• Gert Scholts

How to be a better Sales Leader

This sales tip is for sales leaders taking on new staff and how to support new starters.

For sales leaders September is a month when new starters join the team. Some managers apply the "in at the deep end" approach. Others offer training in a protected environment first.

So how do you lead a fresh sales person who has all the attitudes yet lacks experience?

Here is a view based on the situational leadership model.

New sales people need a lot of direction from their Manager when they start (S1). Good examples are product knowledge, systems knowledge and teaching how the sales process works. It also includes KPI driven activity management like 100 relevant new connections a day, x number of calls or y number of meetings booked per week.

As they develop, direction keeps being a key part of the support yet a sales manager should also deliver on the job support (S2). This includes joint sales visits, calls or proposal writing and of course 121 meetings.

When sales people perform and achieve their targets, the sales manager keep supporting (S3) yet KPIs become more outcome focused like quarterly targets or landing a large new client in 2018.

The very experienced and high performance sellers set their own targets and are motivated from within. They need low support and low direction (S4).

Situational Leadership describes the styles of management a manager could adopt based on each team members' competence level. By adapting their management style the manager influences effectively and gets closer to the (sales) results needed.

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard devised it in 1972. It still makes a lot of sense today for sales managers.

A bit more about the different leadership styles:

Telling And Directing

In telling/directing, the sales manager is the one making the decisions and informing others in the team of the decision. This style of leadership may also be referred to as micro-management as the sales manager is very involved and closely supervises the sales people. With this style of leadership, it is a very top-down approach and the sales team simply do exactly what they are told. A good example is repetitive Telesales activity where 100 calls a day have to be achieved using set scripts. In my experience many sales people find this style oppressive and pointless. However, if they are not achieving the results needed and not active enough, this style can be right to get people back on track.

Selling And Coaching

With the "selling" and coaching style of leadership, the sales manager is still very involved in the day-to-day activities. The decisions still ultimately lie with the manager, however, input is requested from the team before the decision is implemented. With this style of situational leadership, sales people are still supervised but it is in more of a coaching manner rather than a management manner. This style typically works well with those who are inexperienced and still learning how to sell. It involves direct praise to increase their confidence and self-esteem. In my experience, many sales people love praise and recognition. They see this as motivation and a way of getting better at their job.

Participating And Supporting

The participating and supporting style of situational leadership passes more responsibility to the sales people. While the sales manager still provides some direction, the decisions ultimately lie with the sales person. The sales manager is there to provide feedback and to increase their confidence and motivation with praise and feedback for the sales tasks completed and achieved. Those who work well under this style of situational leadership have the necessary skills but lack the confidence or motivation to achieve them. Experienced sales people who are out on the road a lot, could fall into this group.


Delegating is the situational leadership style where the sales manager is involved the least amount with the team members. They are responsible for choosing the tasks and the directions they will take. Although the manager may still be involved for direction or feedback purposes, it is on a much lower level than with other situational leadership styles. With this style of leadership, the sales persons know their role and perform it with little supervision required. I have seen this style being used successfully with long cycle high value sales processes and key account managers.

When used with new inexperienced sales people it often ends in tears!

If you want to find out more about sales leadership and managing sales people feel free to contact me direct on 07738010170

#salesteammanagement #teamwork #salesresults

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