Black staff leadership meeting

Leadership in Sales

Leadership is fundamental to success on any sales team. Without a strong head leading a team, even the best salespeople might find themselves struggling to meet quotas. Adam Goodman visited us last week to talk about aspects that make a great leader. A professor at Northwestern University, he is an expert on leadership and what separates the wheat from the chaff. Below are a few takeaways that will help you excel in leadership positions.

Leadership: Born or Made?

You may know the phrase “some leaders are made, while others have it thrust upon them.” This is partially true. While certain traits exist that make some leaders better than others, leadership is a skill that can be taught. It is both nature and nurture. Having gusto, plenty of good ideas, and a fierce drive will work in your favor, but one trait stands out in all great leaders. That is the concept of emotional intelligence. We have written in the past about the importance of emotional intelligence, or EQ, but it isn’t exclusive to sales.

The definition of emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express ones emotions. It is the ability to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and with empathy. Or in other words, it’s the ability to recognize your own emotions and the emotions of others. It’s what allows you, as a sales person, to connect and understand your prospect’s perspective so you can better understand their pain points and how your product or service can help solve them. As a leader, it allows you to place yourself in the position of how your employees see the world. It may not seem immediately profitable, but consider how comradery and happiness affect an office. Employees who feel respect feel empowerment, and this emotion will register in their calls.

In his essay on leadership, Daniel Goleman breaks down EQ into five distinct fields: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. It is true that some of us are born with more of these traits than others. For instance, some people are naturally shy, or don’t feel an urge to socialize with others. Other people are naturally bombastic and can’t stand to be alone. While both of these cases may be true for some, every skill in EQ can be taught.

Applied Emotional Intelligence

You may not be in a management position yourself, but you can practice skills in leadership that can push you in that direction. Consider each of the aspects that makes one emotionally intelligent, and how you can apply it to your work practice. Self-regulation is a fantastic example. Many managers function to make sure that others on the team are getting their work done. A leader motivates themselves to do the work, and need to be checked in on less. Traits like this show that you are motivated by getting the job done, and that you can lead yourself to get things accomplished. A person who is self-regulated doesn’t see a work quota as a number to be hit every week at minimum, but a stepping stone to previously unseen heights.

Empathy is another skill that deserves practice. It is an extension of the golden rule: doing unto others as you want to be treated. Empathy helps not only with inter-office relationships, but understanding customers. It is also applicable at higher stages of leadership. Understanding that an employee’s numbers may be low may reflect on performance, but it can also apply to other aspects of their lives. Maybe they are experiencing a loss, or a personal issue. Understanding the trials and tribulations of your sales team will ensure a happy and productive work force.

Leadership is About What You Aren’t Saying

When Adam Goodman described an encounter with an army general, he brought a fascinating revelation. The general stated that “whenever I give an order, I know I have failed.” For this general, being a leader meant having a team that knew how to act before he issued a command. This is an excellent example in how EQ applies to successful leadership. In particular, this is an application of social skill. Social skill is about managing people to move in desired directions. In many ways it is a culmination of every other element of EQ. If one is able to master understanding one’s peers, one can lead by example. Rather than motivation through promotions or money, social skill is leading by inspiration. A great leader can make others work by the meaning they put into their own work.