Updated: 5 Essential Skills Needed to Lead a Sales Team

July 5, 2021

There are certain skills required to be an excellent seller like grit, determination, communication skills, and adaptability when speaking with prospects and leads. However, when that excellent sales professional is promoted to lead a sales team, a whole new set of skills is required to manage internally.

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Gone are the days of the authoritative boss/employee dynamic (or at least they should be). Every single person in a sales team influences its ultimate success. It’s a myth in business that people simply do what you tell them to do. In reality, people do what they want to do, and a great sales leader should empower them to make the right decisions. Check out Winmo’s list of five essential skills needed to lead a sales team below:


1.  Lead tough conversations

Many of us are so uncomfortable with confrontation that we run and give in rather than deal with it. It takes courage and practice to speak up, but all conflict is “bad.” Having differences of opinion can spur creativity and positive change in organizations and personal relationships. Most managers want to jump right into questioning, but taking the time to clarify what the issue is that’s causing the conflict can go a long way towards resolving it. Understand and help rather than argue and judge to build a reputation as someone who helps others solve problems and hit their goals.

Here are some phrases to try:

  • So that we’re clear, what I heard you say is…
  • I need a little more information.
  • Let’s rewind and start over.
  • Can you elaborate on what you just said? I need to put it in the context of what we were talking about yesterday.

2.  Coach team members

The best sales leaders have a coaching mindset and understand that a vital part of their role is mentoring. They understand the DNA of their team, including each individual’s personality, sales approach, and goals. Equally as important, they can pick up quickly when a team member is underperforming. In fact, according to Forbes, 74% of leading companies say coaching is the most important role sales leaders play.

Salespeople are naturally failure averse and their own worst critics. Since most sales cycles are annual ups and downs are inevitable. There will be failed deals, missed targets, lost opportunities, and increased pressure. To lead a sales team, an effective manager will know how to support each team member and provide encouragement and patience as they go through a rough patch. Take your own experiences, especially stories of failure and overcoming adversity, and use them to help others avoid pitfalls or get their confidence back.

3.  Identify talent

As a team manager, you might have hiring (and firing) responsibilities. The cost of a bad hire can be catastrophic, not just for the employee, but for you and the company. Leaders grow new leaders, so with every hire, you should be asking, Could this person eventually step up into my role so I can step up, too? If you can define the outcomes your candidate will be responsible for, it will be easier to identify the skills, experience, and personality traits that will make talent acquisition successful.

They say you should hire for character and train skills, though most organizations don’t actually do that. It’s not just about hiring round pegs for round holes — people change. Your challenge as a leader is to identify where your team members can be the most successful, whether they should be more or less collaborative, and even whether working in your organization is right for them.

4.  Communicate clearly

Communication is not simply about broadcasting—you have to be a great listener, first. Two-thirds of all communication is non-verbal. Seeing when members of your team need a high five, a kind ear, or just a break will show that you understand how to connect and build trust. As a leader, you might also have high-level information that you can’t share with your team. Or your executive team might have set goals you disagree with, but still have to achieve.

Sales software arms managers to lead a sales team with greater insight and understanding. These tools uncover performance, behavior, and offer suggestions for improvement. Armed with deep insights, sales managers can coach team members to define or refine their goals and strategies. Skilled leaders motivate and empower self-improvement and self-direction.

5.  Analyze data 

Data is your best ally in performance management. Understanding which metrics monitor your progress toward goals, how to affect change, and which processes those metrics are derived from is a leadership expectation. Data science is a big deal, so you must be comfortable with the numbers to forecast accurately.

If you’re not comfortable building reports in your CRM tool, or exporting data and working with it in Excel, that’s a good place to start. Most of business is about predictability. Whether it’s human behavior or sales forecasting, being able to accurately predict how changing one thing changes outcomes across multiple functions is how companies can grow and thrive. Being a team member that helps the company grow and thrive is a sure path to becoming a manager that helps the company grow and thrive.

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If you liked this blog post, check out:

  1. eBook Download: 7 Back to School Advertisers Buying in Q3 2021
  2. 6 Surefire Ways to Turn Off a CMO
  3. 21 Sales, Media, and Advertising Statistics for 2021

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