Sales Leadership: The Skills You Need to Lead a Sales Team

Sales Leadership: The Skills You Need to Lead a Sales Team

Are you ready to lead your own sales team? Learn the leadership skills needed to build an effective, high-performance team with The Sales Connection.

Kayvon Kay
Kayvon Kay

April 23, 2023

The Sales Leadership Skills You Need to Become a Sales Leader

You've hired the top sales reps, interviewed, and negotiated salaries, but your sales are still falling flat. So what gives? 

No matter how much talent you have on your team, they won't produce results unless you have the skills to lead them to success. If you can manage a sales team effectively, you can create a strategy for growth. Learn what skills you need and how you can use them to get the results you want.

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Why Is Sales Leadership Important?

Imagine watching a professional football team play the Super Bowl without any coaches at all. Who would call the plays? Who would correct the team when they needed guidance? Who would motivate the team to a last-minute victory? Even the best sales reps on your team won't reach their full potential without a leader to provide direction and motivation. 

It takes more than technical know-how to be successful in sales. You need a specific set of skills that will prepare you to take charge of your sales staff.

Skills All Sales Leaders Must Have

Everyone on your team will be looking to you for direction and guidance when it comes to sales, so it's important that you have the right skills and knowledge to make your team successful. Here are some essential sales leadership skills that must be developed to lead a successful team.

1. Coaching and Mentoring

A photo of a man mentoring another man

While most sales leaders hope to find employees that immediately come in and take charge of their sales efforts, the reality is that most need training. As a leader, it is important to take on a coaching and mentorship role for new employees on your sales team. A study done over five years by Gartner revealed that employees who benefited from some type of mentoring were five times more likely to be promoted.

Your ability to teach a less experienced sales rep the nuances of sales to improve their production is crucial to getting your team to perform well. This should include weekly meetings with each team member, discussing their performance from the previous week and setting goals for the coming weeks.

If an employee seems willing, don't be afraid to ask how they are doing personally. Poor production at work may be a result of personal turmoil. Simply checking in, showing empathy for their situation, or guiding them to helpful resources can help them feel supported.

If you don't feel confident building your mentorship and coaching abilities yourself, find a training program to help you develop your leadership in sales skills. There are courses online to get you started, but a one-on-one experience will build your skills in real time with real people. Your ability to learn how to lead a sales team will directly affect your team's ability to perform. 

2. Aligning Goals and KPIs

Image of statistics

Imagine every individual on your sales team working toward a different goal and using different metrics to achieve their goals. Trying to get everyone to achieve the same company objectives will be near impossible, and progress will move at a snail's pace.

When KPIs and goals are aligned, it becomes easier to track progress, identify areas for improvement, and motivate team members to achieve their targets. To implement this skill in your job, set clear goals for your sales team. A Dominican University conducted a study and found 43% of people who set goals were more likely to achieve them, but these goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). 

Once the goals have been set, great sales leaders should work with each team member to identify KPIs to help them achieve them. This process involves identifying metrics directly tied to achieving the desired outcomes and regularly tracking progress against those metrics.

Even if you don't have much experience aligning KPIs and goals, there are a variety of resources available to help get you started. Utilizing online tutorials and templates can be useful in getting comfortable with the process. You'll be able to find plenty of spreadsheets and tracking documents that can help aid the process.

3. Recognizing Sales Traits

Sales traits refer to the qualities and characteristics that make a person well-suited for a career in sales. These traits include excellent communication skills, strong interpersonal skills, confidence, resilience, and the ability to think on one's feet.

Hiring individuals with these traits is important because you won't need to spend as much time mentoring and coaching someone if they are already prepared for the position. They will be able to connect with potential customers, build relationships, and close deals effectively. On the other hand, if you hire individuals who lack these traits or have weak versions of them, they may struggle to meet their sales targets and ultimately hinder the growth of your business.

Recognizing these traits during the hiring process means you need to practice careful observation and assess the candidates' behavioral patterns. Use various techniques like conducting behavioral interviews, asking situational questions, or administering personality tests to identify key sales traits in candidates.

Once you feel confident in recognizing good sales traits when you see them, it'll help sales managers develop more effective training programs. Once hired, new employees with strong sales traits may still require training on specific selling techniques or product knowledge, but their innate abilities will allow them to learn faster and put their skills into practice more easily.

4. Making Data-driven Decisions

Image of sales data

As the world continues to turn digital and more interactions are happening online, data is driving most of the decisions for successful companies. It's the only tangible way to measure sales performance and identify areas of improvement compared to relying solely on intuition or gut feelings.

It's no secret that data-driven decisions can get the most out of your sales team. McKinsey, a global data institute, found that data-driven organizations were 19 times more likely to be profitable, 23 times more likely to acquire customers, and six times more likely to retain customers.

To implement this skill effectively, a sales manager must collect and analyze data from various sources, such as sales reports, customer feedback, website analytics, and social media metrics. Use your goals and KPIs mentioned earlier and start to gather data that can build strategies for how you'll move forward.

You probably won't be well-versed in making data-driven decisions at first. It's almost always easier to use a data tracking tool or software that can do all the hard work for you. Then, all you need to do is look at the data and make the right decision.

