11 Harmful Factors of Sales Leaders that Can Ruin a Sales Force

The Gist:

  • Leadership isn’t an easy role, especially when it comes to leading a sales force.
  • There are many ways a leader might unintentionally ruin their sales force.
  • Reversing the factors that ruin a sales force will help make your team more engaged and effective.

There are a lot of ways to ruin a sales force. It’s rather easy to do, in fact, even unintentionally—and you may not even recognize the problem until it’s too late to turn things around. The following behaviors and beliefs will destroy your sales force’s effectiveness and their results. If they sound familiar, it’s time to start repairing the damage!

Lack of Leadership: Teams rely on good leadership to produce better results. Carrying a business card declaring you “senior sales leader” or “sales manager” isn’t nearly enough evidence that your team has a leader. A leader is responsible for creating the future and leading their team in achieving their goals and objectives. Without that work, a sales force will crash and burn as sure as the sun rises in the east.

A lack of accountability from sales leaders can neglect a sales force

Lack of Accountability: Any team, regardless of the endeavor, is going to be ruined by a lack of accountability. Each person has to do their part, yes, but they need a leader to hold them accountable. Young leaders worry about “micro-managing” because they are unaware that they can create a dominator hierarchy or a growth hierarchy. Without accountability, you ruin the team and everyone on it.

Low Standards: The poverty of low expectations is invidious: you ruin a sales force by allowing low standards. There is no person on any team anywhere that has reached their full potential; there is always plenty of runway available. Not requiring your salespeople to reach a higher standard allows every individual to continue a downward trajectory until the sales force is ruined.

Too Little Communication: Someone once said, “About the time you get tired of saying the same thing over and over, your people are just starting to listen.” Leaders who don’t continuously communicate with their sales force are ensuring a lack of leadership, lack of accountability, and more than likely, allowing low standards. Offer too little communication for too long, and the next time you speak up there won’t be a sales force there to listen.

Blaming external events is a poor way of effective leadership

Blaming External Events: A leader who believes that external events override their actions and prevent them from succeeding will invariably infect the people who make up their sales force, providing them with the very thing they need to rationalize poor performance. Whether it is the economy, competitors, or some other factor, you ruin a sales force when you provide excuses as to how or why they did not succeed.

No Growth and Development: People who are not required to grow are being allowed to shrink. No one should have a leader who doesn’t see something in them that they don’t yet see themselves. Yet in pursuing revenue growth, most leaders miss the prerequisite: building a group of individuals into a team that is capable of generating the results they want. One way to ruin a team is by not expecting—and requiring—them to grow.

A Poor Sales Approach: Too many sales organizations and salespeople are saddled with a legacy sales approach, one that doesn’t allow them to create value for their clients and prospects, differentiate themselves in a crowded market, and win the deals they need. The sales competencies necessary for consultative selling today are many, all of which need to be enabled by a leader. As Napoleon once wrote, “God fights on the side with the best artillery.” You can ruin a team by not arming them to win.

No Tactics or Strategy: A leader that doesn’t provide their sales force with an understanding of their strategy, along with the tactics that enable them to execute and win, is making sales more difficult. Without a strategy beyond “win deals,” the sales force is left on their own to discover how to create and win new opportunities, create a competitive advantage, and differentiate themselves from their rivals. The best strategy is nothing without the tactics that enable that strategy. This is where a lot of bad beliefs and behaviors are born.

Not Protecting Their Team: One of the more common ways to ruin a sales force is failing to protect their sales roles within the company. Say a client has a problem that starts in operations, or accounting, or some other part of the business, and it goes unresolved until the client is upset and calls your salesperson, who, with the best of intentions, solves the problem. Not too long after, the salesperson has morphed into an account manager or a customer service representative. Leaders that allow their team to do non-sales work are lacking a sales force.

A Detrimental Reliance on Leads: There is nothing wrong with getting leads. There is everything wrong with relying on leads instead of seeking targets, especially when you need to displace your competitor to acquire clients. A leader who doesn’t call their shots by providing the strategic clients they want to add to their client list, instead allowing team to believe that the next lead is better than the last one, is ruining their sales force.

Neglect: The simplest way to ruin a sales force is through neglect, something we might describe as a lack of care and feeding. Leaders who build an effective sales force recognize that they are working for and with the people that are working for and with them. High engagement, high expectations, and high caring is the best defense against the dark art of ruining a sales force.

Do Good Work:

  • Describe the traits of leaders you admire and have learned from.
  • Reflect on the best leader you have ever had. What did they expect from you and how did they demand your best performance in a positive way?
  • In what area would your team benefit from more time and attention now?

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Filed under: Leadership, Sales

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