While I tend to steer a wide berth around using sports related metaphors, I must acquiesce this once, as I believe the above quote from the much revered past coach of the Dallas Cowboy's, Tom Landry, is so profound.
If you want to become a truly great leader of sales people, his advice is well worth entertaining, because being a great leader of sales people means that you won't always be telling them what they want to hear.
Parenting, in a way, calls for the same application. A mother sees her daughter engaging in a behaviour that she knows will ultimately hinder her happiness, or success, or even worse, be destructive. Now, if this progeny happens to be a teenager, well, I think you know where I'm going with this; the situation can bring about tension and even ongoing argument. But the mother perseveres, even given the stress and angst it causes her, because she knows, in the end, it's what's best for the child.
A great sales leader is first, and foremost, a coach. And as Mr. Landry points out, being a good coach, again, doesn't always call for telling people what they want to hear, or failing to point out something they don't want to see. Being a good leader often calls for tough love, and as the coach quite rightly points out , it's the motive behind the tough love that isn't always apparent to the one receiving it, the motive of helping sales people be the best they can be.
For those familiar with The Challenger Sale™, a highly effective and much needed modern twist on what outstanding sales people do, and what those who aspire to become outstanding should do, you will find some advice that mirrors that of Mr. Landry. For those who are not familiar with the approach, much of The Challenger Sales premises can be reformatted from the context of what winning sales people do, to that of what winning sales leaders do, or should do.
So, with that being said, in no particular order, I offer the following;
1. The role of a sales leader should never be solely about tracking numbers and cracking a whip. Rather, the best sales leaders continually show their charges something new, but most importantly, why it matters.
2. Coaching, and therefore being an effective sales leader, is about coaching behaviours, not outcomes.
3. The best leaders grow their sales team's effectiveness not by discovering what the rep's already think they may need, but instead by introducing a whole new way of thinking altogether.
5. Sales leaders need to understand the difference between supporting development versus performance management. Performance management is the act of evaluating and confronting performance based on previously agreed productivity guidelines by both the employer, and the rep. Supporting development needs to be a distinct and supporting function, and support is almost always better received in a non- threatening and relaxed environment, which often conflicts with that of the performance management setting.
6. The best sales leaders aren’t so much world-class investigators as they are world-class teachers. They win not by understanding their sales person's world as well as the sales person knows it themself, but by actually knowing their reps world better than the rep knows it themself, and teaching them what they don’t know, but should.
This point brings me to a blog I published sometime ago; Blog #61 - A Desk is a Dangerous Place From Which to View the World. In order to be a superior sales leaders, or coach, you need to get out from behind the desk and acclimate yourself to what your sales force is experiencing today. The best sales leaders synthesize what they discover by keeping their ear to the ground with their years of experience into appropriate current day support. The best sales leaders don't sympathize, they empathize.
7. What data, information, or insights can you put in front of your reps that reframes the way they think about selling, and from that, how they approach their selling strategy.
8. In order to be an effective sales manager/coach, you need to be equipped and prepared to push people out of their comfort zones. Moving out of ones comfort zone is the only way to grow and improve one's game.
So, I could go on and on, but this is a blog post, not the Magna Carta. The point here is simple, in order to be a better leader, or coach, you need to be ready to challenge, not just people, but traditional dogma as well. Tom Landry was not only one of the winningest coach's in the NFL, leading the Cowboys to 20, yes 20, straight winning seasons, but that's not all. He was also one of the most loved and respected coaches in the league, not just by the fans, but his players over the years as well.
Moral of the story you ask? While people may not always appreciate tough love and direction, once they see the result, they soon better appreciate you.