Leading a team is a challenge. Leading an all-star team requires nearly flawless execution of skills. I’ve been working with sales leaders for several decades. If you’re in or striving for this position, let me help you avoid the 9 common sales leadership mistakes.
#1. Being a buddy, not a boss.
Maybe you feel it’s important for your sales team to like you. Sure, a friendly environment leads to collaboration, but it can also result in a far too casual atmosphere. Your job is to lead these professionals in their careers, to provide knowledge, direction, and training. When they perceive you as a friend, they’re less likely to take you as seriously as they should. They might question or ignore your direction, believing that their “friend” gives them all the latitude they want. Be mindful of what they need from you in their role as a sales professional. Friendship isn’t on the list.
#2. Allowing a lack of accountability.
As you’re working hard to avoid these 9 common sales mistakes, be sure you make this one a priority. Accountability—or, more accurately, the lack of it—is a big issue in the workplace. Finger-pointing and excuses take the place of problem-solving. Don’t allow your team members to waste time and extend conflicts by not accepting responsibility for their choices, words, and actions—and the outcomes that result from them. When a person under your sales leadership doesn’t hold himself accountable, push back. Give them a safe place to land when they’ve made a mistake so they understand that accountability isn’t synonymous with rebuke or punishment. Encourage and reward accountability. Most of all, model it in your own behavior!
#3. Providing insufficient feedback.
It’s easy to lavish the winners with praise, but what everyone needs is constructive criticism. Sales leadership means leading them to greater success in sales. Provide feedback to discuss their challenges as well as their successes. Look at how they could have approached their sales situation differently. Do this one-on-one and as a team.
#4. Not doing enough check-ins.
Similar to providing better feedback, sales leaders should remain accessible and visible to every team member. Schedule a weekly check-in call with each new home sales pro instead of assuming each person will reach out if they need you. They won’t. They don’t want to bother you, they try to figure things out themselves, or they go to someone else—someone who might give them advice that doesn’t reflect your belief.
A weekly check-in doesn’t have to take more than five minutes and can be a phone call—just not a text or email. Use the time to build a personal connection.
#5. Coaching on transactions rather than skills.
Coaching must present a balance of training for skills and outcomes. A coach in the sports world works with teams and players, building their individual strengths as well as teamwork. They focus on the right ingredients to succeed on the playing field, which often requires succeeding off the field. Train your team as groups and individuals. Look at what they need to reach their goals. It’s not enough to give them a sales process; infuse them with the skills to execute it like an all-star.
#6. Overlooking the differences in your team members. Individualize!
The best teams are a combination of unique people with unique talents coming together. They can be role models and mentors for one another, and inspire growth. But as a sales leader, you need to encourage and nurture the differences in your new home sales professionals. Who is stronger at negotiation? Who has the best customer service skill? Who is the CRM master? Build awareness of these core strengths and train the others up to these levels.
#7. Spending too much time with underperformers.
Your time is limited. How are you allocating it? If you’re like many sales leaders, you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to coach the underperformers. Is that the best use of your time or could you be more effective with a different distribution?
Break your new home sales professionals into three categories: Top Performer, Steady Performer, and Underperformer.
The Top Performers don’t require much leadership, but shouldn’t be ignored. Use your weekly check-ins and ask them where they need training and support.
The Steady Performer is where you have the most potential for growth. These new home sales professionals are just a few steps from being a Top Performer. Allocate at least half of your coaching and leadership time budget to these salespeople. Find out where they need help to move up to the next level.
The Underperformer should get the smallest piece of your leadership time. Are they making sufficient effort or relying too much on your help? Provide them with goals, the tools to achieve them, and a timeline for getting there. Tell your Underperformers you’re available but encourage them to work harder. If they can’t move up to Steady Performer, your job as a sales leader is to direct them to a career that better suits their skills.
#8. Skipping the trenches.
Have you ever watched a war movie where an inexperienced officer is put into action with more experienced soldiers on the front line? The officer, who has often been trained only in a classroom, is completely out of their element and their soldiers know it. They don’t respect this person who has been cast in as a leader.
Make time to get in the trenches with your sales team. Visit their communities and work side by side with them. Watch them handle a meeting with a prospective buyer. See how they conduct the model home tour. Provide feedback on the experiences you witness and jump into a sales presentation once in a while—just don’t ever hijack it!
#9. Overlooking the value of ongoing sales training.
When is sales training complete?
The most honest answer is, “Never.”
Look at the top athletes in their sport. With Tom Brady now firmly in retirement, Patrick Mahomes is perhaps the most talented quarterback in the NFL. Does he still train? Of course. Because he knows he can become better with more work.
Navy SEALs and other military special operatives have undergone the most grueling training any soldier can endure and yet they don’t stop.
So, why do you let your new home sales professionals get out on their own playing field with lapses in training? Did you know that 84% of all sales training is lost after 90 days? Education should be a continuous endeavor. And it starts with a commitment by sales leadership.
Stop being a fixer.
Like your salespeople, where can you be better? Begin with self-awareness. Where do you have opportunities to improve?
Next, create an action plan to proactively avoid these 9 common sales leadership mistakes.
But if you do, you will still be limited by your negative thoughts and beliefs.
The best way to combat cognitive distortions and negative self-talk is to start with recognizing them. Where does your focus take you? Make an effort to catch yourself when your mind strays to the negative.
Instead of “No one is buying in this market”, ask yourself, “What can I do to better influence uncertain buyers right now?”
Rather than assume others are just better at new home sales, become better. Read, seek mentors, take advantage of sales training—online, virtual, or in-person. Go to LinkedIn and reach out to people who are maximizing their opportunities. Believe me, the homebuilding community is filled with people who are willing to offer helpful advice!
The interest rates aren’t in the way of your success. The uncertainty of today’s homebuyers is not in your way. Free yourself from the ties that hold you back. Look for the opportunities to break free.
There are no limits outside of your own mindset. And the only one who can change that is you. But if you want help, I’m right here!