Sales Leadership: The Ultimate Balancing Act

By Michael Maske

Jim Kaiser, sales expert and CEO of Kaiser Companies, has 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 do they 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:Stay Customer-FacingSales 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, they no longer have the luxury of staying behind a desk. Times will demand that they personally get out there and sell. Suddenly they need to balance strategic sales management with tactical skills honed much earlier in their careers.It might seem tough at first to spin both of these plates simultaneously. But I’ve found that there’s nothing like getting out and practicing such tried-and-true skills as call planning, posing good questions, and confidently asking for the close. And getting face-to-face with a customer gives me insights I’d never get from behind a desk. Remember, you’re the best and most experienced sales person on your team. So get in front of your customers, stay in front of your customers, and where necessary use your special clout to close a deal.Evolve the MessageDo 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. Because a message that works under one set of economic conditions may not work under another. One year ago, we [TransMotion Medical] spent a generous amount of time telling potential customers about the technical benefits of our surgical chair and the value it represented to their hospitals. Today our customers’ interest begins and ends with cost savings, and customers are concerned about taking any kind of risk. So now we focus on how TransMotion Medical can save the hospitals money, and we spend more time lowering the perceived risk of purchasing our products. In short, keeping an eye on what plate currently spins the best has helped us serve our customers and stay relevant in the marketplace.Reach for the FutureA 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; however, a sales leader must take a different role. We can’t sit back and watch as the plates spin. We have to envision the next plate that we’ll need to start spinning in order to keep our sales momentum going. You say you’re not clairvoyant? Your sales organization probably is! At TransMotion Medical, our sales team is the group that spends the most time interfacing with customers. Our sales team members are often the first to perceive our customers’ emerging needs and desires. They’re also the first to hear about and report on a weakness with an existing product. As sales leaders, we need to make sure we serve as the conduit between the sales staff and the company’s development team. Because it’s in the best interests of us all to ensure that we offer the strongest possible products for tomorrow’s markets.Stay FocusedIf 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 ONE plate at a time.Good luck keeping those plates spinning!Michael Maske is a graduate of Arizona State University and currently leads the US and Canadian sales teams for TransMotion Medical. Michael is a veteran of the US Air Force and Army National Guard. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.