Sales Leadership

We find recurring themes of archetypal stories in centuries of literature. These are narratives that are passed down to remind us how best to live. They represent more than tales for fun or imaginary accounts spoken for entertainment.

I remember being told that George Washington, as a six-year-old boy, once chopped down his father’s cherry tree with a new hatchet he had received as a gift. When his father confronted him, George said, “I cannot tell a lie … I did cut it with my hatchet.” Washington was embraced by his father and was told his honesty was worth more than a thousand trees.

The cherry tree myth, like others told for a thousand years or more, showed readers that Washington’s achievements, his public greatness, was due to his private virtues. Archetypal stories like these have been passed down for centuries, and you could say, as Carl Jung did, that they are part of our collective consciousness, and we tell them to remind ourselves and others who we are and what’s best for us to be as we live out our humanity.

The Importance of Responsibility and Vigilance in Our Various Roles

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who was born in Switzerland in 1875 and died there in 1961. His life’s work and research of eighty-six years were influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, psychology, and religious studies. He may be best known for the development of what we know as introversion or extroversion personality theory. Dr. Jung also proposed the existence of archetypes in the world. The twelve main ones that he named for us were the Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage.

There is an old archetypal story about a king, a hero and ruler, who stayed at home in the spring, a time of year when kings would go out to war with their armies. But this king’s army left without him as their commander. He slept in. Instead of fulfilling the duties of his regal role, he put his unused aggressions and male testosterone into things that were not good – a woman who was the wife of another, the murder of her innocent husband, and a subsequent child that died as the king suffered for his missteps made while staying at home. In the end, his mischiefs and misplaced energies and behaviors caused him, many innocent others, and his family decades of grief until his eventual death.

This ancient 2000-year-old story reminds us all of our responsibilities in our various roles. If we begin to slide or take time off, things break down, and the effects can spread to all other parts of our lives. Our vigilance makes us watchful, relevant, and on time for the things that matter.

14 Actions for Sales Leadership

Turning to sales leaders, here’s what this means for those who lead millions of salespeople worldwide and the actions that keep us responsible:

  1. Set your personal goals for the new year, including physical, business (sales), financial, spiritual, and personal. Define your main responsibilities in these areas and how you will measure progress.
  2. Help your reps set their goals for the new year, including sales and income per sale.
  3. Set the team’s goals by rolling up the rep goals. If the team goal is not high enough for the company, renegotiate some of the rep goals higher and tell them to make more money and decide where to put it.
  4. Keep a daily, weekly, or monthly spreadsheet of results.
  5. Update a team sales board every week (or even every day, depending on the size and volume of sales) and at month-end.
  6. Hold sales meetings every week and think of them as daily huddles leading to winning the game at the end of each month.
  7. Conduct end-of-the-month progress and adjustment meetings and evaluate that progress.
  8. Hold one-on-one meetings with your people every month. Meet with them more often or when you see performance or attitudinal lapses.
  9. Be on sales calls with your people as much as possible. Don’t sit at home in your office. Go to war with them and coach them after meeting with prospective customers.
  10. Teach a sales process and its steps and skills, and then coach to it.
  11. Teach an activity process and keep track of key activity levels that help ensure sales income goals are met, such as 1st appointments held and quotes presented. Know the ratios of 1st appointments held to quotes and quotes to closing ratios for top and mid-level performers. Know these numbers for each rep each month and help them understand and learn the success ratios.
  12. Do team outings to reduce stress and build relationships between sales reps.
  13. Make sure you recognize mid-level performers, as well as top performers. They are often unappreciated and undervalued.
  14. Confront a rep as soon as their performance begins to slip, or they portray a bad attitude in front of you, the team, or the customers.

Interestingly, I’ve found that many sales leaders or managers today do not take the first three actions of vigilance. They go to war without any goals of their own. They sit at home in business without specific changes to fight for in their own lives. Even small business and agency owners do this as they start the year without any goals for their P&L statement at the end of the year. No top-level sales goals or profit goals at the bottom. No wonder their work gets off course, out of focus, and into anxious behaviors that bring them to negative attitudes, behaviors, and habits that produce a negative effect that then spills over into other parts of their life. They stop sleeping well, loving well, and leading well.

They also go to war without any concrete objective that touches the hearts of those they lead. They go corporate. In larger companies, they have meaningless goals that are budgeted from above by people who have no idea what inspirational leadership looks like – one that is directed by the reps’ desires and needs through one-on-ones and individual meetings that bring out their competitive desires, or maybe their ambitions for what kind of better life a specific amount of money could build. What this means is that most goals for salespeople are directed by a corporate vision at the rep level and at the team level. Someone sits at home and gives directives without any coordination with the people going to war.

The Role of Leadership in a Winning Sales Team

All the other actions of vigilance, tracking progress, using sales boards, holding weekly sales meetings, teaching and coaching skills in a sales process, and the others I listed for you are in the war actions – leadership behaviors that show you care about them winning and care about the customer winning.

I know you will make sure that you fight with them as a king would do. Your courage and skills will blend with theirs. The reps will see that you care that they get better and achieve the things important to them. You will not sit in your office or leave them on their own. You will not wait to see what the results end up being. You will take responsibility for the team’s well-being and success in winning what’s important to them. You will be vigilant. You will be there.

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