all three of these roles.

In your business, the sales leader, manager, and coach may all very well be the same person—they often are. But in sales, leadership always comes first.