Assuming a leadership role in any organization involves taking on new ways to think about your job and how to do it. When it comes to sales, however, the transition to management can be even more daunting.
Michael Taylor, program director of the Schulich ExecEd’s Masters Certificate in Sales Leadership, explains that most sales leaders come to the job after achieving great success in a sales role. Many, in fact, retained their own responsibility to make quota while directing the efforts of others on the team. He calls these managers “super sales people”. But what happens when your responsibilities grow to include managing other sales supervisors or a much larger sales force and your own knack for selling is no longer how your performance is judged? This is the moment when a sales leader must acquire new skills they may not have learned yet.
Knowing how to take responsibility for overall sales goals and create a plan to achieve them by working through others requires a thorough knowledge of your organization’s strategy and a plan that allows you to align your efforts right down the what Taylor calls “street level”.
“You need structure, you need metrics, you need mechanisms to ‘guard rail’ what you need to do for everybody,” he says.
Adding structure to your plan to lead a sales team is the subject of the first week of the program, titled “Strategy – The What?” It is designed to give participants a new skill set that helps them link sales plans and growth to company strategy.
Corporate strategy fundamentals: No plan to achieve sales targets will be successful if it doesn’t align with your organization’s overall strategic direction. Understanding your company, it’s history and future, will help you design a plan that responds to what upper management has identified as the way forward.
Achieving alignment – Managing Up, Down & Across: Learning about your organization’s strategies involves working with upper management to understand the mission and communicate it down to the members of your sales team directly or, in larger organizations, through team leaders. A sales leader also needs to communicate across the company with other departments and win support for the overall sales plan.
Understanding the true Unique Value Propositions: Any plan to increase sales must be based on a deep understanding of how your products or services fulfil customers’ needs and differs from others on the market. This requires thought and a clear communication strategy that speaks directly to your customer. Knowing what those needs are demands you spend time and effort to understand your customer first.
Identifying leading indicators that you can manage for success: In the age of business analytics, there are numerous data points that can tell you how your sales plan is working – or not. A sales leader needs to understand these key performance indicators and how to move the needle. Leading indicators can also be used to see what your customers’ needs will be in the future and how to start planning to meet them today.
By creating a strategy using these key structural categories, the sales leader can create a road map to grow revenue, come up with a true corporate value proposition and learn how to read the leading indicators of future success.
The points in this article are from the first module of the recently revised Masters Certificate in Sales Leadership, a 13-day program running over three different weeks, starting March 30, 2020. The module is also available as a standalone course. For more information and to register, visit the program web page.