As 2022 gets into full swing, here are some new year’s resolutions for sales leaders, key practices to add or improve on so your team is in a strong position to hit their sales objectives regardless of what new twists and turns lie ahead.
Sales leaders faced many ups and downs over the past year as we settled into the realities of remote work and virtual selling, while also dealing with turnover issues, questions of burnout and persistent uncertainties about the state of the pandemic. A new year is bound to throw more variables into the mix, but opportunities lie ahead as well, so long as we’re fully prepared to take advantage of them.
We checked in with our own subject matters experts to see what they’ve been hearing in the field about the critical gaps and most consequential actions sales leaders can take right now that will have that biggest impact for helping their team reach their sales objectives this year.
As you kick off 2022, here are some new year’s resolutions for sales leaders, key practices to add or improve on so your team is in a strong position regardless of what new twists and turns lie ahead.
Raise Your Sales Coaching Game
As Derek Roberts looks ahead to what we can expect this year, he sees challenge intertwined with opportunity: “It looks like 2022 will bring continued disruption in the marketplace while at the same time presenting a surge of business opportunities,” he says. “This combination can easily result in salespeople who are busy but not necessarily productive.”
That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for sales leaders and managers to be exceptional coaches. “Coaching is necessary to keep sales producers focused on critical and strategically significant activities that engage prospects and grow the business,” he explains. “Investing in individual coaching—especially for top producers—is one of the smartest investments that a leader can make to grow the business and retain talent this year.”
But we continue to see that many sales managers either aren’t making the time for coaching or don’t really know what effective sales coaching looks like. Our Pam Rodefer points out, “Most sales leaders spend time coaching to the ‘what and how’ of pre-call plans and post-call debriefs, and while that’s important, it leaves out a critical part of the discussion—the ‘why.’”
We know that mindset and belief boundaries can keep people from achieving what they’re truly capable of. That’s why great coaches dig deeper. As our Executive Partner Steve Schmidt says, especially now that so many are reevaluating their career journeys and what’s most important to them, both personally and professionally, “it is imperative for sales leaders to move away from coaching to numbers and activity and move towards coaching to the wants, needs and strengths of the coachee.”
Pivoting your coaching conversations to focus on the why and to support self-discovery, Rodefer says, can lead to lasting behavior changes and mindset shifts, which are critical to unlocking sales potential.
Help Top Performers Transition into Strong Sales Leaders
Many of today’s leaders were promoted to the role because they were top performers, but a star salesperson doesn’t always translate into a strong leader, manager and coach. As Mike Fisher points out, we need to make sure they have the tools to successfully transition to leadership. Otherwise, not only are their teams losing out, they may become disenchanted or frustrated with their new role.
Investing in your new leaders’ development can yield powerful results. From his own experience working with sales leaders, Mike shared, “When they learn how to have an effective one-on-one session to help others take ownership and reach their own goals, I see people light up and gain confidence in their leadership abilities.” That’s how you build and keep your next generation of great leaders.
Don’t Neglect the Fundamentals of Sales Leadership
With the increased emphasis on virtual selling and other technology-enabled processes that have changed many aspects of how salespeople operate, it’s important to remember that the core success factors haven’t changed.
“In today’s ‘what’s brand new and shiny’ world, we sometimes forget the importance of going back to the fundamentals and reinforcing the elements of the sales process on a continuing basis,” our Master Facilitator, Dave Larter, told me.
Things like effective preparation, asking high-impact questions and uncovering needs are, if anything, even more important in a virtual world. And they require consistent practice and attention. To keep the momentum going, Larter suggests asking your top performers to share what they do to maintain their elite status on a consistent basis.
“With so many distractions pulling teams in all directions, a commitment to ongoing learning and professional growth through regular team discussions of best practices is vital,” Jim Ryan told us. “It helps everyone stay connected and focused on the fundamentals of the sales/coaching process and serves to build team unity.”
Going back to the fundamentals applies to you as a leader, as well. Our CEO, Mike Esterday, recommends taking a page from the hit musical “Hamilton”:
- “Talk less. Listen more!” This applies in all areas of leadership— when interacting with your team, customers and the market.
- “Be in the room where it happens!” Think big. Be bold. Ask employees for their opinions. Talk with customers on a regular basis to understand their problems and issues. Your company may not be the biggest, but believe you deserve a seat at the table.
Make Professionalism Your Goal, Every Single Day
“Most leaders claim to be professionals, but we don’t always act like professionals,” Johnny Walker, one of our longest tenured facilitators, says. With all the books, blogs and podcasts we have available to us now, many have come to believe that taking all of this information will help us become more professional. While this kind of learning is important, Walker points out that it only gives you knowledge.
“Wisdom comes from knowing how to apply that knowledge, and professionalism comes when you actually do,” he says. The only way to maintain a high level of professionalism is to find something to put into practice every single day.”
He offers up some ideas from our programs that you can use to get started in a daily routine:
- Develop a set of questions in each of the five areas of the GAP Model that will help you coach your people more effectively.
- Adapt your original set of GAP Model questions to each of the four Behavior Styles (Do one Behavior Style each day.)
- Develop five great coaching questions to help someone discover for themselves what it is you desperately want to tell them.
- Sit down in a public location with someone on your team and attempt to figure out people’s Behavior Style by watching how they engage others.
- Ask open ended questions to discover how long you can keep someone talking without interjecting any thoughts of your own. (Time yourself, and try beat your last week’s record.)
- Ask your team to share which open-ended questions created the most productive conversations with their customers.
Most important, he says, is to assess how you’re modeling the behaviors you expect in your team.
Really, Truly Engage Your Sales Team Members
“The Big Quit” has gotten a lot of attention over the past year, but that doesn’t mean high turnover is inevitable in your team. Bruce Wedderburn challenges you to “make this coming year about how to connect more effectively with each of your team members with the goal of increasing their engagement and commitment.”
Here are a few ideas from Bruce on steps you can take over the next few weeks to work towards this goal:
- Do you know how each team member likes to be appreciated? Some like (and crave) public recognition. Another may prefer a personalized note. All of them want to be recognized and appreciated. Challenge: Take a few minutes and ask each person how they prefer to be recognized, and then incorporate their answer into your regular interactions with them. Note that most people will not want to say out loud, “I adore the spotlight!” But some secretly do. Others not so much. So, listen carefully to their answers and body language to find the real story.
- Connect each person to the purpose of your organization. How are you making a difference to the organizations, teams and people that you help? Challenge: Connect, in an authentic way, each person’s role to that greater purpose. Hint: It’s not about company profit and shareholder value.
- What is each person’s primary Behavior Style? What observations/evidence do you draw from to draw that conclusion? Challenge: Reflect on why you believe each person leads with a specific Behavior Style.
- What is one thing that you can do in your regular interactions with each team member to adapt to their behavior style? Challenge: You may have done this once or twice, but ask yourself if it is a consistent part of your interactions. What can you intentionally do in your next 1:1 to connect even more effectively?
Finally, take Johnny Walker’s advice: “Capitalize on your successes from last year and find at least two areas you can grow that will have the greatest impact on your team. Then create at least one daily action you can take in each of those areas.”
And don’t wait to get started! Now is the perfect time to commit to upgrading your sales leadership practices and give you the best opportunity to achieve your sales objectives this year.
Chief Marketing Officer
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