There’s this TED talk we like by General Stanley McChrystal called “Listen, Learn… then Lead.”
General McChrystal has several poignant messages delivered compellingly against the backdrop of combat. His key takeaway is this: Leaders are good when they’re willing to learn.
“How does a leader stay credible and legitimate when they haven’t done what the people (they’re) leading are doing?” he asks.
It’s a great question. Certainly, the best sales leaders we know are those who spend significant time in the field with their sellers.
Spending time in the field with the express purpose of learning from or with your employees is an altogether different endeavor. It turns the “observe and coach” lens inside out, advertising to your employees that you’re willing to share in their experience.
There isn’t a compensation package in the world that can drive the resulting loyalty and trust.
We saw a terrific example of this recently at a client for whom we were running two days of classic sales training.
The company makes frequent acquisitions. There are always new people. And they want to increase their cross-sell revenue. We invited business unit leaders of all the acquired companies to join for the second half of day two. We hoped at least a few of them would attend and share how they go-to-market.
We didn’t just get a few… we got a bunch.
They didn’t parachute in for their section, talk about themselves, and then leave. They came for the whole day. Many of them came for days of training, working concepts and exercises right along with sellers. Mind you, these weren’t sales VPs. These were owning business leaders with multi-million-dollar operations.
When was the last time you saw something like that?
To be sure, they gained from spending time with the salesforce: faces, names, empathy, knowledge about their organization. All insight they didn’t have before participating.
What they left behind, though, was a priceless model of leadership behavior that those employees will remember and someday emulate. When it was finally their turn to present, the audience was rapt.
We teach leadership behavior like this in our academy classroom. Seeing such a stellar example play out in, of all places, sales training was the difference between watching Animal Planet and going on safari. You just had to be there to see the splendor of it for yourself.
If you are wondering how to equip sales leaders, feel free to contact us for next generation ideas. We’re continuing to keep a pulse on what leading sales organizations are doing to equip their leaders.
About The Author
Hope is a sales effectiveness expert who builds winning sales organizations. She works side-by-side with sales teams around account segmentation and planning, helping complex organizations rethink the way they serve their largest accounts. Her specialties include sales transformation, sales capability development, leadership development/coaching, and performance management. Hope’s expertise and execution focus mean she’s the consultant that clients want to keep around.