Sales Leadership for the Entrepreneur

So, you started your business and gotten it off the ground!  Congratulations!   I know how hard that journey is!    Unlike me, most business owners don’t come to entrepreneurship having been a salesperson, much less had to lead a team so it doesn’t come easy!   Hopefully you’ve continued to grow.  Maybe your business has plateaued and sales are flat.    Perhaps now you’ve hired on a salesperson or two (or are about to do so!) and thus also have to learn now how to become the sales manager.

Have you developed a Sales Process for your team?  Check this piece I wrote on how to do get started:  Running a sales process will help your team win more customers and be consistent in Sales messaging.

Here are some important statistics that might make you think a bit about your new role as Sales Manager and what you’re taking on now.

  • On average, sales people turn over every 19-23 months depending on level of experience & industry.
  • A full two-thirds of all salespeople miss quota
  • Over half of all salespeople close at less than 40%
  • 40% of salespeople can’t understand customer pain
  • Only 46% of reps feel their pipeline is accurate
  • Almost half of all sales teams don’t have a playbook/process
  • Only 52% of salespeople can access key client prospects

Now all of that said, even if you’ve never been a Sales Manager before, you can do this!     Let me give you some advice, based on my 30 years in Sales and Sales Management.   Here are nine things you should know before jumping in that I wish I knew when I started.


What You Should Know About Being a Sales Leader:

  1. Spend more time recruiting in the beginning.

Finding the right people for your team really is job #1.  A great Sales mentor of mine once said, “I will be your financial advisor.  I will help you identify winners and well…not winners, in your portfolio.   It’s up to you to decide what to do though.”

Recruiting is a lot like Sales.   You always need to be filling your pipeline.   If you’re not doing it already, I would highly recommend spending twenty percent (20%) of your time meeting with potential new candidates for your team.   Networking is a great way to keep on the lookout for new talent!  True story, but I’ve even taken calls from telemarketers and then talked to them about joining my team if they’re at all good!

Salespeople are generally short-term thinkers.   They’re worried about quota this month/quarter.  Rarely do they look beyond that.    As the business owner and sales manager, you however, must think 12, or even 24 to 36 months ahead. Essentially, a sales manager must work on exceeding two numbers: their hiring goals and effectiveness, as well as sales goals.   You’re going to have turnover.  In some cases this is a good thing…saves you the time of letting someone go who isn’t making it.   I have at times even “helped” an employee move on by making a few calls to other people I knew where I thought they might actually be a better fit.

I’ll paint this picture another way. There are two things a salesperson can screw up that causes them to fail. The first is not feeding the top of the Sales funnel. The second is spending too much time on bad deals.  This is generally expressed thru their close ratio…how many deals did they start, how many did they win.   Some salespeople are great at #1, some are great at #2 few are great at both.

Just like the salesperson though, the key for you as the business owner/sales leader is to keep a funnel of potential candidates that you can recruit the time you need to hire or fill that open spot.