When it comes to what makes a great sales leader, three qualities come to mind: passion, articulation, and the ability to close a deal. If you’re looking to be a top-performing salesperson, these are the traits you should aim for.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some incredible sales leaders over the years and one common trait they all shared was an unwavering passion for their work. They loved what they did and it showed in their performance day in and day out. No matter how challenging the sale might be, they always found a way to get excited about it and stay motivated until they closed the deal.
In addition to being passionate, what makes a great sales leader is the ability to communicate well with potential customers. They know how to clearly explain why their product or service was the best solution for whatever problem the customer was facing. This level of confidence instills trust and leads to closing more deals.
What Makes a Great Sales Leader?
When hiring for sales leadership roles, you should look for a leader with the skills and upside to run a business. This person should be able to drive opportunities and have experience in sales.
Let’s take a closer look at what to look for in a sales leader.
7 Attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders
Salespeople know the quality of their manager will have a direct impact on their success.
According to a study, 69% of sales reps who exceed their quotas rate their managers as being either very good or exceptional. Additionally, organizational quality directly correlates to managerial qualities.
Only 3% of sales reps who rate their companies as poor also give their managers the same rating. On the other hand, 56% of reps who give their sales organization an excellent grade give their manager the same score.
What differentiates the top-performing sales managers from those who fail to meet their quotas by 25% or more?
To find out the answer to this, over 400 sales leaders answered an in-depth survey.
Forty-two percent of respondents said they hit between three-quarters and all of their annual quotas, while 29% said they met or surpassed theirs. 29% of respondents, however, said that they failed to meet 75% of their yearly goals.
I interviewed over 1,000 sales managers to better understand the impact their leadership styles have on the success of their sales teams.
The research shows that certain traits differentiate high-performing sales managers from those who aren’t as strong. These characteristics are ranked in order of importance.
1. Target Fixation
The best sales leaders are focused on a target and deadline.
Personality tests have shown that successful managers have a 20% higher drive to succeed, 19% more discipline, and 27% more focus on priorities than under-performing ones. This naturally makes them better able to focus their teams on hitting their sales targets.
Because they have the mentality of focusing on their sales goals and still taking into consideration other factors, they naturally have the drive and focus necessary to help their teams achieve these goals.
They can effectively compartmentalize the negativity and distractions that come their way, which allows them to remain focused and move forward with urgency.
2. Command Instinct
Sales leaders who can effectively lead their teams are those who know how to leverage their authority.
For example, they ensure that their team is accountable for their actions.
While 75% of high-performing sales managers believe that their salespeople are held accountable, only 58% of underperforming ones do.
Rather than focusing on quotas, managers should instead focus on motivating their sales teams by making them feel challenged and like they’re constantly proving themselves. The leaders establish this culture using a “carrot and stick” psychological approach.
Often, overachieving people are praised for their achievements, while those who are underachieving may be reprimanded or shunned until they improve their performance.
The drive for constant success and self-improvement is cultivated by command instinct. This drives individuals within organizations to strive for excellence and to continually achieve more.
3. Hiring Ability
The success of your sales process depends heavily on the quality of your sales reps.
72% of high-performing managers rate their salesforce as “excellent” or “above average”, while only 54% of underperformers do.
Only 28% of high-performing managers rated their sales team as “average” or “below-average”, while 46% of underperformers did. This suggests that high-performing sales leaders tend to have higher opinions of their teams, which could contribute to their greater success.
Top-performing sales teams are led by managers who focus on hiring people with the qualities that are most important for success in selling. These skills include relationship building, persuasion, and experience in controlling a sales process.
4. Sales Intuition
A great sales manager can teach their reps how to sell effectively, and add value to their meetings with customers.
While both high-performing and underperforming managers have been in sales for an average of 17 years, the top performers estimate that they have hit their yearly quotas 88% of the time in their careers.
Underperforming managers have hit their quotas 75% of the time, according to research.
This study suggests that having deep, practical experience in sales is correlated with success.
5. Control Orientation
The best sales managers are the ones who monitor and enforce the behaviors of their sales reps. And in doing so, they ensure that their reps are hitting their quota.
43% of high-performing sales managers keep a close eye on their sales process, while only 29% of underperforming ones do.
Only 44% of under-performing managers had a non-existent or informal sales structure.
6. Coaching Adaptability
Successful sales managers know that there are many different ways for a salesperson to be successful.
Rather than using one style of communication, they tailor their approach based on the individual.
The claim that high-performing sales teams have higher levels of overall productivity than underperforming teams is backed up by the finding that high-performers have higher TEF than low-performers.
The effectiveness of a team is calculated based on the average achievement of quotas across the team members. This indicates how well the entire team is doing.
If each sales rep on a team had a $1 million sales goal, and the team sold $8 million in revenue, their efficiency as a team was 80%.
According to research, high-performing managers have an 81% success rate in motivating their teams, while under-performing ones only have a 55% rate. This difference could be explained by the fact that high performers are flexible in their approach to managing teams.
High-performing managers were much more likely to reach their sales goals than low-performing ones. This makes sense since they had a higher probability of reaching their targets and therefore earned more commission.
A manager’s Quota Risk Pool Factor is the number of total sales made by all the reps who report to them. This number is divided by the manager’s own goal.
If a manager has a $10M sales goal and 10 reps with $2M goals, then their Quota Risk Pool Factor is 2.
7. Strategic Leadership
All successful sales managers are leaders on the battlefield who plan the strategy for their team to defeat their competition and come out victorious.
Determining the best plan of action requires carefully weighing the cost and benefit of each possible option.
As a sales manager, it is important to know how to best use your sales reps. This means you should divide your market into vertical markets and specialize your reps by product and type of customers. By doing so, you will maximize your revenue and provide better service to your customers.
This explains how there was a 51% difference between quota attainment of high and low performers, according to a study.
Sales managers who hit their quotas were 105% more likely to report higher-than-average performance than were those who missed their targets by 54%.
The sales team is like no other department in an organization. Sales leaders must establish a code of behavior and outline specific expectations for all salespeople to follow.
Their experience gives them the ability to coach their team strategically, as well as keep them focused and on track to win.
What makes a great sales leader? A great sales leader should exhibit these seven attributes. If you’re looking to be a top-performing salesperson, these are the qualities you should aim for.
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