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Process, Performance, Partnership: The Three P’s of Leading a Sales Team

Whether you’re leading a sales team today or dream of doing so in the future, there are a few key skills you need to master. I call these the ‘Three P’s’ of leading a sales team and they cover the big differences (and occasional similarities) between sales and sales leadership.

Important leadership lessons


Process

Every company has a sales process but as an individual contributor you just had to follow it. (Or not.) As a sales leader, you’ll be building, maintaining and enforcing those processes. If you didn’t embrace them in the past you’ll quickly realize they’re the only way to control the chaos.

A well-maintained process will help you on two fronts. First, it’ll put your team on a level playing field, which makes it easier to assess needs and results. Second, it’ll make your life simpler when the higher-ups are looking for hard numbers.

If you’re struggling to keep tabs on your team, build a process or enforce the ones you have. If you want to break into sales leadership, learn to love analytics.

Performance

If you’re leading a sales team you can handle a quota. It’s a good start but you’ll need a broader perspective to succeed as a sales leader. Balancing individual performance and solid strategy is complicated and involves hard choices.

The biggest obstacle to success is an underperforming team member. You can show them the door but always remember to factor lost opportunities and replacement cost into your assessment. Even an $8/hour employee can cost a company $3,500 in turnover costs, both direct and indirect.

Overperformance isn’t a problem, per se, but you do have to keep an eye on it. One superstar can mask a weak team and superstars have a way of getting poached. It isn’t popular, but capped earnings, quota increases and territory shuffling are necessary tools for maximizing revenue.

Partnership

You’re a partner in the success or failure of your team. Embrace that and you’ve got a shot at turning a bunch of lone wolves into a pack. Resist that and you’ll always struggle to build buy-in, develop new talent and retain your top-performers.

It’s easier to play the “We’re all in this together!” card when you carry a quota but there are plenty of other tools at your disposal. Publicly acknowledge excellence, make sure the leads keep coming and create opportunities for growth and development. In short, do whatever you can to set you team up for success… and don’t throw them under the bus if it doesn’t go according the plan.