Recent research suggests that the average tenure of a chief sales officer is less than two years. Why the rapid turnover? In today’s tough market, CEOs demand change to improve their business results. If the sales leaders can’t manage change, CEOs change management.
I’d like to think of sales leadership as a steam locomotive. All good leaders I’ve ever interviewed for have one thing in common: They have fire in the belly. They are able to create enough steam to move the train (people) forward so they can reach the company’s revenue goals, on time and on budget.
Good sales leaders have vision. They see ahead, think ahead, and plan ahead. They are also dreamers. They dream big with their eyes open. When others ask, “Why bother?”, sales leaders imagine what could be achieved and ask, “Why not?” Leaders keep their followers on track and on time. They say, “Get moving or get left behind.”
Good leaders are fair and compassionate, and they remind the sales team that together they’re able to grow and rise against an overwhelming tide of obstacles. They expect high performance, and they appraise results objectively, publicly praise the top performers, and compensate people competitively. When the going gets tough, they remind everyone that they can win against any adversity. Like the Marines have a saying, “Embrace the suck,” great sales leaders show through their actions that they’ve got what it takes to lead in tough times.
In the pre-recession economy, all sales leaders looked very smart. What many sales leaders failed to realize is that while they run the engine in front of the train, there was a second engine in the back that pushed the train forward. That second engine was the economy – fueled by a huge credit supply. The engine in the back made the leader look good and feel good. Last year, the good economy evaporated, the back engine first stopped pushing, and then it acted as a brake. Today we face the moment of truth in which the true sales leaders must create more steam to move the train forward while poor sales leaders get replaced.
Good sales leaders know that to survive means to embrace change, not to fear it. They see the opportunity that comes through change and are willing to adapt, transform, and grow. They know that what works today isn’t guaranteed to work again tomorrow.
Great sales leaders are always ready to rebuild, enhance, and improve everything all the time.
Are you willing and able to build up more steam, pick up the slack, and keep the train moving ahead at top speed? How? In 1940, H.G. Wells wrote, "An immense and ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today - knowledge that would probably suffice to solve all the mighty difficulties of our age - but it is dispersed and unorganized. We need a sort of mental clearinghouse for the mind: a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared."
We live in an age in which we are interdependent and need to harness our collective intelligence to survive and get back on track. We are all equally responsible for creating a better future. To generate more steam, start a collection of innovative ideas that are available at no charge from your customers, prospects, suppliers, your sales team, and from any creative mind who knows that problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity.
Never allow a lack of resources to be an excuse for not being resourceful.
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