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The 5 habits of highly successful sales leaders

How sure are you that your sales team is performing to 100% of its ability?

In today’s competitive environment, a sales team performing at the peak of its abilities is essential.

When a team performs well, you can see the results in black and white. The sales targets were hit. There’s no confusion.

However, when targets aren’t hit, a post-mortem on the failure of the team to perform isn’t always so clear-cut. 

There are many factors that contribute to the success of a sales team.

  • The sales leader at the top who sets the culture 
  • The knowledge and understanding the team possess
  • The relationships within the team
  • The individual sales professional’s level of confidence, belief and capability. 

All these contribute to driving performance. 

As a sales leader, you are in the driving seat and have the power and ability to influence the performance of your team. Having worked with many sales leaders and their teams over the past 20 years, we have developed an understanding of the key behaviours that make the difference between a high-performing team and a team that misses its targets.

Here are the five critical behaviours that we see in all successful sales leaders:

1. Setting clear expectations at the start

As much as sales professionals don’t like to be micromanaged, there is some comfort in knowing what is expected of them. In fact, it gives team members a sense of certainty. We psychologically sign up and work towards achieving those goals.

The conversations with the sales team about what is expected from them also have the purpose of discovering whether there are any capability issues that need to be addressed. Better to discover these issues early on, rather than deal with them later in the year. 

The real skill great sales leaders develop is maintaining a balance between setting a stretch goal but not putting salespeople into a place where they believe the target is unattainable.

2. Clear communication about what the sales leader needs from the sales professional 

Sales professionals appreciate knowing they are on the right track and that they are aligned with their leader on strategy and approach. 

Effectively communicating employee responsibilities to new hires, in particular, can have a long-lasting effect on the team and the organisation.

Shockingly, a study by Gallup shows that nearly half of all employees don’t know what’s expected of them at work.

The study’s authors believe that employees are less engaged at work when they do not have a clear understanding of what is being asked of them. 

Previous Gallup research found that only 33% of .S employees and 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. While there are 12 elements of employee engagement that contribute to this feeling, the study suggested that clear communication of expectations could be the most foundational one.

Good sales leaders make this clear from the start, so there is no doubt in the sales professional’s mind. 

3. Holding sales professionals accountable to their goals and objectives 

As the saying goes, you can’t expect, what you don’t inspect.

What gets measured, gets done. Setting clear expectations and agreeing upon what is expected is just a starting point.

Measuring against progress reminds us the expectation still exists. If, as a sales leader, you no longer pay attention to those goals and objectives, you are unconsciously signalling to the people you lead that they are not that critical. 

It’s interesting to note that we tend to perform to the level that others expect of us.

If a team member has a good relationship with their sales leader, it’s unlikely they will want to let them down. A strong relationship creates a psychological contract between the leader and the team member being led. 

4. Rewarding team members 

Sales staff are generally driven by success. 

It’s the victories that keep a sales team moving forward. 

Sales professionals like the feeling of a victory. They enjoy the dopamine hit they receive when they experience success or it is acknowledged in any way.  

Reward in this respect doesn’t necessarily need to be a cash reward. A reward could just be verbal or some other form of acknowledgement of success and contribution.

Remuneration and rewards are important for any employee. But for salespeople, this is a real contributing factor more than many other roles. Therefore, it is essential that rewards and compensation are strongly linked to performance. 

There are still a large number of companies that operate with rewards that are poorly linked to an employee’s accomplishments. 

These companies are then surprised by the poor performance of their salespeople or by seeing the best of them move on. 

No matter what sector a company is in, the remuneration structure is a decisive element for improving the performance of sales teams. 

It’s critical to have a real gap between the excellent, the good, the average and the people who struggle. The best won’t be motivated to go above and beyond if there’s little-to-no difference. 

5. Coaching team members 

We’re still surprised to see that so many sales leaders do not provide the level of coaching their salespeople would like. 

This may be down to the salesperson not reaching out and being honest about the support they need through the fear they will be seen as inadequate.

If this doesn’t happen, the sales leader continues to make assumptions about a salesperson’s capability.

The negative downward spiral may continue if the salesperson gets frustrated and does not demonstrate the right level of capability, making it even more difficult for them to reach out to ask for the coaching they require. 

Good sales leaders solve or avoid situations like this by having coaching conversations built on trust and mutual respect. A good sales leader understands that asking for help never comes easy and many people feel that when they’ve been hired for a job, they should be able to do it.

The best sales leaders are only too aware of this and won’t make assumptions or accept their staff are fine when the figures say otherwise. They aim to create a safe environment for the salesperson to engage with them on any issues long before it becomes a real performance issue. Experienced sales leaders are able to read the situation and provide the level of support required.

Most sales leaders will demonstrate a lot of these behaviours in their relationships with their sales team members. However, we’ve found that many sales leaders may also benefit from support with the coaching aspect which can require working closely with team members to enhance performance. 

Discover how we help sales leaders deliver an uplift in deal closure by up to 30% using our proven E3volve system. Call us on +44 20 3303 0415 or email a member of the team today on

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