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Cultivating effective sales leaders

By: Salesloft Editorial


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Good leadership qualities alone aren’t enough to create a good leader.

Many people appear to naturally possess the skills necessary to take on more responsibility. However, those individuals can still fail in a new leadership role if they don’t get the support and training they need to be successful.

If you’re a sales coach and you’ve found the right candidate for the role, let us first say congrats! That part of the process is still easier said than done. But before you throw your prospective front line leader into the sales deep end, prepare them to put their best foot forward with a few simple rules to ensure success.

First, develop product expertise

Sales enablement is an important part of nurturing a successful sales team, and you’ll want your next front line manager well versed in the day-to-day vernacular of your team. Training sessions and materials for new products, messages, and campaigns tend to focus on just the sellers, ASRs, and AEs — often overlooking these vital manager roles altogether. But when sales reps have a question, who do they go to first? Their manager! If sales is going to succeed, senior leadership needs to make sure the front line leaders are the real experts from the start with thorough product onboarding.

Then, set them up for success

It’s not fair to expect first-time leaders to know how to head up a team without any special training. Like any newbie to a job, inexperienced front line leaders will need some extra help to hit the ground running.

It’s your job as a sales coach to create a development plan for your new manager. The plan should focus on how to coach the reps under them to live up to their potential, how to manage the sales process, and how to share best practices.

Invite your new manager to regular team meetings with other more experienced front line managers, so that your new leader can learn from their peers and replicate those successes. 

And most importantly, make sure that they are first in line for any sales training. You’ll also want to give them space to ask questions without judgment so that they can more easily find answers to the gaps in their leadership knowledge base. After all, you’ll be relying on them to keep their sellers informed and up to speed.

Next, respect their experience

Front line sales are an organization’s direct line to the customer, with tons of hard-earned experience about what the customer needs and what will (and will not) resonate in the field. Unfortunately, the people who are usually the first ones cut from any cross-functional program planning are front line sales. The irony!

If that voice is gone, it can really hurt an otherwise promising cross-functional sales or marketing initiative. Even worse, when you fail to get your front line leaders involved in the early stages of planning, it may be hard to get them to rally behind the program — especially if they have reservations about the message or the execution.

Up-front executive sponsorship is crucial. And big initiatives demand cross-functional alignment between marketing, product, and other stakeholders. But it is just as important to get your front line bought in early and give them a real seat at the table. That way, when you roll out key initiatives, they are already on board and invested in the outcome.

Finally, give them tools to scale

No one can deliver results without the right resources. For front line sales leaders, that means having robust sales engagement, tracking tools, and performance optimization.

Ideally, the front line sales leader will have tools that make it easy to track both team and individual performance through relevant metrics and benchmarks. Modern sales engagement platforms may include AI technology that can spot inconsistencies in deals and suggest best follow up actions — improving rep performance while relieving your manager of time consuming, labor intensive work.

Front line leaders are also expected to provide continuous coaching aligned to the sales process. The right tools can make that easier. So harness the sort of apps that provide your new leader with deep reporting on both team and individual performance for prospecting and opportunity development. Bonus points if your tools flag deals that could be at risk.

It all comes down to investing in success

Can your top reps become good front line leaders? Of course they can! They understand the product, know how the market operates, and have a strong rapport with customers. But those skills alone don’t instantly translate to success in a new and different role.

It can be tempting to reward performance with a more challenging set of responsibilities, but promoting the wrong person to leadership affects the entire team. Losing one great seller is nothing compared to a team-wide failure and a negative sales culture.

To turn a top-performing sales rep into a top-performing team leader, you have to nurture this person’s natural strengths with quality training, ongoing support, and the tools they need to thrive. 

Start from a growth mindset at the beginning of their leadership journey, and you will have a new, successful front line manager in no time — and a winning sales team because of it.