Leadership greatness will come from never having great ideas of your own … sort of. As soon as I learnt to drop the word “I” from my daily vocabulary and started talking about us, we, your and lots of other “not I” stuff the quicker I saw improved results which ultimately I could celebrate in a much more meaningful and enjoyable way the success and progress of others as we grew the company together.
It is very hard to have to learn to set your own internal goals and to work our self-reward mechanisms so that you too get to celebrate and the loneliness of running and leading a business can be hard to live with – but bearable if you celebrate the bigger picture of the whole growth success. One of the best tips to learn early as you grow is to get others in your sales force to win orders early and fast when they begin. Momentum is a powerful thing in sales and introducing strong leads to see a new salesperson convert well will help them get moving and producing solid results faster. It may cost you peanuts in the commission scheme but the value of a quick win for a new sales person, whom then also faster learns the order process and systems of the company will pay dividends.
One tough challenge of moving on from sales into leadership is that hideous emotional and horrid discomfort of handing over revenue making customers you may have won at the beginning of your journey. Risking as it seems your relationship, money planned for business growth and development by stepping away from perhaps some of the mid-sized clients whom you enjoy spending time with is part of the growing up period which many fail to hurdle. Just because you have a view your client likes the way you sell, you may be surprised to find fresh enthusiastic sales blood can achieve more with an account you might have partly neglected due to being pulled from pillar to post as the demands of the company grow. Try it? You need not be wholly detached from contact, in fact a great way of staying in touch with your client base, even if you remove yourself from daily sales development, is to continue to answer the office incoming phones, to go out with the sales people at least 2 times a year and I also learned from Richard Branson’s book he personally calls his customers once a year to personally thank them for their business. A brilliant way of sense checking – is your company doing all that is can be?
Other tips on how to maximise the success of others in your sales organisation are:
Get them to present to you as if they were selling your competitors products against your own. What are the strengths and benefits of the products they see in the competition which perhaps you need to sharpen up your act on delivering? Meeting as a sales group to learn from each other’s skills and expertise can be a priceless way of building momentum and overcoming objections. When we were originally nationwide focused (small-minded) my sales group and other members of the company often used to have a sandwich together once a week to discuss issues sales and operations were encountering on products they were selling? Shared ideas on how to handle objections amongst a few are more powerful by a country mile in a team environment than walking a solitary path.
The monthly meeting where we shared profitability (or not), performance, people change and updates and generate progress (could be company charity events, new major focus, project updates) was an incredible way to move from benevolent dictator where individuals started to present to the team, take ownership of their parts of the business delivery puzzle and to step up and become leaders.
Regarding sales specific growth focus, you cannot take your eye off the operation ball but I do ultimately know that you cannot over-invest in an operation platform without ramping up the income to pay for those new investments. Particularly when recruiting salespeople, I would recommend always when at all possible employing three sales people for sales training simultaneously. The competition to do their best will be strong, the best will rise to the top and the accelerated effort you gain by delivering a multiple reach induction programme which is less distracting for those delivering operational and logistics support to sales will be much appreciated. Do also sense check with your people there feeling on how people are going to fit in. In my experience, early doubts are more often than not alarm bells and you need to let go poor performers fast. Salespeople who do not sell are NOT sales people and you will not turn them into them.
A final point on how to make yourself redundant, as the organisation grows is to build clarity of vision and mission which the whole team buy into and which you regularly refer to and underline in the decision you take. Setting precedence is important, think hard about people flexibility decisions but offer as much flexibility in the workplace as you can. When you go on holiday, really do take a holiday, let go and allow others to step up and work matters and challenges out. They will know you well and smart people will more than often work out what decision you would make. You cannot expect others to step up unless they own accountability and are genuinely given the responsibility that comes with the leadership role.