20 Jun 4 Intangibles of Successful Sales Management Today
Yesterday, we were talking to a newly appointed sales manager – we will call him William. William had just received a double promotion in one of the largest software companies in the world – moving from individual contributor to a sales management role. He also inherited a newly formed (and hand picked team) custom built to sell to executives. In essence, William and his team were assembled from scratch as a sales experiment. He was 3-days into leading a brand-new “skunk works” sales team, and his job was to crack the code to making executive sales conversations more consistent. From his view, William had moved from high performing seller to a leader of high performers with the goal of – “Hey William, you need to figure it out!”
He has always been extremely focused on communicating value to his customers, or else he wouldn’t have been promoted into this position. The challenge before him is simple, and there is a lot at stake. That challenge? Help his company evolve the sales conversation to match the capabilities we have built in our cloud based, services model. He’s been asked to sell higher and sell more “all encompassing” solutions to customers.
That got us to thinking. For this sales manager to be successful, he’s got a lot of customer empathy, and he’s been successful in his own right. Certainly he can figure out what needs to happen in order to help his people drive the right results. But our question was; “While William possesses the right know-how—does he have the ability to affect the changes in his people and more importantly affect the changes necessary in the organization that supports his team?” What does it take?
Through our work with sales managers around the world, we have come across many William’s. If some managers have the right abilities to succeed, and they have access to the sales management tools provided by the company, what else do they need? In other words, if a new sales manager has the skills, the passions, and the tools, are there some other intangibles that will help them be successful?
Here are 4 key intangibles we have identified to help sales managers and salespeople overcome the tough internal challenges that exist when it comes to obsessing about the customer’s they serve.
Intangible 1: Grit
Grit is the passion and perseverance over the long haul. It is unremitting long term tenacity over a long period of time (over months and even years). When sales managers are successful, we often find they possess grit. It’s important to note that their grit isn’t about “making money.” Instead, it’s the grit to “make the customer successful.” This is a paradigm shifting statement that many top performing sales managers internalize, believe in, and live out. In fact, they have gone “all in” on making their customer’s successful. They are so extremely focused on the customer, that they don’t worry about how much money they are making. They break down internal barriers and build relationships to help the customer succeed in solving their problem. In fact, it seems that they would expend every last drop of human effort to move things ahead for their customer. They expect difficulty, but believe they can overcome it. Question: Do you have grit? Are you willing to do the work for your customer? Or do you find yourself wishing things were easier. To develop grit and achieve sales success, you must enter into the tough situations and overcome the internal friction to help your customers succeed. Do this, and you (and your team) will become unstoppable.
Intangible 2: Problem Solving
Businesses are changing. Customers are changing. That creates a lot of problems that need to be solved. Problem solving is an incredibly impactful skill for new sales managers because it allows them to overcome internal complexity and add the right kind of new value to customers. When paired with grit, problem solving is a huge success accelerator. Problem solving never goes unnoticed by the customer (even though it usually goes unnoticed internally). Problem solving with customers requires an ability to learn quickly and repeatedly. This type of “learning agility” is something that many sales managers don’t proactively to do. But, we have found when sales managers (and their teams) focus on solving customer problems and working together on those problems, their passion drives revenue. Learning agility is often fueled by an endless curiosity about customers. Sales managers who succeed often make it a point to learn something new about specific customers on a daily basis. And when it comes to solving problems for those customers, they become collaborators, Tweakers, and idea generators internally to find workarounds, come up with new approaches, and look for solutions that might work for the customer.
Successful sales managers use the problem solving intangible to face what seems like an insurmountable obstacle and work with it and figure it out. Better than that, they actually become addicted to learning about customers, the customer’s industry, and their own solutions. So much so, that actually believe their success is dependent about learning enough about their customers to overcome problems. Do you put yourself in confusing, broken, or insurmountable situations and figure them out? What problems do you believe exist with your customers and company? What can your team do to become more successful? Sales teams need more sales managers with this intangible.
Intangible 3: Self-Awareness
The economy has changed and many businesses are struggling to grow. As a result, some sales managers have found themselves in positions where their past approaches simply don’t work. Today’s successful sales manager has taken the time to assess their own personal strengths and weaknesses with regard to leading their team. And most of them realize their past results hasn’t necessarily set them up for future success. They have also figured out to how to get out of their own way. From our perspective, we find sales managers are the most successful when they:
- Focus on impressing the customer (Not impressing some important person in their life. for example, their parents or themselves).
- Help their customers succeed (not trying to help themselves, or ONLY their company).
- Embrace productive friction, where people may disagree or multiple perspectives don’t align (not seeking to “make everyone happy”).
- Cope with stress
The question that the most successful managers ask themselves is a pretty simple one, but it requires some humility. The question they ask: “Is there is a gap in understanding?” Additionally, they realize and embrace the fact they likely have no idea their blind spots exist. So, they build a network of trusted support and demand realistic feedback. Since the enemy of self-awareness if over confidence, successful sales managers look ruthlessly for blind spots and root them out. They understand those blind spots can be detrimental to their growth so they take proactive action to inspect their own limitations.
Intangible 4: Self-Sacrificing Concern for People
Since today’s customer is more demanding, the sales environment is more demanding. Successful sales managers realize their people will likely need help to make the leap to the next level. More specifically, they must close the gap between their solutions and the customer’s definition of value – when that gap seems to be growing on a daily basis.
To be successful, sales managers realize they must make themselves available to their people and build trusting coaching relationships so they can train, empower, and inspire their people to overcome complexity at the point of sale. More importantly, they take the time to help align individual salesperson passions to business outcomes and goals. Successful sellers realize that their team consists of human beings and express genuine concern for each person. Sales leaders with this intangible serve their team. They invest in them. And more importantly, they empower them to solve customer problems. Sales managers accelerate success when they lead out a deeper respect for their people.
So, there are the 4 hidden intangibles of sales management success. If you are a sales manager who believes you’re living out these intangibles, we encourage you to ask your team how well you’re doing. If you haven’t thought of these intangibles before, give one a try.
Good luck. And good selling!