The Sales Leadership ‘Success Sequence’
Selling Skills – By Larry Freedman
Transparency, trust and candor are must-haves.
I’ve been a sales leader in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 25 years, and have been fortunate to lead several successful teams. But more importantly, I’ve built many meaningful and lasting relationships. This is the critical first step of the “Success Sequence,” which is the foundation for your long-term success as a sales leader.
While all my sales leadership experience is in the pharmaceutical industry, the content in this article is transferable to any industry, and is easily executable in the following four-step sequence:
- Build relationships
- Create a strong culture
- Enhance capabilities
- Drive results
Like any interpersonal relationship, authenticity, transparency, trust and candor are must-haves. A leader needs to consistently demonstrate these characteristics during every interaction. Frankly, it shouldn’t matter if you are speaking with the CEO or the newest, most junior person in the building: Be true to who you are and make every interaction count.
People won’t always remember what you said to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. Learn as much as possible about each team member and take a genuine interest in everything about them, including their family, interests, hobbies and birthdays.
It’s also important to practice kind candor, so people know where they stand, and that you will be always honest with them. Being a good listener is key, as it’s a sign of genuine care, concern and interest.
Constructive feedback (without a relationship) can unintentionally land as criticism, which is one of the many reasons that an authentic, trusting relationship is so important. Once you have the relationship, even if you have to give tough feedback or bad news, the recipient knows that your intent is pure, and that you are coming from a good place. It’s also crucial that you are fully engaged during every conversation and leave every situation better than how you found it.
Create a Strong Culture
Peter Drucker said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and there’s no doubt that a great culture is the “secret sauce” when it comes to increasing employee engagement, productivity and driving performance.
Most people enjoy being a part of a team and something bigger than just themselves. Together, they can create stories and memories that transcend work and last a lifetime.
Metaphorically speaking, winning your employees’ “hearts and minds” will produce much better results than driving compliance with just their “hands and feet.”
Now that you have built a meaningful relationship and your team has a common mission and sense of purpose, it’s time to identify developmental areas and skill gaps.
You will only be able to do this if you’ve spent ample time with your salespeople and their customers, and truly understand their challenges. Otherwise, you will lack the credibility to effectively provide input.
As I mentioned, the constructive feedback is a lot more likely to change behavior when it’s built on a foundation of trust.
Outstanding sales results are a manifestation of building relationships, creating a positive culture and enhancing capabilities. To have sustained results over time, you need to have successfully completed the aforementioned three steps.
Yes, every leader wants results, and perhaps you could achieve strong, short-term results by creating a fear-based environment. But it’s not sustainable, and your “A players” will leave for greener pastures. As a leader, it’s best to first make the personal investment in your employees, and then you will have earned the right to hold them accountable for stronger performance.
The “Success Sequence” works, but it’s incredibly important to resist the urge to change the order of the sequence. Every business wants and should expect strong results, but “how” you get them makes a significant difference and has a lasting impact on overall employee engagement.
Larry Freedman is an executive business director in the pharmaceutical industry.
Email Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org.