Customer Experience News & Trends

Sales leadership in the 21st century: Must-have traits

Salespeople are bombarded with strategies for selling in a down economy. But not too much advice is devoted to a quality that may influence buying decisions more than any other factor: leadership.

Customers count on leaders

Sales leaders are those whom customers count on most, and they’re the ones who demonstrate these traits during the sales process:

  • Listening. You can’t succeed in sales without being responsive to the needs of prospects and customers. And the only way to know what they want is to listen effectively. Listening to prospects and customers demonstrates respect. It shows that you value their ideas and are willing to act on them.
  • Loyalty. An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of sales strategies. Sales leaders are loyal to the prospects and customer they work with, the company they represent and the principles they respect.
  • Caring. Good leaders are caring leaders. They care about their customers and actively take care of them. They win the respect of customers not by promising more than they can deliver but by delivering more than they promise.
  • Endurance. Sales leaders are self-reliant with great tenacity and stamina. They recognize that pain resulting from a down economy is temporary, but quitting lasts forever. They know they can do anything if they stick to it long enough.
  • Empowerment. Good sales reps inspire by making customers confident in them, while great sales leaders inspire by making customers confident in themselves. Leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their prospects and customers.
  • Guidance. Good leaders know the way, go the way and show the way. What they are shows in what they do. They recognize that leadership by example is the only real kind of leadership.
  • Positive attitude. Salespeople can’t change the economy or the fact that customers and prospects may react in a certain way. But they do have a choice every day when it comes to their attitude. Selling is 10% what happens to them and 90% how they react to it.
  • Action. Leadership is action, not position. You don’t lead by pointing and telling customers some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.
  • Authority. Leadership is not about being important, it’s about serving something important. You don’t lead by hitting customers over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.
  • Dependability. All successful salespeople place a premium on keeping their promises and commitments. If they say they’ll do something – whether important or seemingly insignificant – they remember it and they do it.
  • Determination. Sales leaders know they have to get up every morning with determination if they’re going to go to bed with satisfaction. There are no office hours for sales leaders. Of all the things a sales leader should fear, complacency tops the list.
  • Empathy. Successful sales leaders lead with the heart, not just the head. They possess qualities like empathy, compassion and courage. They constantly place themselves in customers’ shoes, trying to imagine how they would feel in the same circumstances.
  • Expectations. When salespeople expect things to happen — whether good or bad– they tend to act in ways that make them more likely to actually occur. When they expect the best from themselves and others, they increase the odds that they’ll get it. Setting high standards makes every day worth looking forward to, regardless of the economy.

Adapted from “Leadership Lessons,” by Eric Harvey and Steve Ventura. Harvey is the president and founder of Ventura is a sales consultant.

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