Recently, I was invited to speak at the Women in Sales event Developing Your Leadership Compass. During the panel, I was asked what are the key traits of a great sales leader.
Here are the five pieces of advice I shared during the amazing discussion.
1. It’s Not About You
Look, I know it’s hard not to worry about your performance, your job, and your career. When you’re a leader, however, you cannot focus on that. Your priority must be the success of your team. You have to thrive knowing that your team is winning. And guess what? Ultimately, if your team is successful, then you will be too.
2. Be Hard On The Numbers
My dad was in sales, and thank god because it put me on this career path. He used to say, “Be hard on the numbers and kind to the people.” And it’s 100 percent true.
You need to be disciplined when it comes to the numbers. Your team needs to have a concrete understanding of their goals and expectations. To lead effectively, you have to get to the root of why your team is hitting—or missing—their numbers. If it works, figure out how to replicate it. If it doesn’t, understand how you can fix it.
But don’t forget the other part of what makes an effective leader—caring about your team. These are people, after all, and you need to understand that there will be highs and lows. You need to show them you’re there for both.
3. Be A Thermostat
A thermostat sets the room’s temperature. A thermometer reacts to what’s happening in the room. A good leader is a thermostat. A bad one is a thermometer.
Good leaders set the environment for the team. They know when to turn up the heat and when to cool things down for their team.
Bad ones react to what’s going on. They let what’s happening around them dictate their behavior. Those are the kinds of leaders with boiling tempers, and fear isn’t a sustainable motivation tool.
4. Feedback Is Critical
There are two aspects of feedback that are vital to your success: You need to be able to give and take feedback. If you can’t do both, you won’t be an effective leader.
I’m a firm believer in publicly praising and privately punishing. If someone on my team does well, I will sing it from the mountaintops. If a team member does something wrong, however, I set up a one-on-one to completely understand what happened. These situations are critical teaching opportunities, so you have to explain the right way to do things to prevent mistakes from happening again.
But getting feedback is just as important.
Earlier in my career, I received negative feedback from an exit interview. The CEO told me to read everything carefully, then focus on the element of truth in it. I learned that you need to take that one piece and grow from it.
There are always two sides to every story, but, as a worker and a leader, you have to understand your shortcomings and work on improving them.
5. Confidence Is Key
The phrase “fake it until you make it” holds elements of truth to it. Be confident and decisive with your team.
But there may be times when you have more experienced salespeople on your team. You can meet with those individuals for a one-on-one. Don’t be afraid to ask them to be honest with you about their expectations. But it’s up to you to also be strict: Tell them what goals you have for them, and then find a way to work together so everyone benefits.
Even if there’s a skillset you may lack, you need to project that you’re comfortable performing it. Only you can define your story—both positively and negatively. So if you want to turn your weakness into a strength, spend the extra time studying and working on it. And be ready to discuss it. That way your team and your co-workers will eventually consider you an expert instead of a liability.
Here’s the main takeaway: Good leaders point their team in the right direction of their goals—and guide them to get there.