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Are You the Maestro of Your Sales Team?

This was a musical weekend. On Friday evening, we went to the Knoxville Symphony, which was featuring the final program by Lucas Richman, who has led the symphony for the past 12 years. Sunday was Music Sunday at our church, with bell choirs, guest musicians, the adult and children's choirs and many ensembles -- it was a festive morning. In both situations, there was no doubt as to who was in charge and who knew the details: the maestro.

As I listened and felt the music, I was intrigued by how the maestros in both events led their respective teams. They anticipated the next movement or group to contribute and kept the pace that was required to succeed. They were always just ahead or anticipating the next phase.

Obviously, I am drawing the analogy back to you as the sales leader. In each concert, the maestro/conductor had to assume the same role as those with sales responsibilities. I see many times where the executive or sales manager is caught off guard by missed forecasts, a team member leaving unexpectedly, unsuccessful marketing or salespeople who cannot accurately sell their company's products/services.

The role of sales leadership must incorporate levels of management, a strategic vision and tactical programs, as well as the emotional aspect of creating an environment for success. What can you do to become a better conductor or even a maestro of your sales team? It is not easy -- that is why most sales managers fail in the first 18 months. I have listed below a few of the actions that we see missing when sales managers are struggling:

  • Taking time to ponder. Find your own private time to think about your team, the direction in which it is heading, what's working, what's not and the next six-month plan. I used to do this at least once a week or whenever I was flying frequently. I would shut down the work and simply take a blank tablet and write notes to myself as issues popped into my mind. In the concerts, both conductors discussed why they picked the music for each concert -- they had taken the time to make sure that the music fit the event.

  • Scheduling formal one-on-ones. These monthly meetings are not about the forecast; they are designed for you to have a conversation with your team members about how everything is going. A good leader has insights into the personal and professional lives of each person on their team. They learn what motivates them and what doesn't. This meeting allows for open communication and a building of trust. This level of trust is crucial in high-performance sales teams when personalities and tensions sometimes cause conflict. Learn to read your team. In an orchestra, each group of musicians, from violins to horns, meets with the conductor to ensure they understand the piece of music and what is expected.

  • Studying and learning accountability. In a research study we did several years ago, we showed that most entrepreneurs failed at holding their direct reports accountable. We see the same with most sales managers. Dashboard and CRM reports are one thing, but does your team -- as individuals and together -- feel accountable to achieving the organization's goals? This is not micro-management regarding doing the numbers, but rather an understanding that the team must achieve its goals as it is its responsibility to the rest of the members of the organization who are not in sales. The sales leader must reinforce this whenever possible, especially during the monthly company meetings with all the employees. The maestro, I am sure, reinforced to each musician their individual contributions and importance to the overall concert.

  • Focusing on continuous training in the field or in the office. The maestro congratulated the No. 1 chair with a handshake but recognized the entire orchestra whenever the audience responded. He made sure that everyone knew the music but set a standard in recognizing those who had taken the time to master their craft. I am sure there were many rehearsals before the main event! It is the sales manager's job to evaluate each salesperson's talents and skill level and to develop team and individual sales training programs. Increase the level of professionalism at all times. In June we will be releasing a series of five online videos of sales management training courses.

  • Putting systems in place. When we go onsite to consult with organizations, it is not unusual to find no new-hire on-boarding programs in place, limited sales training or sales meeting templates/agendas being used, and a lack of solid sales process or interviewing/recruiting systems. Struggling organizations thrash back and forth as if they were putting fingers into the dikes to stop the flooding. It's a continuous circus of confusion and frustration -- nothing seems to work. This breeds ineffective teams. Leadership must act on a continuous quest for quality improvement. One of the reason our Sales Managers Tool Kit is one of our most popular resources is there are over 40 tools/documents and best practices included. Take a look at it before you consider re-inventing a process or sales management tool. Each conductor had his or her music sheets ready, each musician knew when to change chairs, the microphone worked and the lights went down and up at the appropriate times. There was a system in place. Even the ushers knew when and how to escort us to our seats!

These are just five ideas. What ideas do you have to increase your level of success? I encourage you to share them with our community. Have a fun time and dance to the music.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on May 19, 2015 at 10:52 AM