6 Leadership Questions Sales Managers Must Ask

Effective sales leadership is a critical part of the success of an organization, but too many organizations are functioning without it. I recently spoke during the Salesforce Series Pass webcast from San Francisco and discussed what it means to be a sales leader that adds value to your organization; both the leadership above you, and the salespeople below. During the session, I was posed a series of six questions about how sales leaders can measure and improve their effectiveness.

Below are those six questions, in a format that you can ask yourself as a sales leader. You can watch the full Series Pass replay on-demand, here.

1. What is my role as a sales leader?

Help others see and achieve goals they did not think were possible. This requires developing people on your own team. Many sales leaders spend too much time sitting at their desk, and are not nearly as customer-focused as they should be. When it comes to their team, sales leaders often think they spend more time developing their sales teams than they actually do. When I talk about professional development for salespeople, it’s not about looking at their pipeline, it’s about helping them become better critical thinkers and understanding their customers better. Initially, you should spend 5% of your time, minimally, developing salespeople (that’s only two hours per week) with the goal being to increase it to 20% of your time.

2. How do I know if my sales leadership is actually making a difference?

There are a couple of ways I look at this. First, ask yourself: “Am I bringing my salespeople insights and ideas?” The role of the sales leader is developing relationships, which is a lot easier if you’ve been out in front with customers. Second, ask: “Are my salespeople being seen as leaders? Are they being asked for insights and ideas that go beyond just what they sell?” You and your team should have customers coming to you, looking for insights and ideas.

I also look at the percentage of sales being made with a discount, and whether that percentage is decreasing year in and year out. If you are an effective sales leader, you’ll be able to close more sales with less discount.

3. How should I set my strategy and communicate it with my team?

How many times have you said or heard: “These are the numbers. You shall go out and make them.” Many sales teams are given a strategy with which they never had any input. This is the wrong way to do things; as a sales leader, you need to be in touch with the organization, both up the food chain and with your salespeople. When you do this, your sales team will feel like they’re engaged and being listened to, and will do a much better job executing. And your strategy is not just a one-time thing. It has to be evaluated on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

4. What is the role that I should play with customers?

You should be involved with your customers at the beginning of the fiscal year. If, at the end of the year, you’re sitting there closing deals for your salespeople, not only are you not being the right kind of leader, but you also don’t have the right team. You should be setting up meetings and having conversations with customers, bringing insights and ideas to the client and gaining perspective from them, not simply to close existing deals.  If you’re seen as a valuable person who can bring insights, it will get you more meetings and more conversations.

5. How can my leadership impact the way that sales is perceived inside the company, particularly with marketing?

It is absolutely imperative that sales and marketing get along. Within your organization, sales and marketing should see each other’s lanes. Salespeople should occasionally sit in on marketing meetings, and marketers need to get out on sales calls. This will make you money, because with this approach, marketing will really understand what sales is doing and vice versa. As a sales leader, you need to stop any conversation in which sales is complaining about or disparaging marketing. You should embrace what comes out of marketing, and show your team how to use it. And if you don’t agree with what marketing is doing, go back to marketing and have that discussion with them; don’t air it out in front of your team.

6. What does leadership look like in a high-performing sales organization?

The best way to measure good leadership is to measure results. First, look at whether your team is being asked to share their critical insights with customers and if they are being asked by customers to contribute to their strategy planning meetings.  Second, find out whether your salespeople are being recruited away by competitors. Competitors want to hire your best people, and if you have a team that is being actively recruited by other companies, you know you’ve got a high-performing team. Finally, look at the development of your salespeople, and whether they embrace learning and development on a 24/7 basis.

For the full conversation with Mark Hunter, watch the full Series Pass replay on demand here.

Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Selling.