Sales Leaders Are Protectors

In September, we staged the inaugural Sales Confidence live event. We were privileged to hear some of the best sales Founders and leaders in the SaaS industry speak. Everyone left inspired and motivated to act on what was said. Based on the talks at the event, we’ve put together the Sales Confidence Skills Series. Even if you couldn’t be there, you can still share the learning.

Neil Ryland

Neil Ryland is CRO at Peakon, a startup currently changing the game in employee engagement. Until 2016, Neil was CRO at Huddle, which is how I got to know him. Actually, he was my boss. Lucky man!

Neil thinks very deeply about what makes a great sales leader. He’s also very fond of an acronym. The acronym, in this case, is ECP. E is for elevation, and you can read his thoughts on that here. You can read Neil’s views on C, for Company, here. As for the P? That stands for protection.

‘Leadership is about protecting people. Have you read Dear Deirdre? You take that on when you’re a leader. You deal with people’s personal problems. You deal with why the deal got lost.’

Aside from being an agony aunt, how else can a sales leader be a protector?

Be the first into battle

A great sales leader isn’t an armchair general, hiding in their corner office while the troops are under siege.

A good sales leader is the first into battle. When a difficult job needs doing, it’s your job. Don’t foist the hard or demeaning work onto your team. If your company is bringing something new to the market, you should lead the charge. Make those difficult calls, take those meetings. Show your team how it’s done properly.

Take the heat

When things go wrong, a good sales leader acts as a human shield. Sure, if your team have missed their numbers for the month, your CEO may be angry with you, but you shouldn’t pass that anger down to your team. You just have to absorb it, come up with a way to fix the situation, and work through it with your team.

You take responsibility for what happens in your team. You don’t play the blame game.

On the other hand, when things go right, that’s when a good sales leader steps out of the limelight and lets their team take the credit.

Shield them from distractions

If your team’s primary job is to make sales, then as a leader, your job is to ensure that they can always do that.

Pointless meetings with management that just wastes time? You sit in that meeting, by all means, but make sure your team don’t have to.

The CEO wants to bring in a new way of working, which you and your team know will just hinder their capacity for doing their job? Your job is to push back against it, using your knowledge and experience.

This all comes from having the confidence to say what you think. A good sales leader doesn’t blindly follow the people above them, they don’t go with the flow, they always strive to improve.

Leadership is lonely

As Neil identifies, being a protector is a bit of a thankless task, but it’s just part of being a sales leader.

‘Leadership is lonely. It’s not about being popular. It’s about being respected and being fair. You’ve got to be internally motivated to do it.’

You may not realise it at the time, but you’ll be remembered as one of the best leaders your team has ever worked with. You’re also more likely to achieve sales success.

Over to you now. Are you a protector? What ways do you go about protecting your team from the harsh realities of SaaS sales? Leave us a comment to let us know.

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