With the advancement of technology and globalization today’s business world is a fast developing environment in which companies need to be in a constant state of change in order to achieve positive results. This rule is the same when it comes to sales management, thus there must be continuous evolution to keep up with the innovations and competition that are always arising in the market.
Although it may sound like a simple thing to be done, changes are not that well accepted by everyone. In the sales management scenario, according to the 20-50-30 rule, “20 percent of people will embrace change, 50 percent will be neutral, and 30 percent will resist change”. It is clear that change is not an easy process, so a strong driving factor must act to help the changing process, and this factor is a good leader. A leader will inspire his followers to embrace change by highlighting the importance of the new process and the relevance that the team will have on that matter. The leader will motivate his team to accept it by showing that the leader himself also accepts it, and the followers will end up doing the same since they trust their leader. Plus, since one of the sales manager’s main attributions is to “develop a clear line of sight between sales actions, sales goals, and business outcomes”, a well-developed plan outlining all of the above will show that they know what they are doing.
Prepared leaders will focus their effort on those who want to embrace change, and present little or no resistance, to start working on the project. After doing that, the leader will try to gain the support of the neutral ones, which will come easier after they realize that 20 percent of people are already engaged in the new process. Last, the good leader won’t waste time trying to convince those who already have a resistance to change since they likely won’t accept it, so, unless they are necessary to the team, the leader shouldn’t count on their support. To accomplish this, the sales manager needs to lead his/her sales people both individually and collectively.
The most crucial factor that is directly related to a sales team success is the manager’s skills to lead and inspire the team to get the best results from every team member. Regarding individual salespeople, the manager has to deal with every member in a different way because different approaches motivate different people. If the manager, simply tries to push the same leading style to all team members he will not get the best possible performance out of them. This happens because people have different personalities, experiences, and abilities, so the aspects that drive them will also be different.
To achieve optimum effectiveness in leading individuals, sales managers can utilize a technique called Situational Leadership. This technique allows the leader to suit his leadership style to better fit his team members, which can be defined by tracing when he will have a relationship-oriented approach or a task-oriented approach. In the first case, the leader would be more supportive to his team members in order to develop and sustain a positive work relationship. In the second case, the leader would be more directive since his main goal would be to accomplish the task.
When using this technique, the leader can define which leading style he is going to use in each situation to each team member. There are four main styles that can be adopted: Telling, Persuading, Partnering, and Delegating. In the first one, the sales manager is high task-oriented and low relationship oriented, which will make him very direct and unsupportive. In the second one, the leader is high-task oriented and high-relationship oriented, which will make him very direct and supportive. In the third one, the sales manager will be low task-oriented and high relationship-oriented, which will make him very supportive, but he will provide limited direction. In the fourth one, the leader will be low task-oriented and low relationship-oriented, and he will be unsupportive and will provide little to none directions.
When sales managers apply this technique they get a much higher performance from their team members. Tailoring leadership styles to each specific salesperson and situation can better inspire and motivate people to achieve their goals, which is the major part about being a sales manager.
On the other hand, when it comes to leading entire sales forces the strategy must be different. The sales manager needs to focus on building a strong and cohesive sales force, which demands the development and maintenance of a results-oriented Sales Force Culture. In this topic, Sales Force Culture can be defined as the “total of values, attitudes, and behaviours that are shared by members of the sales force and that are expected of and reinforced to new members”. It is mandatory for sales managers to make sure that all their sales force is always working in accordance to these principles to get to a common high-productivity standard.
In order to achieve this high-productivity standard, the sales leader can reinforce the Sales Force Culture through four internal marketing “E” behaviours: “energizing, enabling, and empowering your team members, and ensuring that they achieve objectives and are recognized and rewarded for their accomplishments”. Following these “E” behaviours, sales managers will be able to develop “E” employees, which can be characterized by being trustworthy risk takers, supportive, suggestive, and total customer satisfaction driven.
Another important aspect regarding leading sales forces is leading sales meetings since they are a major factor to determine how successful a sales force is going to be. When leading a sales meeting properly, the sales manager is able to considerably improve the team’s numbers by motivating the staff to give it all to achieve their goals. Sales meetings can be used for man purposes, such as strategy planning (in which many members attend in order to define the team’s overall strategy), recognition (in which public recognition is awarded to members by demonstrating their value to the company), training (to inform and train the team about the company’s products or practices), Motivational (which is all about increasing the team’s morale and bonding between the salespeople), and feedback (which changes the scope from the manager’s perspective to the team’s perspective of how things are going).
Leading a sales force is a highly important task to any sales business. If done correctly, it can shift the company’s paradigm and cause a major impact in every single staff member, as long as the right techniques are applied and the sales force culture is being duly taught by the sales leaders.
 MACKENZIE, H.F. (Herb). Sales Management in Canada – 1st ed. (Toronto/ON: Pearson, 2008), p. 313.
 MACKENZIE, H.F. (Herb). Sales Management in Canada – 1st ed. (Toronto/ON: Pearson, 2008), pp. 320.
 DRAKE, Susan M., Gulman, Michele J., and ROBERTS, Sara M. Light Their Fire. (Chicago/IL: Dearbon Trade, 2005), p. 3.
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