Two salespeople have comparable backgrounds. They both have solid selling skills, a good knowledge of their business and an ability to work well with others. Yet one person is simply doing a good sales job, while the other is having an impact that goes far beyond selling products and services.
Knowing what’s needed
The difference is that one salesperson knows what’s needed, even outside his or her immediate selling responsibilities, and gets things done. That’s the difference between being an average salesperson and a sales leader.
How do you become the kind of salesperson who’s a leader as well? How can you become more effective on the job and dramatically increase your influence with your customers and your company?
Developing the C.O.D.E.
Sales leaders start each work day with a positive attitude. Here’s the C.O.D.E. they live by:
- Company orientation. They’re interested in the future of the company and are concerned about every department, not just Sales. They’re always ready to suggest ways to help work flow more smoothly, save time or cut costs. They embrace responsibility, recognizing that salespeople who try to put the blame on others don’t inspire others to follow them.
- Organization. They never approach the day in a state of panic and are in full control most of the time. They put the needs of others ahead of their own to achieve goals. They are goal-centered rather than ego-centered, when dealing with customers, their sales manager or other employees.
- Detail-focused. They take the time to listen to customer concerns and question any areas of confusion. They listen carefully before setting goals and moving ahead. They get others to cooperate by selling their vision on what must be done and are able to get customers and other employees to accept their roles.
- Energy. They’re willing to work longer than required, getting more done in a day’s time than others — and enjoying it.
Traits of a leader
Of all the character traits of a sales leader, four are particularly important. Test yourself to see how you measure up.
- Relate to the larger picture? Sales leaders understand how their jobs go beyond selling. They act as a treasure-trove of information for their customers, keeping them abreast of competition and paying close attention to the markets in which they and their customers are competing. They’re seldom surprised when price cutters suddenly threaten their accounts.
- Have a vision? Sales leaders have visions that are easily understood by customers and are attainable if everyone works together.
- Stay ready to make fast changes? Good leaders are prepared to change direction whenever new information warrants making a shift.
- Think long term? A sales leader’s focus extends far into the future. How far? At least a decade, often longer. Whenever you evaluate your future, ask yourself, “What demands are likely to develop over the next 2 to 10 years? How can I help my customers and my company meet them?
Steps to take
These four steps will help you improve your sales leadership skills:
- Connect with people and stay connected. That means being open to ideas from customers, prospects and your own management. It’s more than simply listening and asking a few questions. It’s building trust and letting customers know what’s happening. Talking to them is important, but listening to them is critical.
- Expand your boundaries. Don’t restrict yourself to your job as a salesperson. Converting features into benefits and practicing value-added selling is only part of your job. Ask questions as tools to help you investigate the possibilities for doing your job more effectively. The answers you get may help you become bolder in your pursuit of efficiency and productivity.
- Show respect for established practices. This is a good way to win respect from both your customers and your management. Respecting “the way things are done around here” may also help you suggest changes when they’re needed.
- Be willing to take risks. All of the techniques outlined above involve some element of risk. You’re going to be wrong sometimes, but you’ve got to take risks. A willingness to take some risks separates the sales leader from the average salesperson.