On the battlefield, we always learned the role above us and trained the person below us to take on our duties.
You never know when your leader could be called out of action. While your sales leader likely won’t be injured in combat, personal and professional priorities may mean you have to step into their shoes.
Whether leading a team is part of your career plan or not, you’ll want to be prepared to lead in case you’re tapped to carry your team forward.
John Hoskins, founder of Level Five Selling, is an expert at preparing and coaching new sales leaders for success. We sat down with him to discuss what any new sales leader needs to do in order to get their team moving forward, whether it’s part of a plan or whether someone is called out of action.
Since we’re trimming hope from our sales strategy, we’ll use the acronym TRIM to guide us through creating a system with a trigger, ensuring it’s repeatable, building in ways to improve it, and of course, ensuring it’s measurable and getting us results.
T-Trigger: The trigger for stepping into a leadership role on a sales team needs to start well ahead of the actual transition, John said. He advocates that every salesperson be minimally competent in the following areas so that they’ll understand the broad strokes of what it takes to manage and lead a team:
Recruitment and retention – who in the company is a resource for recruiting new employees and salespeople? And what do salespeople say keeps them at the company? Those are going to be critical things to leverage in the early days of a sales leadership position.
Training: Who is responsible for training at the company? If sales training falls on the sales leader, how will you as a new leader identify the skills your team needs to improve? How will you train them?
Coaching: Coaching and training are difference, John said. Coaching means giving both positive and constructive feedback, so ensure you’re spun up on how to do both.
R-Repeatable: To make this system repeatable, John said to start by meeting with your new team. You may have been their peer the day before, so you’ll want to start out not by telling them what they need to change, but rather, the things you are holding yourself accountable for (see the three ‘trigger’ items above).
Next, you’ll want to set clear expectations of performance and let them know that you will be providing feedback on a regular basis.
Finally, gather the resources you do have available and ensure your team knows how to access them. That might be ensuring everyone can log into the CRM or has access to the same sales materials.
I-Improvable: To improve this system, John said to take the time to invite innovation among team members. This may be incentivized or not, but encourage your team to stretch themselves by making more quality calls and connections rather than focusing on volume.
M-Measurable: According to John, the first thing to measure for a new sales leader isn’t the performance of your salespeople. Rather, it’s to measure their feedback on you. That will reveal which resources they’re lacking and where they’re struggling. Leaders need to be able to not only give, but also take, criticism. By showing your team you take their feedback seriously, you’ll be well on your way to them receiving your feedback and correcting course.