The Essential Guide To Effective Sales Team Leadership

Posted by Kevin Beales

Sales leadership success doesn’t ‘just happen’. It’s a combination of factors that come together to make something bigger than the whole. You need a great product to sell with the right marketing activity behind it. You need salespeople with the right skills to connect with prospects and move them through the sales journey. You need the right tech tools to help your salespeople become more productive. 

However, you also need effective leadership at the top of the sales team. Without that, everyone pulls in different directions and you can never be successful. 

In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to be a great sales leader, including coaching strategies, goal setting, managing diversity and creating a performance culture in your sales team. We’ll do it with the help of two of MySalesCoach’s coaching experts, Nigel Arthur and Steve Myers’s, alongside our Head Of Sales, Mark Ackers.

Let’s get started.

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Understanding the Role of a Sales Leader

So, what is sales leadership? Quite simply, sales leadership is about doing everything you can to help your team hit the goals you set for them. Whatever blockers are in the way of your sales team achieving their goals, it’s the leader’s job to remove them so each team member can be the best version of themselves. 

Strong leadership is essential in a sales team. 

‘Even if you’ve got great individuals that know how to sell, unless the manager is there to sweep the road in front of them and clear the path to victory, the team will not be able to hit the plan.’ - Mark Ackers

The best sales leaders possess a combination of attributes, including:

  • Communication – Good leaders are clear in how they communicate, whether it’s setting expectations or motivating individuals
  • Empathy – Leaders can put themselves in their team member’s shoes to tap into what motivates them. This is essential in coaching situations
  • Problem-solving – Great leaders do whatever it takes to remove roadblocks and help their reps hit their goals


Mastering Key Aspects of Sales Leadership

Let’s begin by analysing the core components of the sales leader role, where you get your team pulling together towards common goals, no matter how different they may be on an individual level.


Effective Sales Coaching Techniques

Coaching is essential to getting the best out of your sales team. Countless studies have proven the effectiveness of sales coaching:

Coaching works because reps are more likely to remember what they’ve learned through coaching compared to training. You can also use coaching to focus on specific techniques and reinforce best practices.

However, coaching is challenging because it requires an entirely different set of skills from management. For example, to coach well, you need to tap into a rep’s personality and understand their goals, whether they align with what you want for your sales team or not. This involves putting your role as a Head of Sales to one side and tailoring your approach to their needs.



If you're interested in finding out more on this topic, we have a deep dive article on sales team coaching techniques here.


Goal Setting and Team Alignment

The first thing to remember is that your goals are not your targets for the quarter or year. Rather, goals are the way you get to those targets. They’re your targets broken down into smaller, manageable chunks. As a sales leader, your role is to create those goals, create a plan to hit them and keep everyone on track on the journey to completion.

A great way to set goals is to reverse engineer your playbook. For example, if you need to hit $5 million for the quarter:

  • How many deals (at your average order value) do you need to reach $5m?
  • How many opportunities must you create to achieve that number of deals at the current win rate?
  • How many pieces of outreach do you need to create that many opportunities?

With those numbers in mind, you know how many people you need on outreach and how many interactions they need to have each day. You can coach your team to deliver on those aspects, and you can clear any blockers that may exist. The bonus is that if you can achieve an uplift in average order value, conversion rates or other related metrics, you’ll hit your goals faster.

Ensure your goals align with the objectives of your organisation so your reps can see how their hard work impacts the business.

’Everyone needs to be clear on what the company goals are and what role they play in achieving them. Every individual contributor needs to understand how their efforts and their salesmanship contributes to the bigger number.’ - Nigel Arthur



If you're interested in finding out more about sales team collaboration and communication, we have a deep dive article here.


Fostering Diversity and Inclusion

The best sales teams consist of reps with different talents, from a variety of backgrounds, with different ideas, experiences, work rates, attitudes and more. They’re a blend of people united in working towards common goals. After all, if you only have reps from the same walk of life who all think the same way, you’ll only ever get the same results, and you’ll never be able to change when you need to.

However, leading a team of diverse characters can be a challenge for a leader. How do you tap into people completely different from yourself so you can direct and motivate them?

