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A sales manager recently sought my advice and counseling. They wanted to know how to get a person on their team to be a top performer. 

The problem this person was identifying is common, and as an executive sales coach, I get this question a lot. You see someone on your team who has the sales skillset, has the leadership skillset and you want to develop that person to be the next generation of sales leadership within the team or organization. But you don’t know how to do it. As a sales coach I have some pointers for how that’s done.

It’s a two-part strategy to get the most out of the people around you. This can apply for developing everybody on your team, not just high performers you want to promote into management or promote to the next level. This is a strategy you can use to develop everyone around you. When you focus on developing those around you, your own personal development in your own skillset starts to reach its full potential too. You grow as a leader by seizing leadership opportunities.

Give them a reputation to live up to

First, to get someone to reach their full performance and leadership potential, you need to use an old trick that originally appeared in the Dale Carnegie book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  You give someone a perceived reputation to live up to, and eventually they will live up to that reputation. To give somebody a reputation, it’s not a one-time thing where you tell them “hey, you are going to be the best rep on my team.” Instead, it is a steady repetition of positive reinforcement. You regularly tell this person that they’re destined for greatness. You let them know you’re counting on them. You acknowledge that this person can contribute at a higher level. The more you say it, the more both you and that person believe it. And now they have this idea that everyone believes they are the best sales rep on this team. You give someone a reputation to live up to and watch them live up to it. It is one of the most proven strategies out there and not enough people do it.

Hold them accountable

The second strategy is to give a level of accountability. Nobody wants to be in a management relationship where they don’t feel their managers holding them accountable. On the surface it seems like it would be great to have a laid back, hands off manager, but it’s more complicated than that. In fact, it is possible to be hands-off but still hold people accountable. To truly hold people accountable, you have to do so at every opportunity that presents itself. To push people to the next level, they have to know that there’s a level of accountability that must be met. There are many ways to hold someone accountable.  You can hold someone to:

  • having a positive attitude
  • submitting revenue metrics
  • hitting their forecast
  • doing their administrative work
  • showing up on time

Anytime the people around you do not hold up their end of the bargain, it’s a teachable  moment for you as a leader. That behavior I saw, that’s not what we agreed upon. By doing that, you let that person know you care enough to have that potentially difficult conversation.

That’s the two-part strategy I recommend as an executive sales coach. It doesn’t stop there of course; setting up their reputation and holding them accountable is just the foundation. You’ll need to have lots of one-on-one interaction with your sales team. To find out how to do that, reach out to me for more on sales leadership.

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