Why Sales Leadership is Like Spinning Plates
Michael Maske

Jim Kaiser, sales expert and CEO of Kaiser Companies, once said, "Sales leadership is much like spinning plates. The key is to keep them all spinning and not let any fall."

With all those plates spinning at the same time, where should sales leaders focus their efforts for maximum effectiveness? And how should you balance today's efforts with the preparation necessary for a successful tomorrow? Here are three areas that can challenge a sales manager's balancing abilities and how to approach them:

Stay Customer-Facing
Sales managers spend a significant amount of time focusing on management issues, including staffing, sales training, mentoring, and meeting corporate sales goals. But when things tighten up, you might have to personally go out and sell. This requires balancing strategic sales management with tactical skills. Remember that you're the best and most experienced salesperson on your team. So get in front of your customers, stay in front of your customers, and (when necessary) use your special clout to close a deal.

Evolve the Message
Do you think you have a killer sales spin that differentiates you in your marketplace? Think again. As the economy changes, that particular plate might develop a significant wobble. Be aware that a message that works under one set of economic conditions may not work under another.

Reach for the Future
A salesperson is paid on what he or she sells today. There is no financial incentive to sell what might be available a year from now. But sales leaders must take a different role. Always envision the next plate that needs to start spinning in order to keep sales momentum going. Sales leaders need to serve as the conduit between the sales staff and the company's development team.

Stay Focused
If the balancing act you face each day sometimes seems impossible, think about David Spathaky. In 1996 he spun 108 plates simultaneously – a record that still stands today. Sometimes your challenges might seem just as overwhelming. The key is to stay calm and confident. David's secret was that he focused on just a single plate at a time.

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