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How to effectively lead a sales team

Consultant John Treace offers advice for any sales team leader looking to up their game.

3 min read


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John Treace is head of the sales and marketing consulting firm J.R. Treace & Associates. He focuses on helping publicly traded companies develop sales teams that will produce consistent results. SmartBrief recently asked Treace to offer some thoughts about how to lead a sales team.

How is leading a sales team different from managing other teams within a company?

The primary difference is that sales team are critically judged by their results, and often on a short timeline. Monthly quota reports or other metrics will regularly identify winners and losers. Other teams within a company usually aren’t monitored this closely.

Is there a natural tendency for salespeople to compete over sales totals and commissions? Should this be harnessed or reduced?

Salespeople are natural competitors; it motivates them to excel. High performers also show others that they too can succeed. However, care needs to be taken in deciding which sales numbers are made public and how they are released. The numbers need to be presented in a timely fashion because in two or three months their effectiveness will have already been reduced.

Also, the entire sales team needs to perceive the sales numbers as a fair representation of individual performance — if they don’t, team morale will be damaged. This is important because management efforts should always be aligned with creating and maintaining high team morale.

What’s the worst mistake a sales team leader can make?

Hiring the wrong person for the job. It isn’t who you throw off the bus that counts, but who you hire that differentiates high-performing managers from the other kind. Most people who are fired were the wrong hire in the first place. When you terminate a sales representative, you immediately put some customer sales at risk — even the worst sales representative has customers who have bonded with them.

What should leaders look for in a great sales team member?

A great team member needs to consistently make his or her numbers. They need a positive attitude even when times get tough because sooner or later every company has trying times. Also, great team members are mentors to others who are less successful; they freely share the secrets of their success because they are as motivated by the team’s success as they are their own. Finally, they show that they take pride in working for their company.

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