Sales leaders – 5 tips for achieving your best from McKinsey & Co


Sales management

Sales management

Centered Leadership, a new book from Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie at McKinsey & Co, introduces the importance of mind-sets to effective leadership. They note that unfortunately leaders often attack a challenge without addressing the underlying attitudes and beliefs that drive the challenge.

The authors focus on ideas that allow leaders to find new behaviors that improve their ability for leadership to emerge naturally.  Although the book is about leadership in general, we thought the lessons were particularly important for sales leaders.

Find your strength – As we’ve written before, sales leaders spend a lot of their energy focusing on weaknesses.  Of course everyone has areas that need improvement – but by shifting the focus to strengths, sales leaders can be more inspiring and are more likely to drive creativity and innovation in others.

Practice the pause – When facing demanding internal challenges and customer crises that generates stress, pausing and then reengaging can help shift a sales leader’s mind-set from the negative fear of failure – to a positive about success.

Forge trust – People define trust differently, so understanding how the members of your sales team perceive trust is critical to building it.  Barsh and Lavoie suggest four aspects of trust that deserve attention:

  • Reliability – keep commitments and deliver on promises
  • Congruence – align language and actions with thinking and feeling
  • Acceptance – withhold judgment and separate the person from the performance
  • Openness – state intentions clearly

Choose questions wisely – How you formulate a question has significant implications for how a conversation plays out with a sales director or sales manager. Questions like: What’s the problem? What’s the cause? Who’s to blame? Why hasn’t it been fixed yet? – more often than not leave the person on the other side of the table defensive.

When the conversation is focused on a problem where there’s a definite right answer all that might work.  But as issues become more complex sales leaders need to move away from problem-focused questions to ones that are solution focused – like: What would you like to see happen?  What are some of the alternatives we need to explore?  How can we get started to go about fixing that?

Make time to recover – Find 10 minutes twice a day to recover and recharge. Whether it’s walking up a flight of stairs, learning something new, gazing out the window, or a call or email with a friend – senior executives report that making time to recover helps them spend more time in high performance mode.

Summary – Sales productivity requires creating a superior sales team – moving from good to great starts with excellence at the top.

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©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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