This was a musical weekend. Friday evening we went to the Knoxville Symphony. It was the final program by Lucas Richman who has lead the symphony for the past 12 years. Sunday was Music Sunday at our church, with bell choirs, guest musicians, the adult and children’s choir, and many ensembles. In both situations there was no doubt as to who was in charge and who knew the details — the Maestro/conductors.
As I listened and felt the music I was intrigued as to how the conductors lead their teams. They anticipated the next movement or section and kept the pace required for the music to flow smoothly. I couldn’t help but draw an analogy back to sales leaders.
Sales leadership must incorporate layers of management, strategic vision, tactical programs, and an emotional aspect to create an environment for success. In each concert the Maestro/conductor had to assume the same responsibilities. However, I see many times where sales managers are caught off guard — missed forecasts, someone leaves the team unexpectedly, marketing programs are unsuccessful, salespeople cannot accurately sell products/services, etc.
What can you do to become a better conductor or even a Maestro of your sales team? It is not easy, and this is why most sales managers fail in the first 18 months. Below I’ve listed a few of the actions I see missing when sales managers are struggling:
1) Take time to ponder.
During the concerts, both conductors discussed why and how they picked the music. They had taken the time to ponder and make sure that the music fit the event.
Find your own private time to think about your team, the direction it is heading, what’s working, what’s not, and the plan for the next six months. I used to do this at least once a week. During periods when I was traveling frequently I would simply take a blank tablet (paper!), and write notes to myself as issues popped into my mind.
2) Schedule formal one on ones.
In an orchestra, each group of musicians — violins to horns — meet with the conductor to ensure they understand the piece of music and what is expected.
In sales, monthly meetings are not about the forecast — they are designed for you to have a conversation with your team members about how things are going. A good leader has insights into the personal and professional lives of each person on their team. They learn what motivates them and what doesn’t. This meeting allows for open communication and a building of trust, and trust is crucial in high performance sales teams when personalities sometimes cause conflict. Learn to read your team.
3) Study and learn accountability.
I am sure the Maestro reinforced to each musician their individual contribution and importance to the overall concert.
In a research study we did several years ago, we found that most entrepreneurs failed at holding their direct reports accountable. We see the same with most sales managers. Dashboard and CRM reports are one thing. But does your team as individuals feel accountable to achieving the organization’s goals? This is not micro-management regarding the numbers, but rather an understanding that the team must achieve its goals as their responsibility to the rest of the organization. The sales leader must reinforce this whenever possible, especially during the monthly meeting.
4) Focus on continuous training.
The Maestro congratulated the number one chair with a handshake but recognized the entire orchestra whenever the audience responded. He made sure everyone knew their music but set a standard in recognizing those that had taken the time to master their craft. I am sure there were many rehearsals before the main event.
It is the sales manager’s job to evaluate each salesperson’s talent and skill level and to develop team and individual sales training programs. Increase the level of professionalism at all times.
5) Put systems in place.
Each conductor had their music sheets ready, each musician knew when to change chairs, the microphone worked and the lights went down or came up at the appropriate time. There was a system in place. Even the ushers knew when and how to escort us to our seats!
When we go onsite to consult with organizations, it is not unusual to find no new hire onboarding programs in place, limited sales training or sales meeting templates/agendas, or a lack of solid sales process or interviewing/recruiting systems. Struggling organizations thrash back and forth as if they were putting fingers into the dikes to stop the flooding –nothing seems to work amidst the continual circus of confusion and frustrations. This breeds ineffective sales teams. Leadership must act on a continuous quest for quality improvement.
These are just five ideas. I’m curious — what ideas do you have to increase your success? I encourage you to share them with our community. Have a fun time and dance to the music.