As the sales leader of your company, you want to train, support, and nurture your reps to the best of your ability. Sales leadership is about implementing repeatable, effective sales processes to grow revenue. How can you make those goals a reality? What actions and mindsets should you proactively avoid?
In this article, let's specifically tackle that second question. We'll talk about three sales leadership pitfalls that you need to navigate around in order to really improve your team's performance.
If you're staying far away from these situations, then give yourself a well-earned pat on the back. If you can relate to one (or more) of these scenarios, don't despair! After all, identifying the problem is the first step towards fixing it.
Pitfall #1: The Spaghetti Thrower
Have you ever thrown spaghetti noodles against the refrigerator? It's an old trick that lets you know when the noodles are cooked all the way through. If they're not done, they don't stick. If they are, they do.
Some sales leaders are like spaghetti throwers. They keep trying out new solutions, and hope that, eventually, something will stick. They may cycle through one "growth activity" after another - mission statement writing, sales training and up-skilling, marketing collaboration sessions, team-building...you name it. The problem is, none of those solutions ever really "stick." None of them make a lasting impact in terms of performance or revenue.
Here's the million-dollar question: Is the "spaghetti thrower syndrome" a solution issue, or a sales leadership issue? The reality of the sales industry is that there's no "secret sauce" to make the spaghetti stick to the fridge. Results don't magically appear overnight.
A sales leader's impatience will cause his or her team to constantly change course, without any set destination in mind. Then, everyone in the company is going to think something major is broken — even if it isn't.
The takeaway? Don't expect big wins immediately. Give any proposed solution some "breathing room" before moving on to the next big thing. Your team will certainly appreciate the increased stability — and will be more willing to make those changes that are actually needed.
Pitfall #2: The Cinderella Story
This is a scenario that may or may not be avoidable, depending on your company's particular circumstances. The basic premise is this. Your business (Cinderella) needs to grow sales ASAP. Otherwise, you'll lose your investors, partners, and maybe the company itself (translation: your carriage will turn into a pumpkin).
A lot of startups find themselves in this time squeeze between rounds of investor funding. It's a great problem to have — if your sales team operates like a well-oiled machine, and you're closing sales left and right. If not, then you may feel like hitting the panic button. When faced with a "do-or-die" scenario like this, many leaders will go into desperation mode, and resort to sales tactics that aren't good for the brand, and don't really work.
What's the solution to this problem? Basically, you need to take the time to analyze what your sales team is already doing that works. Then, optimize your process from there. Don't risk everything on a big, untested idea that could blow up in your face. Use what you have. Call in backup. When time is of the essence, make sure that you're not wasting any of your efforts.
The takeaway? Don't panic when your sales team is under the gun. Optimize the parts of your process that are working; and get help for the parts that need improvement. Don't gamble on an unproven sales tactic. Build on the foundation you've already laid.
Pitfall #3: The Runaway Train
This is perhaps one of the more common sales leadership pitfalls that companies fall into. The sales team is bringing in revenue (i.e., the train is moving). But there's no unifying strategy to maximize the revenue stream (the train is a runaway). As a result, the company is overly reliant on "barn burner" sales once or twice a year, and leaves a lot of potential profit on the table.
Oftentimes, the lure of a quick win is what makes this pitfall seem like an opportunity. For instance, think about a business that discounts its products to 50 percent off during an end-of-the-year sale. Sure, the sales team will be able to drive revenue hard over the course of that promotion — but at what cost? What about the leads that would have bought the product at full price the month before, but decide to wait for the sale instead? Or the customers that just bought the product, and then discover that it's half-price? The strategy may keep the company's lights on, but it simultaneously reduces the business' revenue stream and devalues the brand.
Sales leaders that get stuck in this kind of rut may think there's no way to "stop the train." In many cases, though, the company isn't really on the brink of disaster. Maybe all that's needed to get the train back on track is a change of perspective.
Ask yourself: "Instead of worrying about the next three months, what can we do to grow the business over the next year? Should we really sell based on price alone, or can we sell based on other factors, like quality or uniqueness?"
The takeaway? You may need to take a step back and see if you and your sales team are stuck in a rut, and leaving growth opportunities on the table. Never devalue your brand or product without a good reason. Don't focus on quick wins to the exclusion of long-term revenue growth. Look further ahead than the next few months, and look for ways to improve sales performance in sustainable ways.
Sales Leadership in a Nutshell
There you have it: 3 sales leadership pitfalls that you should absolutely avoid to the extent possible. If you've fallen into any of these thinking patterns, then get to work on setting things right! You may be surprised at how impactful even small adjustments can be to your team's overall focus and performance.
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