6 signs you’re an awful sales leader

by Steli Efti

There is no shortage of awful sales leaders.

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They cause confusion amongst team members, ignore important business decisions, and lack passion for the profession.

When the team is underperforming, bad sales leaders blame everyone else but themselves.

Alternatively, great sales leaders empower their co-workers, set clear expectations, and hold people accountable.

Are you leading your staff or just managing them?

Stop wishing you were a better leader. Let Close.io help you.

Start by avoiding these six traits of an awful sales leader.

1. Lacks communication skills

Miscommunication and non-communication contribute to missed deadlines, errors in status reports, and constant frustration in the office. Teams that suffer from communication problems usually have no well-defined protocol to follow.

According to the Sales Benchmark Index, over 74% of sales managers admit they have poor communication skills.

So, relying solely on email to talk to your team is an issue. It’s a sign you’re avoiding tough conversations with your team.

"No one wants to do the dirty work, but it's a boss' lot in life to deal with difficult issues," says Robert Sutton, professor at Stanford University and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss.

Face-time builds trust. It gives you the opportunity to set clear expectations without the misinterpretations.

Unfortunately, as supervisors, we sometimes think the word "manage" means control. Then, we spend every waking hour arguing with our staff.

You can only manage the process. You must lead the people.

Managers say: “Your sales are down. You need to speak to more potential clients this week."

Leaders say: “When you're talking to the customer, where do you feel the disconnect? What skills do you need to improve?"

Which one are you?

Communication is essential as a sales leader. You want your team to listen to you, and take action on your feedback.

Follow the best practices mentioned in the chart from Sales Benchmark Index below, and sign up for our free sales course to learn more techniques.

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2. Uses only one leadership style

Bad sales leaders focus only on what they know. They don’t see the world from other people’s perspectives.

One major fallacy is that “selling is always about money and personal gains.” For example, some managers believe people are purely motivated by financial incentives.

However, that’s not always true. Based on a Clark University poll, “78% of millennials say it is more important to enjoy work than to make a lot of money.”

Great sales leaders are flexible in their leadership approach. They understand when it’s time to kill the commission and to create more effective ways to motivate their team.

Observing your sales reps’ behaviors will give you a better sense of whether you need to assume a more supportive or directive role.

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If you’re still using the “my way or the highway” leadership style, let it go. It creates a hostile environment, resulting in a non-productive environment.

Instead, adapt to your team. Offering the standard three-week vacation package may not entice anyone.

Be different. Suggest paid sabbaticals or the ability to work remotely. Adjust hours during the summer months or allow small pets at work.

The cost is little to none; but, the opportunity to enhance your co-workers’ lives is priceless.

3. Possesses no purpose

If you think sales is just your job, you’re doing it all wrong. Sales means giving your customers the best possible value.

Managers live in a 24/7 state of worry and anxiety. Leaders live with vision and empowerment.

So, why are you selling? Why are you leading a sales team?

If your answers revolve around revenue generation or a job promotion, take some time to ask yourself:

  • Why am I really doing this (besides my selfish needs)?
  • What’s the larger purpose that drives me?
  • What difference do I make in the world?

Connect with your purpose, and remind yourself of it daily.

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In order to inspire your team, change how you feel about your work.

Give meaning to every part of your job. When you fuel your work with something beyond your own self-interests, mundane tasks turn into strategic tasks. They become part of a bigger goal.

Need some inspiration? Sign up for a free daily sales motivation video.

4. Fears failure

Bad leaders fear everything.

They fear changes in sales techniques. They fear monthly sales projections. They’ll fear lunch if it meant discussing churn rates.

For these folks, fear drives all their decisions. More often than not, bad leaders spend every minute trying to cover their asses.

But scared leaders don’t make money. They don’t survive in a fast-changing marketplace.

Leading from fear usually leads to failure.

So, how do you cultivate and maintain a sense of courage? How do you create an indestructible sales team that’s willing to fail?

Show them that it’s part of the job—including yours!

Delegate your sales reps simple activities to recalibrate how they feel about rejection. Try this exercise:

  • Give team members a large empty bottle and several rolls of pennies.
  • When a potential client rejects them, they must put one penny into the container.

The moral: Rejection makes you richer, both financially and mentally.

Instead of hating yourself for every ‘no’ you hear, you should feel a sense of accomplishment. Now, that’s powerful!

5. Never fires employees

Firing people is not a popular topic. It’s fun sharing your hiring process and the cool perks that come with the job. However, when it comes to firing, people rarely talk details.

Awful sales leaders hate kicking people to the curb. They fear getting fired, too!

So, how do you fire people?

It’s not an easy decision. How will they react? What will the rest of the team think?

Here’s the steps I took when I had to fire half my team:

  • Step 1: Be straightforward about what’s happening. Make sure they understand the situation, and why they are getting laid off.
  • Step 2: Ask what they want to do next. Do they want to get a new sales job? Do they want to start their own venture?
  • Step 3: Schedule two hours of time to help them. Whatever they want, do your best to help them achieve it. For example, if they want another sales job, call a few CEOs and sales directors to help them get a new position.
  • Step 4: Talk details. Who retains the laptop? When’s the deadline to return the office keys? Create a checklist to keep things simple.
  • Step 5: Ask for their final thoughts. Give and receive feedback.
  • Step 6: Shake hands and say goodbye.

Sign up for our free sales course to discover more strategies.

6. Fails to track metrics

Numbers don’t lie.

Ineffective managers hate tracking performance. That way, no one can monitor whether their sales team is making progress or not.

Zach Watson, research analyst at TechnologyAdvice, writes “[Data] provides unprecedented insight into what customers want—whether that's how they want to learn about your product or how they want to engage with your brand when they contact you.”

How often do you analyze data?

The Close.io platform lets salespeople spend more time communicating with their customers and less time on data entry. Our custom reporting graphs help teams visualize data in hundreds of new and useful ways.

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If you’re not watching the data, you’re overlooking key insights. Data should be an integral part of your sales strategy.

Start at the top of the funnel because these numbers will affect everything else. Then, use analytics to monitor your sales pipeline.

Be a better leader

Become a better sales leader. Cultivate your talents to gain a competitive advantage.

Communicate effectively with your team. Connect with your purpose daily. Leave your fears behind, and fire unproductive employees.

Close.io can help you close more deals. Try our FREE 14-day trial today.