Series Wrap Up: Transformational Leadership in Sales

To conclude the mini-series , let’s do a recap summary on the areas we covered in Transformational Leadership in The Sales World:



  • Emphasized clarity and focus on 3 areas: Sales Operations, Sales Enablement, & Sales Management
  • If you want to maximize productivity then at minimum your organization should have a lead or team for all 3 to create clear ownership and focus.
  • Sales Management should not be a catch-all; and Sales Enablement is not Sales Operations.


Effective Sales Leadership | TAKE AWAYS:

  • A sales manager is not a sales leader.
  • To be an effective sales leader, you must first understand the various roles to play;   a leader, a coach, a mentor, and a manager.
  • The goal is not to master these specific roles; the goal is to get out of constant managerial mode, and learn WHEN and HOW to pivot your approach and get the most out of your sales folks.

Transformational Sales Leadership | TAKE AWAYS:

  • This is about digging deep and introducing dynamic leadership skills in addition to the fundamental ones you’ve established.
  • Pushing yourself to develop your capabilities even further and challenging your leadership boundaries.
  • The goal is not to master these specific roles either; the goal is to learn HOW and WHEN to be a transformational leader amongst your PEERS and COLLEAGUES.



  • Sales stigma is a real thing: it is the stereotypical perception of the categorization and association of sales people with negativity. It will stifle the growth of your business in more than one way.
  • Avoiding or eliminating it is a TWO WAY street with ownership of both the sales team and the rest of the business.
  • This can also be the beginning of a cultural transformation – embrace it.



5 Roles of a Transformational Sales Leader

Transformational Leadership in the Sales World Continued

Part 2.3

In the last topic, our guest author and professional coach, Lindsey Hood talked about the various roles that an effective sales leader has, and when to pivot between them. In the second part of this topic I want to expand on these roles and transition you from an effective sales leader to a transformational one.

Lindsey’s insights are the foundational roles of effective sales leadership.  A Leader, Manager, Mentor, and Coach are all critical to success as a sales leader, and as she mentioned it’s difficult to get it right 100% of the time but without working towards them you’re simply a quota carrying people manager. A successful sales individual can emerge to a successful sales manager, but it takes more than instituting selling strategies and hitting quota goals to be an effective sales leader; and even more to expand that to a transformational one.


Effective, transformational leaders must step out of the frame and see the entire picture (yes, I said it again) and recognize that before they are able to even attempt doing it. This is often extremely difficult in the sales world; with the natural emphasis of sales targets as the measure of success it is easy to become hyper focused on this alone; but this is the difference in taking a sales team from good to great with long-term success.


What’s your Sales Leadership style?


references>Series: Transformational Leadership in the Sales World What I Really DoVarious Hats of Effective Leader7 Toxic Sins go Leadership | A Key To Over Performance If Done RightAnd So The Story Goes



The Various Hats Of Effective Sales Leaders and When To Wear Them

Transformational Leadership in the Sales World Continued

Part 2.2 – Various Hats Of Effective Sales Leaders

As mentioned in the introductory post of this 2 part blog, as a sales leader you have many hats to wear. To be an effective and successful sales leader I believe you need strong communication and interpersonal skills, and be able to know when to move between being leader, manager, mentor and coach for your team. There is often overlap, and the terms are sometimes used (incorrectly, in my opinion) interchangeable – so, what are the hats that make for an effective sales leader, and when do you need to use each of these skills?

Leader – giving direction to your team

I believe leadership is about selling the direction of the company and your team, whether that is the long-term strategy, or the shorter term tactics that need to be deployed – the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of management, if you like.

It isn’t just about giving the inspiring speech though, and ensuring everyone understands the message, it is also about ensuring your actions are aligned to the messages you are delivering. If, for example, the strategic direction of the company is to offer fair and honest pricing to customers, you need to ensure that your decisions with your team support this, and not allow for that ‘one case’, where you know you can get away with a higher margin, to happen.

It is also ensuring you are living the values you are talking about – you need to lead by example. If you are giving the direction of being fair and honest this means no talking about other team members behind their back – as when others hear this, you are sending two possible messages:

1. This is what you say about me behind my back and/or

2. It is okay for me to bad mouth my colleagues, and you.

Manager – letting your team know what needs to be done and ensuring it happens

There are many management styles and depending on several factors, including urgency, prescriptiveness of output, and experience of the team, will mean you will need to deploy the style most appropriate for the situation. For example, a new member of staff may need very explicit instructions of what to do to give them the confidence to progress a deal; an experienced member of staff may just need to know the output you desire and timescale and you know they will work to this and you just need to be on hand to remove any roadblocks for them. If the board have given a very prescriptive output, such as an executive sponsorship report structure, you need to communicate this to the team and ensure they are sticking to this – there is no room for their interpretation.