5. Staying Updated About Sales Software

Photo of two women browsing in their laptop

Sales software helps automate processes, streamline workflows, and provide valuable insights that help drive revenue growth. By understanding how to use these tools effectively, you can help your team members work more efficiently, close deals faster, and achieve greater success.

The first step to becoming knowledgeable about the latest sales software is to evaluate your current sales process and identify areas where technology could improve efficiency or accuracy. You don't want to start researching tools first because it's easy to get lost in features and benefits without knowing what your team really needs.

Becoming the educated source on a particular sales software will also help your team learn it faster. Instead of leaving them to learn and implement the software on their own, you can give hands-on training, which will be more effective. This will ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal and using the same methodology while leveraging technology to achieve maximum productivity.

Many software tools will host their own webinar where they show off the tool and its capabilities. Attend these webinars to learn more and then use any resource center the software has built to get more in-depth knowledge of the tool.

6. Remaining Open to Team Feedback

A group of people in a meeting

Being an authoritative leader is helpful when it comes to sales strategy, but you don't have to be the only person coming up with ideas. Encourage team members to offer up feedback and ideas for improvement and listen carefully. Create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas about the sales process, company culture, and other relevant topics.

By being receptive to team feedback, you can gain valuable insights into what's working well and what could be better. For example, suppose your team members are struggling with a particular aspect of the sales process, such as lead generation or closing deals. In that case, you can use their feedback to identify areas for improvement in the sales management process. This might involve providing additional training or resources on specific topics or processes.

Not only will you have multiple minds working together to create a more efficient sales process, but you'll also gain the respect of team members. People who feel their voice is heard and their value is appreciated will naturally be more motivated and productive, which is great for any sales team.

Provide regular opportunities for your team to share their thoughts and ideas through one-on-one meetings, group discussions, or anonymous surveys. You can even highlight examples where your team's feedback has produced positive business results. The more emphasis you put on team feedback, the more engaging and beneficial it will be for everyone.

7. Having Comprehensive Product Knowledge

A group of people in a meeting

New sales reps will look to senior employees for guidance on how they should perform their job and what is acceptable. When you are the most knowledgeable about your products and can show others how to best represent them, you can be a great leader in the sales team.

An in-depth understanding of your product offerings is key for any successful salesperson. It gives your reps the confidence and ability to answer questions from customers accurately, as well as provide tailored advice on how they can make the most of their purchase.

When you're knowledgeable about your products and what customers have to say about them, you provide valuable insights to the sales team on how best to position and sell those products. They can use this information to help identify target markets, create effective messaging, and suggest strategies for overcoming objections or challenges that may arise during the sales process. By sharing their expertise with the sales team, business owners can help them become more confident and effective salespeople.

The process of learning about your products and listening to customers' feedback will also help you to make informed decisions when it comes to product development or changes. You'll be able to anticipate customer needs and preferences, stay ahead of industry trends, and ensure that your products remain competitive in the market.

8. Being Authentic

A photo of a man wearing his suit

To become the sales leader that guides your team to success, your team must believe in you. They need to trust your advice and rely on you to help them succeed, but this will work only if you are reliable, honest, and authentic in your interactions.

Authenticity starts with being yourself. Don't try to be someone different when giving instructions or offering feedback to the team. Be genuine in your communication and actions to help build a positive relationship with each team member.

When it comes to giving advice, make sure you are honest about the challenges and successes of sales. Don't sugarcoat the truth or tell them what they want to hear. Be open and realistic about the realities of working in sales.

By communicating honestly and authentically, you'll build a strong bond with your team, which will help them trust and follow your guidance more effectively. It also shows that you are invested in their success, which can help to motivate them further due to your sales team leadership.

9. Boosting Morale

A photo of people's fists

Ask any great leader or a successful sales leader you've worked with, and they'll tell you that the morale of their team was always a top priority. Motivated sales teams are far more likely to be successful than one that is talented but has a hard time being productive.

One way to do this is by celebrating success together as a team. Recognizing individual contributions and praising good results will help to keep everyone feeling motivated and encouraged.

You should also look for ways to create a strong team spirit. Invite your team to go out together, have lunch, or even participate in team-building activities that can help them get to know each other better and build relationships.

Finally, you can boost morale by helping to create a sense of purpose in the team. Remind your sales reps why they are doing this job and how their hard work will benefit sales organizations as a whole. This can help them stay motivated and keep striving for success.

Leading a Sales Team

With the right set of skills, any business owner can learn how to lead a sales team. You don't need to have every skill mentioned above to lead your team to success. Start with the skills you are most confident in and build from there. Your team will rally behind your abilities, and soon, you'll have a sales team that performs and functions just as well as you do. To shorten the time it'll take to learn those skills, offload all the hard work on a proven sales team that can immediately make an impact in your company. Sign up for The Sales Connection today and start accruing the resources you need to grow your business.

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Kayvon Kay

Kayvon Kay

Kayvon has over two decades of experience working with high-level closers and perfecting his sales methodologies. He has earned the title of Canada’s #1 pharmaceutical sales representative and continues to share his expertise as a keynote speaker and through his multi-million-dollar coaching program.

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