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On Leadership From the Salesperson’s Perspective

January 30, 2011

Hint – Not this guy…

Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to specifically “WHAT” makes a good boss in sales?  We’ve all probably worked for many bosses over our careers that have ranged from individuals worthy of our praise worship to those that have meant well but didn’t deliver to others that probably were not cut out for the job.

It would be easy to begin compiling a list of what we don’t like, and what negative experiences came as a result, however in the spirit of keeping this positive and as educational as possible, let’s focus on three aspects that should (in my humble opinion) head the list of commendable attributes.

(1) Being a Team Advocate

First and foremost on any list of this type, I feel that advocacy within the organization is paramount to any leader’s success.  If the reps on the team do not feel as if the boss has their collective backs, morale suffers and things deteriorate from there.  I’ve learned that collectively most of the bosses I’ve worked in my career  for have done a pretty good job of deflecting a lot of annoyances out of the way, while convincing the team as a while that they are completely 100% in their corner.

Some of these points can be very small and trivial (ex – workflow modifications between departments) or tremendously large (ex – comp plans, budgets and goals), but in the end, if the team firmly believes that the boss has their back and represents their collective voice to the rest of the organization, nothing but positive things result.

(2) Mentorship

If a boss takes a special interest in his team members’ development, goal achievement, and professional interests, the team right down to the individual will begin to view the boss not as an adversarial figure but as a trusted mentor.  This goes beyond simple daily reports (call metrics, proposed dollars, etc) into areas like time management, account planning, personal development.  In the past I had a particular manager that took a distinct interest in my career and at his suggestion I completed some additional reading and outside-of-the-office work that immediately benefited me as a sales professional.  As a manager, if you’re not acting in the role of “mentor” in at least one identified area, you are missing the boat in developing a key interpersonal professional relationship with each team member you manage.

(3) Accountability

In my professional memory, the best leaders have always been the most accountable.  That’s a pretty broad statement so let me clarify – by “accountable” I mean that their actions, activities, expectations and requirements have been clear, sensible, and responsible.

For example – a boss requires deadlines and benchmarks to be met but also is sometimes late in presenting items of their area of responsibility like  quarterly sales plans, incentive programs, or promotional packages.  How do you think this comes across to the sales team?  Obviously this reflects a certain level of hypocrisy and erodes at both the morale and the faith in that individual’s leadership (“do as I say and not as I do…”).  The results will be disastrous.

It’s a joy to enter into a weekly 1-on-1 planner meeting with your boss prepared only to find that he or she is incredibly prepared to speak to you.  You can tell by the questions he or she is asked that they’re really paying attention and think enough of you and your contribution to “bone up” on what you’re doing.  Even better, if they have ready-made suggestions for you on how to better operate, the meeting might just become the most beneficial 30-60 minutes of your work-week.

Alright – fire away!  List some of the most important leadership elements you look for.

One Comment
  1. January 31, 2011 8:41 am

    Great article and since I’m new into a leadership role, very much appreciated! I’ve always been a fan of the boss that does the things mentioned above and also provides the opportunity to be creative and sell within certain boundaries. The one that basically gives me just enough rope to hang myself.

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