Leadership Vs Management, The Sales Application

There is a ton of content on the web on the topic of leadership vs management. So rather than regurgitate an exhausted topic, I will summarise the highlights here and speak about how they apply to sales. Many businesses believe that one or the other is required for sales. But in fact, sales requires both leadership and management, and knowing how to balance the two can be a little tricky.




The Difference

So what’s the big deal between leadership and management anyway – what’s the difference? In short, leadership speaks more about the “softer” skills that are essential to drive sales performance. Leaders understand how to relate to other people, and how to inspire them to achieve their goals. Some attributes include:

  • Strong sense of right and wrong
  • Will fight for what is right
  • Cares about people in general
  • Strategy development
  • Great at teamwork
  • Not afraid to get stuck in and do the dirty work
  • Does the dirty work really well
  • Sets an example
  • Has the ability to inspire

Managers, on the other hand are better at the “hard” skills involved in driving sales performance. Some of their attributes include:

  • Good at setting up processes
  • Ensures that processes are followed
  • Strategy execution
  • Good at figuring out metrics for success
  • Measures success metrics
  • Takes hard corrective action when needed
  • Good at reporting
  • Delegates tasks

The right balance for sales

As you can see, leaders and managers both have different skill sets required to drive sales performance. However, it’s not often that you will find senior salespeople who are balanced leaders and managers. This is where the tricky part comes in; how do you ensure you are getting the best of both for your business? Where do you start? Well, if you have senior salespeople already in management roles, you firstly need to establish where their strengths lie, then develop the skills where they are lacking.

But if you are hiring from scratch, which one do you look for first – leader or manager? The answer must be leader. Modern business science suggests that leaders can be taught. I think that is a highly debatable topic, but if leadership can be taught, it will be much harder to teach than management. Think about it this way, which do you think will be easier to teach? Teaching someone to inspire people (leader), or teaching someone to do reports (manager).

Easier said than done! Sales leaders are in scarce supply, and sales in general needs leadership now more than ever! So how do you find the right leaders? If you already have a sales team, look at the ones who do not have leadership titles, but are strong performers that their colleagues are drawn to. If you are hiring externally, ask their current and former colleagues or subordinates about their leadership attributes. Asking their previous bosses won’t help because many leaders challenge their bosses, which generally does not go down well – equaling a bad reference.

Once you have found the leadership talent you are looking for, nurture them. Give them the management tools they need to perform, and create an environment where they can be creative and grow. The more they grow, the more your sales performance will increase (not only more sales people, but more inspired sales people!). Once they are growing in the right direction, get out of their way!

Hi, I’m Martin Lamberti, founder of Rapid Sales Growth. Do you have the right people leading your sales team? Do your leaders have the right management tools to excel? Leadership is a real problem for sales. It can be very difficult to get it right, or even to assess the state of leadership. If you suspect that you may have leadership challenges, or want to share any information on the topic, get in touch via phone or just complete the form below and I’ll get back to you.



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