The secret is to understand each team member on a personal level. Know their attributes, strengths and weaknesses. Then, strive to create an environment where everyone feels heard, valued and empowered to do their best work. For example, in meetings, ensure your quieter reps have a chance to speak rather than letting your brasher salespeople command the room.

’Just deal with people like human beings. But do it from an objective point of view. Look for those human qualities.’ - Steve Myers



If you're interested in finding out more on this topic, we have a deep dive article on inclusive leadership techniques here.


Cultivating a High-Performance Culture

In a high-performance culture, reps feel motivated to show up every day and give their best, with that great work translating into desirable results. Creating this culture is down to the leader. There are three steps to achieving a high-performance culture.

If you're interested in finding out more about sales team incentive and motivation strategies, we have an article here.

Firstly, create an environment where your reps can succeed. This means giving them the tools to achieve their goals, such as the right technologies. But you should also look at the way your reps work and ensure they have enough time in the day to hit their goals. If there are blockers in the way, eliminate them.

Next, focus on behaviours. In a sales team, people will automatically gravitate towards the lowest standards the leader accepts. For example, if one rep is always half an hour late for work every day and you don’t bat an eyelid, your other reps will think it’s acceptable to be late. Set high standards and enforce them.

Finally, go one step further and focus on motivation. But go beyond the carrot and the stick. Your reps will be motivated by different things. When you get to know your team members personally, you understand what drives them. When you show them a path to achieving their dream, you can be sure they’ll turn up to try and get there.


If you're interested in finding out more about team building activities for your team, we have a deep dive article here.


Enhancing Sales Team Dynamics

Next, let’s dive deeper into how to get your individual salespeople, with their own strengths and weaknesses, working together to achieve success. 


Delegation Strategies for Efficient Management

No leader can do everything themselves, nor should they. You need to be able to rely on your team to carry out your directions. But on the other hand, you also want them to bring ideas to the table. While it’s tempting to always go to a ‘right-hand man (or woman)’ who you know you can trust, you need to give others a chance to showcase their capabilities.

When you delegate tasks or assign responsibilities to others, here are some tips to ensure success:

  • Show the other person know that you have faith in their abilities
  • Let them know it can lead to better things in the future, even if it’s not the most glamorous task now
  • Tell them why the task is important to you and why you’re asking them to do it

‘Don’t delegate something you wouldn’t do yourself, or you think you’re above. It’s got to be, ‘I’ve done this job before. I know it’s not great. But actually, here’s why it’s important. If you do this, more is going to come your way.’ - Mark Ackers

If you're interested in finding out more about delegation strategies, we have a deep dive article here.


Team Building For Stronger Collaboration

As a leader, you’ll quickly find that your reps will work harder for each other when they get to know each other as human beings. Team-building activities are a great way to achieve this quickly. 

While some companies go for extravagant activities like weekend retreats or trips abroad, even something simple like a meal out or team drinks helps your people get to know each other better. When they know and like each other, they’re more inclined to help each other out. It could even be a factor in a rep deciding to stay at your company rather than move elsewhere.

Team-building activities can also benefit leaders too:

‘It’s good for managers to observe how people behave when they’re not running deals, what makes them tick. It helps them to coach better.’ - Nigel Arthur

If you're interested in finding out more about sales team building activities and motivation strategies, we have an article here.


Addressing Underperformance Issues

No matter how well you assemble a team or create a high-performance culture, there will always be a time when a rep isn’t producing the results you expect. As a leader, this is where you need to step in and act fast before this malaise spreads to the rest of your team.

A good approach is to start informally with some coaching. In a coaching situation (where they talk about how they’re performing rather than you telling them), highlight the gap between where they are and what you expect, but also be very clear on the resources and support available to them. If you need to get more formal, it becomes more about the outcomes you expect and the timeframe for them to deliver. 

However, the best leaders continually communicate with their reps and try to dig deeper into what may be causing underperformance. For example, there might be something going on outside of work. It’s about seeing the whole picture.


