4 Key Mindsets for Successful Sales Leadership
Sales leaders often achieved their position based on their individual success and personal attributes. But when their role shifts to motivating and inspiring teams, improving attitudes, focusing on long-term vision, and helping initiate change, sales leaders’ mindsets need to shift as well.
For a better understanding of leadership mindsets, we turned to Leah Clark, Senior Director of Leadership Development at GP Strategies. The company’s research on mindsets looks at what it takes to bring these leadership attitudes and their associated behaviors to life.
Mindsets are a particular way of thinking, shaped by attitudes and opinions, that guide and influence the actions we take. Clark said their research has found that the following four mindsets are particularly important for leaders to establish.
A growth mindset is characterized by the belief that skills and behaviors can be cultivated through effort. This is the opposite of a “closed mindset” that assumes someone either “gets it or doesn’t.” When a leader has a growth mindset, they see setbacks as opportunities to be more persistent and try again. They help create a coaching culture within an organization, supporting individuals in learning, growing, and expanding their skills.
Sales leaders demonstrate this mindset when they:
- Provide appropriate coaching to ensure their team members succeed.
- Identify the unique skills of their team in assigning tasks.
- Provide support that encourages individuals to take risks.
- Communicate confidence in their employees.
- Provide a safety net if their team members don’t succeed.
Leaders with an agile mindset believe that success in a complex and volatile world requires flexibility, adaptation, innovations, and resilience. We’ve seen the importance of this throughout the pandemic, when the business and work environments have changed rapidly and unpredictably.
Clark said leaders with an agile mindset see empowered, autonomous team members as an indicator of success. They encourage team members to make decisions without their constant input.
Sales leaders demonstrate an agile mindset when they:
- Adapt to workplace dynamics and obstacles.
- Demonstrate an ability to bounce back from challenges.
- Make decisions efficiently.
- Adjust to issues outside their organization.
- Leverage data in a way that is useful and relevant.
Most importantly, failure is not stigmatized within an organization that prizes an agile mindset. Therefore, leaders can allow team members to “fail fast” without fear of retribution. This leaves space for performance to rise as team members take on new challenges and build confidence in shifting their strategies as needed to produce the desired outcomes.
Exceptional leaders share the belief that contribution and performance are unleashed in an inclusive environment. “When folks feel a sense of belonging, they are able to bring their whole selves to their workplace and their team,” Clark said. “They’re able to contribute in ways that foster greater innovation and uncover new solutions.”
It takes courage to risk going outside one’s circle of trusted allies and bringing everyone on the team into the process of making decisions. Yet leaders with an inclusive mindset do just that, overcoming personal unconscious biases and spurring self-reflection in those around them.
Sales leaders demonstrate an inclusive mindset when they:
- Regularly invite input and feedback from people who look, think, or behave differently from them.
- Recognize their own unconscious biases and proactively account for them.
- Take actions to stop micro-aggression or other biased behaviors when they see them.
- Prevent the formation of an inner circle versus creating openness and transparency for all.
- Initiate and sustain conversations about inclusion and diversity.
The belief that success is maximized when we prioritize the needs of the organization is central to an enterprise mindset. It’s strategic, big-picture thinking that smashes silos.
Leaders demonstrate an enterprise mindset when they:
- Link team performance to organizational outcomes.
- Provide clarity around goals.
- Facilitate efforts among different groups.
- Share talent to achieve goals.
- Celebrate shared accomplishments.
You can tell an enterprise mindset has taken root when employees can use their own language and make personal connections to company goals and leaders’ actions and decisions reflect broader thinking. Employees begin to see how their work fits into the bigger picture, which can be very motivating.
This mindset can be challenged by day-to-day urgent tasks and temporary setbacks, as well as the hard task of linking motivation and performance to the company’s vision And if a leader’s personal values don’t connect to the company’s, they will be hard pressed to establish an enterprise mindset. But it’s worth striving to overcome these challenges for the payoffs of increased contribution, engagement, and retention.
When sales leaders demonstrate these four mindsets, their teams will push the boundaries of what is possible, seek diverse approaches, and feel empowered to make decisions for the greater good. These mindsets establish a workplace that drives innovation and performance.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.