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The MD of a company recently approached us and was frustrated with his sales team’s performance. He believed when he started the business he had more sales success than his team, even though he only spent 10 percent of his time on selling. He couldn’t understand why his team wasn’t performing better.

Another recent conversation was with the CEO of another business who was frustrated at the quality of the clients the sales team were introducing. Ostensibly there didn’t appear to be major issues as the business was growing nicely, but it was on the back of industry growth rather than quality sales work. Simple analysis showed the sales team spent a huge amount of their time visiting clients who were small and purchased tiny amounts, and had very little room for growth. Every time the salesperson visited these clients it was costing the company money. 

The real problem, however, with both of the above, was through gaps in sales leadership

A lack of quality sales leadership is also likely to be costing your company significant returns. There could be several reasons for this. If the owner is the sales leader by default, then it is a part time role for them. If you have a sales manager, the chances are they were promoted into that role by being the longest serving salesperson, or because they were the best in sales – both of which are poor reasons for promotion. I can almost guarantee that no one on your company set out to be a sales leader - or studied sales leadership at university. Sales leadership is commonly misunderstood by many companies.

In a recent survey of NZ CEOs, the two things keeping them awake at night were finding and retaining staff and reaching top line revenue targets. It’s not a surprising result and will be recognised by most owners of small to medium sized businesses.

Both issues are a constant for many, and the two are tightly connected, particularly in the sales world. In this country we have a shortage of quality salespeople, making it hard for businesses to attract the right talent. To attract a quality sales team, you need to be offering them something that many are not, and that is an opportunity for them to develop their skills within your company, supporting them with great coaching, and having an environment focused on creating a great sales culture.

In small to medium sized businesses, owners need to be thinking about the development of good sales principles that are used consistently. The lack of quality sales leadership is a direct link to the lack of quality salespeople, and both are a direct link to your company not growing the top and bottom line.

I would encourage any business to spend more time on improving the sales leadership in your company, and to do so here are some simple sales leadership 101 tips:

  • Understand what ‘good’ looks like for a salesperson in your company. Revolve everything around this from how you recruit, induct, KPI, coach and train
  • Be very selective when you recruit salespeople, and don’t settle
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement and learn from your wins and losses
  • Use sales meetings as an opportunity to get better and remove any admin from these meetings.
  • Understand what makes your company unique, and make sure your team is aware of this Understand where you play and what your ideal customer profile is. Recognise your ‘D” clients and prospects and don’t actively seek out their business
  • Create a sales process that is used consistently, but always look to improve it
  • Tier your customers from most valuable to least valuable and treat them as such.
  • Put a wall around your ‘A’ clients to develop and defend them, and remember that your best clients are your competitors’ best prospects
  • Coach your salespeople to get better, go on sales calls with them and try to let them lead those calls
  • Celebrate successes with your team and don’t tolerate poor performance

The Mood of the Sales Leader Survey

Indicator, supported by partners HubSpot, PwC and Rob Walters runs the Mood of the NZ Sales Leader survey. The goal of the survey is to provide insights into the challenges and expectations of NZ Sales Leaders. If you are driving a team or a company towards a revenue target then feel free to respond to the survey. Each submission will receive a copy of the 2020 report and an invitation to the Mood of the Sales Leader breakfast on January 30, 2020. For the link to the survey please click here



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