Want To Be A Good Leader? Here’s What You Need To Know
Author: collin stewart
Kevin “KD” Dorsey is the VP of Inside Sales at PatientPop Inc. — the only all-in-one practice growth solution in the healthcare sector. He joined Predictable Revenue for a second time by popular demand to discuss the best ways to become a good sales leader. He breaks down whether a sales management position is suited to you in the first instance, followed by the steps you need to take to excel at every level as a sales leader.
What Does It Mean To Be A Good Sales Leader?
Most people view good management as hitting a number. Yet you can hit your targets and still be a bad manager. Being a good manager boils down to making your people better. “If I give you six people and 12 months later they’re no better than they were before, then I don’t need you as a manager”.
Interestingly, Google conducted a study where they explored the idea of operating without managers. To test this concept the company removed all their managers and was shocked to find out that people wished they had a manager! However, the reasoning was even more surprising. It was for conflict resolution only. “It was just for someone to make a decision if there was a disagreement. If that’s all managers are there for, the manager could have a 25-person team.”
As a leader, Kevin understands that this is only one element of management and that true leaders need to do much more. “I look at it the other way of making people better. That’s what I believe a good manager is. Your people get better over time working under you.”
Figuring Out If Sales Management Is For You
There are some effective methods to quickly determine whether a sales management role is for you. “I have three questions that I ask people when they tell me they want to get into managing. And very often it knocks about 50% of them off that path.” The three questions are:
- Are you willing to have your income controlled by someone else?
- Are you ready for me to be mad at you for what your team is doing?
- Are you willing to no longer have your income tied to your work ethic?
The first question is ‘cause for pause’ for a lot of people. It’s because they realize that their income is no longer based on their own performance but on that of others. “It goes against what most people say when they first get into sales. Because they can’t control their own destiny. You can as a salesperson. As a manager you cannot.”
The second question also makes people re-evaluate their desire to become a sales manager. Most people aren’t ready to fall on the sword for their team’s behavior or subpar performance, and it’s hard to hide it even if you say otherwise. “Generally speaking, I can read their response no matter what they say. There’s a pause on some of these and I catch it. I go ‘Okay, so you don’t mean what you’re saying.’”
A lot of people also drop off after the third and final question too because they can no longer just work their way to a target. “Just because I’m putting in 60 hours a week, or 70 hours a week, it doesn’t necessarily mean that my reps are going to close more deals or book more meetings. There’s no longer that direct correlation because now your job is to change behavior.” Whereas before it was your behavior, the responsibility is now to change other people’s behavior, which is a lot more challenging to accomplish.
These questions help to highlight the difference between being a manager and a leader. “You can be a leader without being a manager. Once you’re a manager, you’re responsible for results. A leader can impact and influence results but as a manager you’re responsible.”
Where Should Sales Managers Spend Most Of Their Time?
To be effective, sales managers need to spend their time in the right places. The 80/ 20 rule, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities, applies here. While almost everyone knows the rule, it’s often applied incorrectly. To get it right, it’s important to firstly understand your primary job — to make your people better. When you’re clear on this point, there are three core activities that will help you to achieve this goal. Each of these is summarized below.
- Properly run one-on-ones – Ensure there’s an agenda and action items. This enables sales reps and also yourself as the manager to come prepared and work together through the session.
- Observation – This includes call reviews or process reviews. It helps you to understand what your people are doing and running into on a regular basis.
- Role-plays and practice sessions – Here you carry out activities that develop skills. Through effective coaching that enables sales reps to practice regularly, their skills can improve significantly over time.
Leveling Up From Sales Manager To Director Of Sales
There’s a big difference between managerial sales positions and sales director roles. As Director of Sales, you’re working on organization-wide systems, processes, and issue diagnoses. In a nutshell, “A manager does. A director decides.”
Whereby a manager’s thought process might be ‘What do I need to do to improve the reps or boost our revenue,’ a director needs to have a proactive problem solving mentality, which is very different. In effect, “A manager makes you aware of a problem but a director helps you find a way to solve it.”
So as director, you first need to identify an issue, which includes establishing why it is an issue to begin with. From there, you’ll need to create an effective process to fix the issue, incorporating useful benchmarks that inform performance. Thereafter, it will be your responsibility to roll out the process and measure the results for effectiveness.
A lot of managers will get to a directorship position and still act like a manager. They’ll still identify a problem and look to a higher-up for a solution. But those decisions are now your responsibility as a director.
Transitioning From Director Of Sales To Sales VP
On the VP level, the focus is on high-level direction. The director decides and directs but the VP takes this process to another level. As the VP, your role extends beyond deciding where the company is going, as well as the best path and processes you’ll need to get there. You also need to walk the other side of the line as well. That means you’ll need to communicate activities and results up to C-suite or the board, and contribute to the development of the operations plan, for example.
“Generally, a manager is looking weekly and a director is looking quarterly. As a VP, you should be looking yearly.” To successfully transition from a director to a VP, you have to be better with numbers. That’s because above and beyond the activity, “you have to look at your connect rate, conversion rate, contract value, seats per user, sales cycle, cost to acquire, reject rate, etc. and then break all that down by channel.” This will help you to navigate the terrain ahead of you and more efficiently reach your objectives.
“When I came over to PatientPop, we had one of our inbound channels that was our highest lead volume channel and our lowest lead conversion channel. We doubled down there and 4xed the lead conversion rate in that area over three months. That generated millions of dollars in revenue. That’s VP! You’re saying ‘What are my levers that will have a company-wide impact’”
The Bad Habits To Avoid In A Sales Leadership Position
There are several bad habits you need to avoid as a manager, director, or VP. Steering clear of the traits below will put you in a far better position to excel in each respective role.
Not Being Present
As a manager, you could be in a one-on-one meeting but could also be in Slack or emailing during that meeting. You may be there physically but it doesn’t mean you’re actually present, which is counterproductive. Your people should have your full attention during any interaction you’re part of, whether that’s a 30-second chat or an hour-long one-to-one. As a true leader who manages, “you need to be intentional with your time.”
Communicating Without Context
Some leaders get into the habit of telling people what to do without reason. Failure to explain why a rep needs to do what they’re doing could mean there isn’t a good reason to be doing it in the first place. It makes you challenge your own thinking as a manager and also helps you to get buy-in from your team when they have context on why they must do something in a certain way.
Telling/ Teaching Instead Of Coaching
There’s a marked difference between telling/ teaching and coaching. Many leaders fall into the trap of assuming the concepts are the same when they’re not. Teaching is, in effect, telling your sales reps what to do and how to do it. But coaching goes further. It involves providing active feedback during practice. It’s more hands-on and is the standard practice in any sector outside sales. “If you’re coaching any sport, any instrument — the coach is watching you do the thing and giving you feedback on it in practice. Not just in the game.”
How To Earn The Opportunity To Be A Sales Manager
Simply reaching a sales managerial position is a big challenge, even if you’ve answered ‘yes’ to the three original questions that help to determine whether the role is for you. It’s a numbers game. The higher you want to climb up the hierarchy, the more competition there is for fewer positions.
To earn that opportunity, remember the mantra of making people better. You can start doing this before you ever move into a management position. It could be organizing role play sessions, call sessions, and helping to build a scorecard while you’re still a sales rep. “If you can’t make people better around you when you’re a rep, you sure as hell won’t be able to do it as a manager!” This same concept applies the higher you move up the ladder. When you become a manager, you need to start thinking and operating like a director, and so on, if your goal is to continue progressing up the organizational chain.
If you would like to hear more from Kevin about what it takes to move up the sales ladder, and excel at every level, watch his full conversation with Predictable Revenue here.
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