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There are people who believe management and leadership are the same, but this is not true.

Titles mean little with management and leadership. It's common to find a salesperson who is a strong leader, or a person with the title of sales leader who isn't a leader. There are several reasons why someone is or is not a leader. Because few sales managers start with a sales leadership intensive, they are left to model their own managers.

Someone who is more manager than leader is almost certain to replicate the person they reported to when they were selling. When a sales manager or leader is a strong leader, that person likely had an example of what effective sales management looks like. It looks like leadership. You need to know what a sales manager does.

Effective Sales Management Begins with Leadership

Effective sales management begins with strong leadership. Even though people may suggest that management and leadership are the same, they are different. Those who have worked for a strong leader will recognize the difference between the two, and having done so, will not feel the same way about a manager as they do about an effective sales leader.

Effective Sales Management and High Standards

The sales manager will not have high standards for their team, even though they ask for greater activity. These non-leader sales managers will check all the boxes, turn in their reports, and spend much of their time taking care of the things the company needs from them, focusing on these tasks instead of on their team, who needs greater leadership.

The sales manager who is a leader will have high standards for their team. They will demand more of their salespeople when it comes to how they do their work and what work they do. The sales manager practicing leadership will believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything. The leader will be the example of high standards, providing a model for their team by doing quality work themselves.

The Priorities of Effective Sales Management

A non-leadership type sales manager will provide their team with autonomy—too much autonomy. The autonomy is in part a form of laziness, allowing each person to figure out what to do on their own. Only later will the sales manager be unhappy with their team's results.

The sales leader is effective because their leadership extends to the sales force's priorities. While they provide autonomy, they communicate their priorities consistently, ensuring their team knows what is expected of them and why their sales leader has put these priorities in place. High standards and priorities are effective sales management because the sales manager is leading their team.

Sales Management Effectiveness and the Potential Engine

The Buddhists have a saying that goes, "You are perfect just the way you are, but you could use a little improvement." A non-leadership sales manager will not expect their team to grow and develop, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because they will not help each member of their team to move closer to their potential.

The leadership sales manager believes you are good, but nowhere close to your potential. They believe every person on their team can and will improve, whether each person believes they need to improve. Those who understand revenue growth know that the growth of their team is the straightest, surest path to better results. You can measure this by looking at the increase in average close rates.

A Positive Culture of Accountability and Sales Management

It is possible that your sales manager has a culture of accountability. That culture might be a positive culture of accountability or a toxic one. For a culture to be positive, the sales manager must ensure the culture doesn't punish failure or challenges. Any environment that punishes failure cannot be positive.

Positive accountability is what makes a safe environment, one in which salespeople can fail and struggle without repercussions. Instead of being left alone, they find the help they need from their sales leader. Even if the leader must make a tough decision, they will impose only human consequences, starting with more help and development.

Effective Sales Management and an Engaged Leader

One of the largest differences between a sales manager and a leader is their level of engagement. When asked, salespeople say they want more coaching from their sales managers. Sales managers who don’t rise to the level of leaders are not engaged with their teams. This sales manager will have more than enough time to pursue a greater role by playing the game. They want the corner office because they believe it is easier than actually leading and ensuring their team succeeds.

True sales leaders are effective managers because they are deeply engaged in helping their team play the game. They act as a coach, improving their team's sales effectiveness and helping them reach their goals. No sales manager can reach their quota without helping their team reach their own sales quotas. Without a high level of engagement over time, it is difficult to produce the results the organization needs.

The true test for each of us as a leader is answering the question "Would my team produce better results under a different sales manager, and what would they do differently?" If you are a sales manager who doesn't recognize the need to become a leader, start by making some adjustments in this post. You may have to reset your relationship and gain your team's trust. As in all things related to leadership, you go first and your team follows.

Post by Anthony Iannarino on November 28, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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