Three Must Haves for Strong Sales Leadership

A professionally dressed woman presents information to a group of four people in a conference room. She is partially facing them but look sat a white board as she gestures to a portion of the board.

Managing a sales team is a complex and challenging job. It’s also a very different job within companies of varying revenue sizes. In some cases, you’ll need to be a front-line seller, in others, you’ll need to be a sales strategy master. Yet in all sales leadership positions, you’ll have to have command of more than just sales skills, you’ll need to be able to lead others.

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Problem Solving Skills Dictate Your Success

A man sits at a desk with a blank note pad and a pen. He has thick glasses and a red bow tie. He is wearing a strange contraption on his his head that appears to be made out tinfoil and wires. There is a large wire extending out of the head devise that connects to a hand held control that the man appears to be operating. The man has a bewildered distant expression on his face.

Can You Solve This Puzzle?

Let’s take a look at a sequence of numbers and determine the rational reason for the sequence. These numbers are not my birthday, driver’s license number, address, or the key to my gym locker. There is a rational, logical reason for the order of these numbers. What is the rational reason for the order? Take a few minutes and see if you can figure it out.


8   5   4   9   1   7   6   3   2   0


Do you have an answer yet? If you haven’t figured it out, don’t be too miffed. One in twenty people come up with the correct reason according to Dr. Alan Weiss, a business consultant who has written about The Rational Sequence in a book called Process Visuals. 

If you didn’t solve the problem you most likely…

Categorized the problem as a math problem.

You gave it your best shot and instantly went to playing around with the numbers, quickly trying to unlock the right formula. Most likely you didn’t stop to think about it, you just aggressively attacked the problem.

Perhaps you tried finding the difference between the numbers, and checking for patterns. Maybe you attempted multiplying the numbers, subtracting the difference, adding 10, dividing by every third number, and so on.

Now here’s the big reveal—the numbers are in alphabetical order.

The point is, once you label anything, (a “number’s problem” in this case) you determine the limits of your ability to solve the problem.

The big question is……

How does this apply to you?

Our jobs are ultimately centered around driving more sales. How do we get more customers? Why don’t we have more clients?

How do we get new business now?

What are we going to do to meet our numbers this month?

This quarter? This year?

On and on and on….

We turn towards and look for solutions categorized on the assumptions we make about the problem.

Let’s imagine…..

The sales team hasn’t been hitting their numbers for several quarters. In our scenario, the reps are all motivated, hardworking, and eager to close business. What could be wrong?

You quickly label the problem as a “training problem,” and begin to focus on implementing the best training you can find. If your team’s performance remains flat, you look for more effective and relevant training.

If that doesn’t work, you hire more trainers, different trainers, high-profile trainers, sales fundamentals trainers, dog trainers, circus trainers, technical trainers…..and more!

Hey, you’re a persistent leader who always goes the extra mile, with a strong work ethic, and a core belief that you’re a problem solver, or you wouldn’t be in this role to begin with, right?

As our example demonstrates, once the problem is labeled, the solution will fit into the same category.

We labeled our lackluster sales performance a“training problem” and applied training solutions. When things weren’t working, and sales remained flat, we looked within the training problem solution set for more answers.

We persisted, but with the wrong solution set. We never stopped to questions our initial assumption that we had a “training problem.”

The point is this: cautiously categorize problems.

Quickly made assumptions can send you on a wild goose chase for solutions that will never produce effective results.


Because new ideas and remedies have to fit into the classification of the solution set, there’s no room for anything outside of the premise.

If you’re trying to solve a “numbers problem” with numbers, and it’s an alphabet solution, not even a mathematician will get you there.

The most productive thing you can do is take the time to thoughtfully identify and categorize problems; apply multiple remedies, and consistently evaluate your assumptions, paradigms, and suppositions.  

Because when you finally realize a “numbers problem” is solved with letters, you will get to the right solution.

Five Strategies to Keep Your Sales Team Engaged

Office team laughing and drinking coffee and eating pizza together in the office breakroom.

Engaged Salespeople Achieve More

With turnover costing more than you’d ever want to calculate, it’s no secret that keeping top salespeople happy is good for business.

Consider the following strategies when leading your sales team.

Strategy #1: Top salespeople need a good push.

Achievers love new challenges. They want to stay with an organization, but in order to do this; they need to be stretched in some way.

This could come from a new role, exploring new terrain or being challenged by additional responsibilities.

They need to be pushed to reach just beyond their current capabilities. If you can help them become better, give them fresh problems to solve, more responsibility, or additional roads to explore; your chances of extending their tenure with your firm will increase.

They will remain with an organization where they can stay engaged and immersed in activities just beyond their current capabilities. (For more insight, check out The Talent Code, Greatness isn’t Born It’s Grown by Daniel Coyle.)

happy faces employees

Strategy #2: Understand the drivers that motivate your salespeople. Current research concludes that Gen X and Gen Y are more likely to need praise than prior generations.

Executive leadership must create opportunities for them to develop new skills and take the time to understand what is driving their career objectives.

Here are the most common motivators for sales professionals: compensation, public recognition, incentives, purpose, autonomy to make decisions and leadership/skill development.

Strategy #3: Empower top sales performers. If you include your top sales reps in the decision making process, seek their input on new initiatives, and employ their good ideas, they are more likely to feel integral to the team.

When your reps believe that they have helped shape company policy, actively directed change or facilitated even minor improvements, they feel significant.

Strategy #4: The strength of consistent communication. One of the top complaints of many sales reps is their lack of accessibility to their sales manager. Unreturned phone calls and emails don’t go unnoticed. Your rep might not confront you directly, but they notice the behavior.

If you aren’t engaged, chances are they can easily become detached from your mission.

Pulling priorities sometimes leave reps at the bottom of the call-back list, don’t make this mistake too frequently or you might wind up calling back too late, only to find they have decided to move to another organization.

Strategy #5: Set a higher standard for the group. Be willing to exemplify the behavior you want your sales team to embrace.

Creating and maintaining a sales force that holds everyone accountable for bringing in new business and carrying their share of the group quota is a great way to build a winning team.

Hiring and developing a peer group of high achievers is one of the fastest ways to raise the level of the entire sales force, and will yield meaningful progress towards your revenue goals.

Surrounding your great reps with other ambitious sales pros eager to bring in new business, sends a clear message to everyone: “Get after it, hurry..hurry.”

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