From Sales Manager to Sales Leader

By Lain Ehmann

Leadership is not something left to presidents and CEOs, says Florence Stone, author of The Essential New Manager’s Kit (Dearborn, 2004). “If you’re responsible for the performance of a group, then you’re both a manager and a leader,” she explains. “Leadership is something we all do at some level.” Here are some of the key attributes employees want from their leaders.

Clarify direction. The leader’s responsibility is to provide a sense of purpose for the team. It’s hard to convince people to follow you if no one has any idea where you’re going.
Be the master of your skills. Most sales managers reach management level because of their success at selling. This, fortunately, makes it easy for your team members to trust that you know what you’re talking about when you coach them or offer advice, says Stone.
Keep the focus. Good leaders cut through the fog and provide clear focus for their employees.
Listen intently. Your listening days didn’t end when you stopped calling on customers. Your sales reps need your undivided attention as much as your hottest prospects did.

  • Coach the team.Offer your team members opportunities to grow, recommends Stone.
  • Be patient. While patience can be a hard skill for dynamic salespeople to learn, it is a key part of leadership. Knowing when not to act can be as important as knowing what to do.
  • Be passionate. Don’t expect your team’s energy and excitement to reach levels higher than your own. Share your commitment to achieving your goal, recommends Stone.
    Perform. Know how to execute at a high level and coach your employees to do the same.
    Use vision as a guide for day-to-day behavior. Translate long-term goals into everyday actions for yourself and your team.
    Earn your employees’ respect. Team members want a leader they can trust and respect, says Stone.
    Show courage. When you demonstrate your willingness to act for the group’s best interest, employees will fall in line behind you.

    Despite the length of this list, Stone says salespeople may find it easier to assume the role of leader than of manager because of their personalities. Why? Because managing can’t match the excitement surrounding leadership, which is a natural draw for most salespeople.

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