It’s a great time to reflect on 2018 and set new goals for 2019. But most sales managers won’t take the time to think and reflect. Why? Because effective people are busy people, right? Busy people are productive people. And sitting quietly, thinking and reflecting just doesn’t look or sound busy or productive.
Time to challenge your thinking and apply the emotional intelligence skill of self-awareness. In the words of Socrates, “Know thyself.” Because that which you are not aware of, you are bound to repeat. You repeat the same management mistakes, which leads to self-doubt, burnout and exhaustion.
Sales leaders, carve out a few hours and a conduct a feedback session with yourself.
Take a close look at your roles and responsibilities, and examine where you may need to uplevel your sales leadership activities and skills. Here’s a few areas to get you started.
#1: Hiring top talent. Get this right or nothing else matters. It’s the difference between enjoying your job or enduring it. When you get the right salespeople on your sales bus, your job becomes 100 percent easier. Top sales talent seeks out feedback, takes feedback and actually applies it! Top salespeople work hard to be successful, doing what it takes to succeed in the profession. Look at your hiring practices. Are you setting yourself up for success or repeated failure? That which you are not aware of you are bound to repeat.
- I have developed a job description that attracts the right candidate to our company, i.e., “Looking for salespeople with great work ethic, love to prospect and consistently invest in their personal and professional development.”
- I use objective assessments that help me remove my natural bias when conducting interviews with professional interviewers!
- I have a customized hiring guide that tests potential candidates for their hard skills, core values and emotional intelligence skills.
Emotional self-awareness questions: What part of your hiring process needs to be revamped? What problems would go away if you had top sales talent on your team?
#2: Your sales leadership style. I’ve worked with more than one sales manager that has struggled to balance achieving profits and developing people. One of the reasons these individuals are promoted to leadership is because they are highly responsible people. But without self-awareness, hyper responsibility can turn sales managers into caretakers, fire fighters and professional rescuers. They start making excuses for the salesperson’s lack of performance, blaming themselves rather than elevating their expectations of excellence.
- I didn’t give this salesperson enough training –that’s why she’s not succeeding.
- We don’t have enough leads coming in from marketing. That’s why he’s not achieving goals.
- Our CRM system isn’t very good. That’s why she’s not following up on leads.
- Our competitor is a bigger brand. That’s why he isn’t able to close business.
And the list goes on. When I hear these excuses from managers, I simply reverse the questions and ask them:
- How much training did you get? “Uh, none. I took it upon myself to get better.”
- How many leads were given to you when you started in sales? “Leads, what leads?”
- Tell me about your CRM system when you started. “It sucked. I had to do a lot of workarounds to capture information, but it needed to be done, so I did it.”
- How did you win against a strong incumbent? “Oh, I asked my referral partners for introductions to get initial conversations. I studied my competition like crazy and uncovered gaps in their offerings. Then, I designed great questions to show the gap without mentioning their name.”
Let me be very clear. I am all about making it easier for your sales team. Remove the obstacles. Then apply reality testing and the reality is there are always going to be obstacles.
Get comfortable asking your sales team to do what it needs to do to be successful at your company now.
Emotional Self-Awareness Questions: When and where are you rescuing your sales team? What excuses are you making for your sales team? What’s making you uncomfortable holding people accountable?
#3: Do you have a learning culture? I know this question sounds redundant, academic and a little boring. But the reality is that the sales teams — any team — that are going to succeed in the future will be required to learn more, learn it faster and then relearn what they’ve just learned.
We’re all reading about robots taking over the world, big data and artificial intelligence. New information is coming at us at greater speed than ever before. And the only chance you have of remaining relevant is hiring salespeople that like to learn and then providing them with education and training.
It all starts with you. Are you a learner or are you relying on your 20 years of industry experience? What are you reading or listening to each week that makes you better and smarter? Are you hanging out with people that are in denial, hoping all of this change goes away or at least slows down? Or are you hanging with overachievers?
My anecdotal research shows my most effective sales managers are intent on learning. They are equally intent on making their sales team smarter and thus more effective. Learning in their sales cultures is a requirement, not an option. These organizations establish book clubs. Their sales meetings include time for strictly learning and development, not just complaints about operation issues. One-on-one coaching sessions are mini-training courses.
Emotional Self-Awareness Questions: Am I leading by example? Am I smarter about sales, people and leadership than I was a year ago? If someone was to walk into our company, would they be able to tell we are a learning culture? That which you are not aware of, you cannot change.
That which you are not aware of, you are bound to repeat. Sales managers, take a minute to slow down in order to speed up.