Sales Management Leadership: The Final Five Prerequisites!

Over the past several months I have touched on characteristics/habits/methods that make managers leaders. With this post I will cover the final five thoughts in this series. As I have worked through this process I have thought often about how seldom I have seen sales managers or for that matter any manager capture the essence of these traits and habits. And that shouldn’t be all that shocking. Who teaches leaders to be leaders? Mainly other leaders assuming they have the right stuff or if you’re lucky, your own innate sense in how to lead.

1. Arbitrating Disputes: One of the worst managers I ever had could not deal with confrontation. Lord knows he had plenty of chances! I saw him try to patch up business relationships between salespeople, salespeople and support people, between salespeople and customers. Good thing he didn’t bet on that trifecta because he would have lost. The best way I have ever found to arbitrate between people who do not see eye to eye is to sit them down in the same room and allow them to talk through their issues. Before doing that establish the ground rules, i.e. who talks first, who talks second, no raised voices etc.

2. Physical and Mental Stamina: One day I woke up on the road getting ready to work with a salesperson and I had no idea what town I was in! Whoa! I had reached my physical endurance. We tell ourselves that we are capable of super human efforts but that’s pure kaka. We have limits. My rule of thumb always was that if I consistently arrived home from out of town and I did not have the energy to interact with my wife and play with my kids then I had reached burnout.  Bad spot to be in! Time for a break. Another sign is losing patience. (See below.)

3. Provide a System (Facilitation for Accomplishment): You wouldn’t think that salespeople needed this but they do. (As do their managers.) These are two prime questions to ask of salespeople. One, what do you want to accomplish in your personal and business lives? Two, how will you accomplish those things? If you want to stop most salespeople dead in their tracks ask those two questions. And the answer to the first one is not “I want to be successful.” The answer goes way beyond that!

4. Patience: Listening (hard), providing truthful feedback, always having time, addressing tough issues, being calm in the face of frustration, developing the relationship beyond work, entertaining a customer who eclipses the definition of nimrod, staying on the phone longer than required, ad infinitum.

5. A Formal System of Expectations, e.g. Learning Curves, Experience Curves etc: Can you imagine a doctor, attorney, engineer or any other professional not laying out expectations to one of their patients or clients? Fat chance! “I’m not sure how long it will take for me to resolve this suit nor can I tell you how much it will cost?” Right! Not setting expectations for salespeople is like raising a kid without laying down rules. You are inviting chaos! Sales managers have to be clear about what they want salespeople to achieve and when.

The Final Thought: “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude, Be kind, but not weak. Be bold but not a bully. Be thoughtful, but not lazy. Be humble, but not timid. Be proud, but not arrogant. Have humor, but without folly.” Jim Rohn


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