GTP20: Three top tips for leading sales teams

IJP Consultancy

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2020 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2020 this involves 8 free workshops taking place between 2nd March and 27th March, culminating in a full-day Growth Through People conference on 2nd April. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Prime Accountants Group, Aston University, Curium Solutions and CIPD - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

The role of a sales ‘leader’ is many and varied. Without getting into a discussion around ‘leadership v management’, here we are talking about anyone who is in charge of a team of people whose primary role is to get orders and regardless of their title, be it Sales Manager, Director or ‘Head of’ etc.

Their first role is to Create the Environment to allow their team to succeed.
This comes in many guises but is predominately about removing as many of the barriers and as much of the noise around them as possible. This will then enable them to focus all of their efforts on selling.
It should never be forgotten however, that the sales person’s excuse book is both thick and well used! 

This role also involves being a sponge and filter for information coming down through an organisation as well as going up from your team.

Credibility – Sales people can be a fickle lot so it helps if you have ‘been out there and done it’. It certainly did for me when I was promoted to my first sales leadership role. I was suddenly managing people who the week before I had been working alongside. However they knew that I had been a high performing salesman for a number of years so it at least bought me time whilst I established my own leadership style.

However this will only last for so long. Once the honeymoon period is over you will quite rightly be judged on your performance in your new role.

I was quite fortunate that I took to it ‘like a duck to water’ and in spite of having a Sales Director who always saw the cost of everything and not the value and wouldn’t therefore send me on a Sales Manager training course, I was quickly delivering results and continued to do so. Within 3 years, and with moving of personnel in & out and some upskilling, I took a team of 4 delivering circa £1m of sales pa to one that delivered £5.4m.

That’s what gains you credibility!

Different Strokes for Different Folks – One of the arts of managing a team, any team not just a sales one, is to understand what motivates them. What motivates most people is desire, but desire for what? With some people it’s recognition, others it’s promotion and particularly for sales people, money is never far away.

Also your style and the way you treat people needs to vary from person to person. A good sales leader will know the individuals in their team well and what buttons to press and when. Sometimes it’s the carrot and sometimes the stick (and again, these come in all forms) and it’s not always the same for each person every time.

League tables of sales performance and their use is often an interesting subject for discussion. If I saw my name/team towards the bottom, my attitude would be ‘stuff that’ I won’t be seen there again, and I would move heaven and earth to make sure things improved for next time.

However I do know people to whom the opposite would apply. It would be a total demotivation for them and would just add to the downward performance spiral.

Another example of how knowing your team and how treating them individually is vitally important.
You will appreciate in this short piece I have only scratched the surface of what is a fascinating subject. We haven’t even mentioned psychology, training/upskilling, performance management and balancing short term v long term goals etc. so, if you would like to know more and/or think I can help you and your team, please get in touch.

Ian J Preston
IJP Consultancy

Contact details:
T: 07504 056368


Brief Personal Bio

Ian is a leading Business Coach & Trainer and Keynote Speaker.

He has spent the last 30+ years in Sales & Marketing and has taken a particular interest in the art, science and psychology of selling, which he has shared by leading, training & coaching many teams and individuals over the years.

Ian also recognised that LinkedIn was a massively underutilised marketing tool and now spends a lot of his time working with individuals and businesses to help them use LinkedIn more effectively to find, connect and engage with their ideal clients.

Ian heads up his own consultancy which provides training and coaching services designed to improve business and personal performance as well as providing services associated with improving school governance.