Have You Suffered A Sales Lobotomy?

Why do successful sales people suffer a “sales lobotomy” when they become leaders? If you’ve been promoted to a leadership role, it’s probably because you’ve got a consistent record of delivering sales results in your business. To succeed you had to master core techniques and approaches:

  • to build rapport with your client, to earn trust and influence
  • to understand client business priorities so you could propose appropriate solutions
  • to uncover the motivations behind objections so you could overcome them
  • to tailor the right information at the right time to each client

You probably excel at all of these things and more, but what many people in your position don’t realise, is that all of the things that make you a great sales person, can also make you a great leader. The reality is that successful managers see leadership as a sales job. They see their role every day as “Selling” their team on doing their jobs to hit both their own and the company’s goals.

Dale Carnegie famously said:

“there is only one way….to get anybody to do anything, and that is by making the other person want to do it.” 

This applies to sales as much as leadership, so lets re-cap on some of the sales basics that effective leaders apply to managing their teams.

Relationships

Strong relationships help deliver the right solution and get repeat business. They also enable you to have influence throughout the sales process. As a sales person you have to work at building this relationship, even when clients are being reasonable. The state of your relationships with each individual in your team will affect their openness to new ideas, feelings of loyalty towards you and the likelihood of them changing their behaviour.

Power

The power of the sale ultimately rests in the client’s hands. Too many leaders fall in to the trap of thinking that they hold the power because they are further up the ladder. Successful leaders recognise that the salary only gets people to their desk, the power of whether or not someone works hard and performs, rests with that individual. You need to sell your team on performing rather than just sitting at their desk and to do that you need to understand what drives them.

Sales Cycle

The first thing you learn in a sales career is the “Cycle of a Sale”.  First you build rapport, then you question to find the need, then you present a solution and lastly you close. Successful sales people have this inbuilt, but many forget to apply it to their leadership approach when they get promoted.  You would never sit with a client and say “ let me tell you what you are going to do today” so why would you do that to your team? Start thinking of every interaction like a sales call or sales meeting. Plan in advance what you want them to be doing differently, think about your need finding questions and then execute the sales call/meeting. Leaders who remember and remaster this “cycle” will find their ability to influence, coach, motivate and develop their team transformed.

Objections

When a client objects to your proposal the sales professional thinks “Why don’t they understand that this product is perfect for them? I need to continue the education process”. When you get an objection from someone in your team about doing something you suggest, do you think this or do you think “get on with it, just do what I ask?

Ownership

Whether in good times or bad, a great sales professional takes ownership for the status and profitability of a client relationship. This means they are the first to apologise if it helps get a sale and they will take the blame even when none is due. Ultimately this is the key to being a successful sales leader, whilst you cannot pick up the phone or close the sale for your team, their problems are your problems, you are responsible for how motivated they feel, how capable they are at handling client situations and helping them to achieve their goals.
Wondering whether this is relevant for you? Take the test below and find out:

Choose one person in your team and rate your relationship with them in the following areas:
Rate yourself from 0 (very low) to 10 (very high)

a) Relationship: when in a meeting with this person, how open are they to doing things the way you suggest?

b) Power: How hard do you rate their work ethic when you are not in the office?

c) Sales Cycle: How aware are you of working through a “sales cycle” when trying to influence this person’s behaviour?

d) Objections: How would you rate your attitude when you get objections from this person about doing aspects of their job?

e) Ownership:  How would you rate your level of ownership towards the level of performance of this person?

How did you score?

My Leadership Frustrations

“Congratulations you are now a manager”

..said my boss. Words that I’d worked long and hard to hear as a billing consultant.

Like many before me I instantly emerged from my chrysalis as a fully fledged leader, ready to inspire and lead my team to victory……apparently.

It did not take long before reality set in – my success was now defined by the actions of others. I was expected to enforce things that I did not always believe in and frustratingly, my team would not do what I told them!

No one is born as a complete leader. Leadership is often more art than science and it takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that never really ends.

When I compare many leadership books or biographies of successful business leaders to reality, I want to return the book to the shop and suggest they place it in the “fiction” section.

So what are the things I wish I had been told would be hard, frustrating or just unenjoyable about leadership?

1. You Need to Lose Control

To be a manager you normally have to be great at what you do as a technician first whether you are a recruiter, lawyer, accountant or sales person. Typically a large part of this success is is down to your ability to personally control the variables in your role, market and organisation to achieve your desired level of personal performance.

Trying to maintain the same level of personal control through your team will lead to extremely high levels of frustration on your part. It will also make good people want to leave as they feel like they have no capability to act on their own, instead you need to focus on influencing behaviour.

Lesson: You can’t control everything – you can only influence.