Learn all about Addressing Challenges: Managing Underperformance In Sales here.


Adapting to Changing Leadership Roles

What team members expect from a leader has changed over the years. You’re not a ‘my way or the highway’ dictator anymore; you’re a servant leader who gets as much pride from seeing team members advance as you do from your own results. You’re also open to new ways of working – and thinking.


Navigating Leadership Transitions

During your leadership career, you’ll experience transitions. You’ll appoint new people (internal or external) to leadership roles in your team, or you’ll switch companies yourself and find yourself leading an entirely new team.

When you inherit a sales team, consider it a fresh start, a blank slate for everyone. But then go to work. Start getting to know your team members, their strengths and weaknesses and how they like to work. Listen to call recordings, analyse activity metrics, and spend time in the office ‘just observing’. 

Great communication is essential at this stage too. If you don’t control the message, someone else will control it for you. Communicate your plan to your team and the changes you will make as quickly as possible. Your reps will be concerned, but you can work to alleviate their fears.

’When you take someone who’s a good fee-earner and move them into a management position, the only way is to do it gradually. Lead them into it over a period of 6-12 months with training, coaching and support.’ - Steve Myers

Learn all about Navigating Sales Leadership Transitions: A guide for smooth changes here.


Leveraging Technology in Sales Leadership

Technology can be a blessing and a curse for a sales leader. While tech solutions give you all the information you need – to the most granular degree – on the numbers you’re hitting and your reps’ performance, you don’t want to be a ‘dashboard manager’. Use technology sensibly, but don’t rely on it.

Use tech to ensure your team is consistent. For example, call recording software helps you monitor what your reps say to customers, while creating coaching opportunities for reps to learn from top performers. And, of course, in a world where your reps may work remotely, at least some of the time, use communication tools to stay in touch and enable collaboration. 

‘Technology allows you to be really efficient with your time as a leader. It gives you time to assess your top performers and what they’re doing well, so other people might learn from them.’ - Nigel Arthur

We have a deep dive on remote sales leadership here if you want to learn more.


Developing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is paramount for an effective sales leader. When you’re managing a diverse group of salespeople, you need to be able to pick up on how someone is feeling and act accordingly. Your reps go through big highs and lows every day, from the joy of closing deals or hitting targets, to the despair of rejection or losing a deal you thought was in the bag. Guiding your team through these peaks and troughs and keeping them on track requires large amounts of emotional intelligence.

While some people are naturally emotionally intelligent, others may not be. A good approach is to disconnect yourself from your own thinking and not judge others against your beliefs. Just because you were a great cold caller when you were an SDR doesn’t mean the SDRs in your team won’t get nervous from time to time. As their leader, your job is to coach them through it.

‘Strip away the suits. Have a conversation as human beings. That’s a skill. That’s emotional intelligence.’ - Steve Myers


Balancing Performance and Wellbeing

Sales is hard. We’ve talked about the highs and lows that you experience even over the course of a day, and it can take its toll on your reps. While you want them to perform and hit their goals consistently, you don’t want to burn them out. Check in with your team regularly on their feelings and look out for signals they may not want to talk about.

However, you also need to look out for your own wellbeing as a leader. Make sure you balance work with personal time. Look after your mental and physical health. As well as safeguarding your work-life balance, you set an excellent example for your team members to follow.

‘The more you give your employees, the more you get back. Give them a place they love to come to, they feel invested in, they feel like they’re growing. I know they’ll give more back.’ - Mark Ackers



As you can see, being an effective sales leader is a combination of many factors. But if you can distil leadership into one phrase, this is what it would be:

‘Management is when you have people who work for you. Leadership is when you work for them.’ - Steve Myers

Put your ego to one side. Put your people front and centre. Tune in to their needs. And if they’re struggling, find out the problem and solve it. 

With the short-term covered, you can work on the long-term, more strategic side of leadership and really begin to drive results. Good luck!


Find out more from MySalesCoach

At MySalesCoach, we help busy sales managers and ambitious reps reach their potential with expert, consistent, 1:1 coaching.

To find out more about MySalesCoach, book a call with us today.


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