If you haven't read CSO Insights' Sales Management Optimization Key Trends Analysis, you should. As always, it's a fascinating read.
One of my favorite reports begins with a quote shared at a CSO Summit by Jay Vanderbree, Senior Vice President, Home Entertainment Sales and Marketing at LG Electronics. He stated:
"The goal of sales leaders is to create more leaders, not followers."
Jay further qualified this statement by saying this was regardless of “role or rank” in the sales leadership hierarchy. If nothing else, this quote should cause us all to stop and think.
Sales Leader or Sales Manager?
For me, the challenge begins with the definitions of the words 'leader' and 'manager'.
The dictionary tells us a leader is "a person who has commanding authority or influence," and a manager is "a person who has control or direction of...a business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it."
That means the moment someone is given the title of sales manager, by definition (authority being control, influence being direction) they become a leader.
In my humble opinion, a manager is a leader by definition only. In my experience, there's a similar difference between being a father and being a dad.
It's been said that ANYONE can be a father. It takes something more to be a Dad. Whether it is from their own father's good or bad examples, from observing other dads, reading or trial and error, fathers learn to be good dads.
I believe the same thing applies to a sales organization. ANYONE can be a manager. It takes something more to be a leader.
The problem is many think leadership is an innate skill; that there is such a thing as a 'born leader.' That creates a significant challenge for most sales organizations. As you have probably noticed, these born leaders are in short supply. Because their skills are considered innate, even when they are found they are not replicable.
It's a Process Problem
The truth of the matter is these 'born leaders' learned to lead. Leading, just like any other business function, is a logical, repeatable process. And that's where I believe most organizations fail to create leaders.
They think it's a 'people' problem. It's not. It's a process problem.
The 'born leaders' in their organizations are the ones who've figured out a process of their own. That's why they are typically coveted, well paid, and in short supply.
So if your organization wants to create leaders, you first have to define the process and structure by which you want people in your sales hierarchy to lead. Then it becomes part of your training curriculum and eventually part of your company culture.
If you can't or won't do that, I promise you're destined to be a business filled with a bunch of followers. Good sales leaders are made, not born.
Bob Nicols has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He founded Burton Training Group, now AXIOM Sales Force Development, in 1990 after being a top and highly recognized performer in sales, sales management and executive positions within the technology sector. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN. AXIOM programs have been implemented in over 30 countries including Japan, the UK, Germany, Dubai, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Bob's highly energetic and insightful lectures and workshops have resulted in invitations to be a featured presenter at dozens of national and international sales meetings and conferences. He is a trusted advisor to the presidents and senior managers of multiple organizations, both large and small and has been a board member of a national technology company. Bob is the developer of AXIOM's “Selling Sciences ProgramTM” and co-author of the “Selling Sciences” CD series.