2. You Are a Tool of the Executive Team

We often think that becoming a manager means you have the ability to do things your way. The reality is that as a manager, you are the messenger of the executive team and are there to execute their plan. This means that you will spend time and energy doing things that you do not think are right, or things that you know will be unpopular with the team.

The transition from thinking from a biller’s perspective to a director’s perspective is one of the hardest mental leaps to make, but critical if you are to be authentic in how you promote change and performance in your team (and yes, this may mean your former peers will call you out on your change of direction).

Lesson: Learn why the Executive Team do things, instead of tring to fight them

3. Emotional Conflict, Tension and Frustration

You quickly realise as a leader that your role is not to be everyone’s friend, it’s to say what needs to be said. I think that Karen Brady said it best when she says being a leader is about

“Saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said , whether you like it or not”

For some this comes naturally, personally I struggled with having the courage to say what needed to be said, fearing people may not like me, or their jobs. They key is to avoid procrastination – say it as clearly and quickly as possible.

Lesson: Learn how to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said

4. The Challenges & Frustrations Never End

We kid ourselves that leadership is a destination we can reach. In truth it’s a never ending journey. Even the most experienced and successful leaders still struggle with the emotional challenges leadership. There will always be a stretch target to reach, a top performer with too much attitude, people to hire and things to be rolled out that you disagree with. As Steve Jobs said:

“The journey is the reward”

Your goal is to fall in love with the process of overcoming challenges and solving them, more than hitting your targets.

Lesson: Learn to love the journey as there is no destination

Getting your head around being a leader and the challenges that come with being in a leadership role are key to any managers success.

Do you manage managers? Do you know what challenges they are having with their roles? How often do you have coaching rather than performance conversations to help them overcome these challenges?”

What are your leadership frustrations?

How to tell your Boss they suck!

On Sunday evening in 2014, one of the world’s greatest golfers, Phil Mickelson, gave the world a perfect lesson on how NOT to tell your boss they suck (http://youtu.be/b4_5A8cPgdY).

Three reasons why what Phil Mickelson did was a bad idea:

1: It certainly doesn’t make him look good.  It makes him pretty much un-selectable by any future leader.   Who would want to have someone in their team that is just looking to rub your, and others, faces in their mistakes the moment things get tough. A great book that talks about this is (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Asshole-Rule-Civilised-Workplace/dp/0749954035 )

2: No Respect: He showed little respect for Tom Watson or his team who were undoubtedly hurting.  Tom had undoubtedly made mistakes,  he had also tried his best.  His team mates were undoubtedly hurting and reflecting on what mistakes they had made over the two days.   His behaviour encouraged everyone to focus on the negative rather than the way forward.

3:  Abdication of Leadership:  Phil may not have been the Captain this week but he is, without doubt, a leader for the US team; embarrassingly, he abdicated his position of leadership.   His stature will have been diminished in the eyes of the younger team members who saw the way he behaved.   Even worse some may copy him in future years, which will only serve the European cause further.

Four fool-proof ways of telling your boss he sucks.

1:  Look at yourself first:  Before you point the finger of accusation at your boss, remember that when you point there are three fingers pointing back at you.  Ask yourself “what have I done to contribute to this situation?”

2: Think about “why” this is happening:  More often than not, your boss is carrying out a strategy dictated from above.  Most things happen in an organisation because they are needed to help the achievement of a strategy or objective.   Try to separate “what” your manager is doing (probably led by his boss) with “how” they are doing it, which reflects their abilities to communicate and execute change.

3:  Constructive Feedback:  Borrowing a simple technique from the centre for creative leadership (http://www.leadingeffectively.com/feedback-you-can-fathom/sbi-model-graphic-for-social-media/),   use the SBI (Situation, Behaviour & Feedback) method to provide objective feedback.   i.e.”John, do you remember in the team meeting this morning,  you cut across my answer in a way that seemed dismissive.  It made me feel like you did not value my opinion.  What can I do differently next time?”   WARNING:  Remember that if you are going to be giving feedback, you need to be prepared to take it back as well.

3:  Focus on Solutions:  Everyone can point out what is being done wrong.  Being constructive with ways to make things work, will open your manager’s mind to alternate options.   If all they see is you throwing blocks up at every turn, they will be much less open to your ideas for improvement.   If you have no suggestions for how things can be done better then you may be part of the problem…….!!!!!

What approach would you take if you had to tell your boss “you suck”?

Alex Moyle spends his time helping leaders of sales teams build high performing self sustaining teams.   His customer centric approach to consultative selling helps sales professionals elevate themselves above the competition.

If you would like to receive more regular thoughts on sales leadership from Alex himself or from industry leading content Alex curates please click here  http://eepurl.com/P-zDz