5 Leadership Skills to Build a Stronger Team

Sales Management | Sales Leadership

Leadership and management skills often get confused and interchanged when talking about developing more effective front-line sales managers (FLSMs). But there are some key differences.

While one is not necessarily more important or better than the other, both need to be understood and developed in order to get the most out of your sales team.

Managers often get trapped in the daily grind of running the day-to-day operations of their team. But understanding and executing key leadership principles enables them to look toward the future and inspire their team to achieve even greater levels of success. Here are five principles of being a good leader.

1. Leadership is about having a vision.

Good leaders have a clear vision about where they want to take their team. Even within a small sales team, a good leader has a clear picture of what they can do to improve performance and increase their team’s contribution.

Managers, on the other hand, often get stuck reviewing countless reports and dashboards, attending numerous meetings, and focusing only on delivering short-term results. This often leads to them failing to see the bigger context.

2. Leadership is about being proactive.

Good leaders learn to proactively assess situations, anticipate problems that may occur, and act before small issues become big problems. By comparison, managers often find themselves stuck “putting out fires” and resolving urgent issues.

The more that leaders can learn to stay ahead, the more they can take action to prevent having their days hijacked by urgent problems only they can resolve. A good leader teaches their team to solve their own problems without needing the leader to ride to the rescue every time the team is presented with a new challenge.

3. Leadership is about motivating and inspiring people.

Good leaders inspire their teams to perform at higher levels, while managers often spend their time directing specific tasks and telling employees what to do and how to do it. Leaders understand what motivates individuals on their team and learn how to speak their language to get the most out of them.

Some individuals like public recognition and accolades, others just want to be left alone to do a good job. Some want to collaborate as part of a winning team, while others seek independence and are satisfied with producing excellent work on their own. The best way to find out is to ask each team member individually rather than assume they are all motivated in the same ways.

4. Leadership is about initiating change.

Good leaders are agents of change within their organization, whether they are formally tasked with this responsibility or not. When they see a problem that needs solving, they don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do; they take the initiative to figure out a solution and execute a plan.

While managers often spend time helping their team cope with change or responding to the impact of changes within the organization, good leaders initiate the change, embrace it and inspire their team to come along with them to a better place.

5. Leadership is about building people.

Good leaders take time to really understand the strengths and development opportunities of the individuals on their team. While managers may spend time training and coaching their people, good leaders work with the individual to build a development plan tailored to each person.

Leaders help the individual take ownership of their own professional growth. Good leaders realize that building a better team is one of the most valuable things they can do with their time.

Cultivating leadership skills in the managers of tomorrow.

It could be said that management is about handling today, while leadership is about building for tomorrow. Management activities are necessary for the daily operations of any organization. Reviewing the team’s performance, managing issues, responding to urgent requests and directing day-to-day activities are all important to the team and the overall organization.

But even as a front-line sales manager, building leadership skills, reserving time to focus on less urgent but more important strategic activities, and investing in the development of their team will increase a manager’s effectiveness and pay huge dividends in the future.

Learn how to transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers

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.