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BILL LEE: Sales Teams Need Leadership to Excel

A good sales manager can mean the difference between modest performance and high productivity.


Does the sales manager in your organization provide the leadership your sales team needs to achieve its sales and gross margin goals in spite of industry conditions? Or, if the sales team wants leadership, is it pretty much on its own to lead itself?

In my experience, the sales management position is a very difficult job, which is why highly effective sales managers are so difficult to locate and recruit. The best sales managers not only must be excellent salespeople, they must also be outstanding coaches with the ability to recruit and develop a powerful sales force.

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In my sales career, I was exposed to one sales manager in particular who possessed the talent to lead a sales team to achieve the company’s dream level of sales. I never came even close to closing as much new business as I did using the sales system this sales manager taught me.

Doing Your Homework

This manager didn’t just ask me to do my homework, he made it a condition of employment if I was going to remain on his sales team. That’s how important he considered “Doing Your Homework” to be.

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He and I would do mountains of homework before we made a joint call on a prospect. We rehearsed who would say
what and when, who would open conversation, at what point the other would interject a comment, etc. We knew so much about the prospect that one would have thought we had been the prospect’s lead supplier for years.

The Budgeting Process

When it came time to budget sales for the coming year, my manager taught me how to meticulously predict which major product categories I could persuade my current customers to cease buying from a competitor and begin buying one of the competing brands we sold. He taught me to identify prospects that carried the highest odds of leaving our competitor’s camp and buying from us.

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 Third Party Referrals

He insisted that I always be prepared for rejection by a top prospect by setting up a third party referral whom my prospect held in high regard. In addition, he taught me the precise words to use: “Do you know Joe Greene with XYZ Supply? Do you respect him as a businessman?” If I had diligently done my homework, the prospect would always reply, “Yes.” Then I would say, “Let me suggest that we leave the room to give you some privacy so you can call Joe and ask what his experience has been with our company. We’ve been Joe’s largest supplier for the past five years, so you can be assured he knows us like the back of his hand.”

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