Bonus Content

Leading the Sales Team to Victory


By John Chapin

Leading a sales team to victory is not an easy task. It takes discipline, resolve, and the ability to make tough—and sometimes unpopular—decisions. At its worst sales leadership is one of the most thankless, difficult jobs and has been compared to herding cats—but at its best it is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding. To that end, here are four rules that can help ensure you and your team have the best shot at success.

Rule 1: Run your sales organization like a military unit.
You need top-down management where people know their job, do their job, and are held accountable. There are no gray areas on expectations or execution of daily activities, and there are consequences for not delivering on either. People should be expected to show up on time, follow the rules, be professional, and do whatever it takes to make the calls and do the activities necessary to more than fulfill the obligations of the job they signed up for. If for some reason they are not able, or will not execute the duties required of them, they are to be relieved of duty.

Rule 2: You are responsible for your people professionally, not personally.
When someone does not have the tools, resources, training, guidance, or proper environment to do their job, it’s your fault. When someone fails to make the calls, or do the other activities necessary for success, it’s their fault. Your responsibility is to set the goals and expectations, give them the game plan, providing initial and ongoing training, give them the tools necessary to do the job, and oversee their activity and progress. It is up to them to keep their head on straight and do the work necessary.

The bottom line here: when someone is lagging behind his or her quota, you need to find out why—immediately—and address the situation. Is something missing that you should have provided, or are is this person out late, into the wrong things, and/or simply not putting in the hours and doing the work necessary? If it’s the latter, he or she needs to straighten out and step up, or step out.

Rule 3: Micromanage activity and the top line.
As a sales leader it’s your job to be obsessed with how much revenue is coming in via new sales and repeat business. In addition, you need to constantly check in with you people and inquire about the number of calls they are making, and whether or not they are delivering proposals, closing, and following up. Test them and make sure they know what they are supposed to be saying and doing at each point in the sales process. Meet with your people briefly every day, whether in-person or on the phone, and go over daily goals and what they are working on. This shouldn’t be a long meeting, just enough time to get their commitment on daily activity and review possible call scenarios. 

Note: Keep in mind everyone should be practicing their presentation, answers to objections, and other similar items daily. Also, scheduled sales meetings need to focus primarily on sales skills development, not pie charts and presentations by outside vendors or other department heads.

Rule 4: You’re the boss (and slave-driver) first and foremost.
Most salespeople need to be pushed. Ideally you’d have an entire group made up of the top 10 percent that are self-motivated and drive themselves, but this is likely not the case. You have to push people and demand more of them than they demand of themselves. Everyone needs someone who will hold them to task and hold them accountable. Even the most driven, self-disciplined people can slack off from time to time. Part of your job is to ensure that doesn’t happen. Yes, there will be times when it seems like you’re a parent to a bunch of unruly kids. That’s your job. Use all four types of motivation when necessary: external negative, external positive, intrinsic, and peer.

If some of the people working for you are also your friends, keep in mind that you are the boss, the manager, or whatever you call yourself, before you are their friend. The friendship can in no way impede upon the professional job you’ve signed up for. When anyone is giving anything less than they’re all, you must shift completely into boss mode and get them back on track. No playing favorites or otherwise not doing your job due to the personal relationship.

It’s important to keep in mind that you have to see more in people than they see in themselves and you have to push them beyond what they think they are capable of. Many people lack complete confidence and when left to their own devices, will only work hard enough to simply survive. Give them something to live up to and demand their best. You can come up with whatever reason you want not to push but at the end of the day you are running a business and you’re hurting everyone involved when you accept less than people are capable of.

The goal of all of the above is a team of happy, fully-functioning, accountable people who are pushing themselves and others and making everyone around them better. The payoff is when you and your team, your families, your customers, and everyone associated with you, is at the top of the mountain feeling fulfilled professionally and personally. And while you can and should take a very brief moment to appreciate one another and enjoy what you’ve accomplished, you can’t rest on your laurels because the competition is right behind you trying to take what you have.

John Chapin is a sales and motivational speaker and trainer. For his free newsletter, or if you would like him to speak at your next event, go to: John has more than 29 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year: “Sales Encyclopedia.”


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