On Friday we discussed the three areas of focus used while driving; the windshield, side-to-side and the rearview mirror. We applied that analogy to sales people and their careers.
Today let’s discuss how the same principle applies to sales leadership teams.
There are many times in my 31 years of sales and sales management that I have seen sales leaders with their eyes so focused on the rearview mirror that their sales team’s and sales results suffered. I have at times been guilty of the same. It is no easy task to balance performance management and necessary improvements with exciting leadership and forward thinking.
I suggest the following as a good balance in most cases:
- Set your organizational goals for the year and the years ahead. Break them down into quarterly targets for this year.
- Individually mentor and assist the individuals on your sales teams in setting their personal goals.
- Identify the weaknesses of your team and lay out your plan for improvement
- Identify the people and resources you need to make your plan work.
- Communicate your plan to everyone – and sell them on helping you achieve the targets.
- In your daily, weekly or monthly communications with your sales people – make sure that the majority of the actual time is spent looking forward either in how to improve performance or how to achieve their goals. Ask them what their plan is – then mentor them on plan changes you see that may be necessary. Don’t simply dictate how they are to complete their work product.
Side To Side:
- Stay informed by reading constantly about your industry as well as your competitive threats.
- Ask your sales team to keep you abreast of what your customers are saying they need or are being offered by competitors.
- Monitor the activities and results of your team so that you may determine areas that need attention and may develop training accordingly.
- This is a tough one for sales leaders – but get your eyes out of the rearview mirror as much as you possibly can. You cannot succeed on history. If your focus is constantly on what your sales team has done well, your team will miss important changes that need to be made as your industry evolves. If you constantly focus on what your team has not done well, your team will develop a negative attitude and will come to resent your leadership style.
- Have regular and expected performance review sessions with the individuals on your team. Focus forward on their next time period for the most part, but also spend time in the rearview mirror looking at their activity and results for the previous time period – then advise and mentor accordingly.
- After each interaction with your sales team – evaluate the effectiveness of that meeting. Did you accomplish what you intended? Where could you have personally done better?
Be careful sales leaders – you may think you are mostly looking forward. You may think you do not need to change anything in how you lead your sales team. But if the majority of the time spent in direct communication with your team is focused on historical data and what is not happening correctly, they will not see you as looking forward at all. Their perception could be the complete opposite of yours.
Their perception is their reality; and their reality can determine your longevity.
Sales are ahead of you. Look there.
Do you have the courage to ask your sales team where they perceive the majority of your focus? Prove it – do it. 🙂