A mistake is sometimes not wanting to be seen as a ‘micro manager’ and then not checking in with your staff on progress. The risk is, without regular checkpoints, they wait too long to tell you about a concern because they want to sort things out for themselves. This is great and empowering to a point, but your role as a manager is to manage the task so it is your role to know where your team is at, and to support in moving things along to ensure successful completion by the agreed deadline. Let your team know from the outset the expectations – for example – that they own getting that deal over the line, but you will expect daily updates [state if this is in writing, or verbally], that you want to know if there are any roadblocks that they haven’t been able to remove within 24 hours of identifying, that your role is to ensure this is delivered to time and budget/margin, and their role is to make this happen!

Mentor – sharing your experiences

Mentoring and managing can get confused. As a mentor you are sharing your experiences so the individual can get the view of how you did something, getting an understanding from your experience of what worked for you, and decide if this is how they could also approach the situation; managing is ensuring the task is done, and it may be that it has to be very prescriptive in the direction given. This means you may have experience to impart, so the lines may blur, or it may be that it isn’t a learning opportunity for someone to get insights into your experiences, and it is imperative they ‘just do it’.

Mentoring can also be used alongside coaching. You can give your experience and then ask ‘how would you deal with the situation?’

This is why it is often easier to mentor individuals outside of your direct reporting line. You can be more objective, and individuals are never confused as to the role you are taking and if they have to follow your experience or if it is purely a suggestion.

Coach – asking the questions to allow your team to find their own answers

Being a coach, or having a coaching management style involves having the time to devote to your team members to ask them questions to unlock their full potential. It is difficult to do as the answers given may not be the answers you would give, or would expect to hear. It takes patience, and practice to listen and understand the other view-point, to not overrule with your own opinion and overpower the situation by basically telling them they are wrong by giving your own solution. It is a balance and learning coaching skills is a great way to develop your team. Asking things like:

  • ‘do you feel that would be the most effective way?’

  • ‘do you think there are other options for how to handle this?’

can elicit further dialogue and help someone find different answers themselves, empowering them to implement a strategy that they have developed and could work for them.

I would suggest using coaching when you want the individual to find their own answers. If you are really wanting the individual to do something differently, but your way, mentoring or managing styles may be better styles to adopt.


I think all of these roles have their place and the skill as a sales leader comes in knowing the appropriate time to be utilising each of the roles. As a coach, I know the power of coaching. As a manager, I always preferred using a coaching style as, although I am a control freak by nature, I accepted that my way wasn’t necessarily the best way of doing something, so I would prefer to give my team the expectations of the end results and let them find their own way. If they struggled with this, I would give my opinion and/or facilitate a brainstorming session, however, I know there were times I should have been more managerial and given a more prescriptive way of doing something, to avoid some mistakes or missed deadlines. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I do think it is important to reflect and take the learnings for your own future development.

When I have had the pleasure of working with more junior or ‘entry level’ positions, mentoring is a great way to help them learn, but I try to do this alongside coaching so they understand that this was the way I handled something, but would they do it differently? Does it fit with their ‘style’? Do they actually think I handled it well? [This can be a tough question to hear the answer to!]

I don’t think anyone gets it ‘right’ 100% of the time; we are all a work in progress and doing the best we can. Having the skills is one thing, knowing the theory is great, but the application is where the real learning happens and where you get to hone and develop your own sales leadership styles. Embrace the process, keep being open to feedback and learning, and you will keep improving as a sales leader.

Lindsey Hood

About the Guest Author: Lindsey Hood is a life and executive coach who specialises in working with amazing professionals who secretly struggle with imposter syndrome, to help them feel genuinely confident by embracing their unique awesomeness and excelling in the career they love! Lindsey has had a successful corporate career working in management, sales enablement, product marketing, and project management.

What I Really Do: Sales Leadership

Transformational Leadership in the Sales World Continued

Part 2.1 – Sales Leadership

Let’s continue the discussion from the funny Friday meme and talk about the many ‘hats’ of an effective sales leader, and how to expand that into a transformational sales leadership. If you haven’t accepted the meme challenge from Friday – I really want to encourage you to do so to get the most of this topic; plus it’s a 5 minute fun break to pull you away from your daily grind and who doesn’t love a good meme?! 🙂

As a sales leader you have many hats to wear, both internal facing to your team, external facing to the business and also your customers. You are leading, supervising and managing your team to hit the sales number and other business objectives; you are developing and implementing the sales plans and evaluating and managing performance of your teams against this; you are developing and motivating your teams to achieve (and exceed)  revenue goals; you are responsible for their understanding on the direction of the company and the role they play in this as a team, and as individuals. You are also accountable for collaborating with stakeholders within the business so that sales requirements and challenges are understood. Working both cross-functionally and with other sales leaders to ensure the sales strategies and methodologies are aligned to the overall business objectives, and there is full support of the sales strategy from the business. Like many leadership roles, that of a sales leader is no easy task.

A very successful sales individual isn’t the only thing that makes a successful sales leader. I often see a lot of emphasis put on one’s ‘selling track record’ to define their ability to be a successful sales leader; unintentionally forgetting about all the other hats this individual has to put on, and their leadership aptitude for doing so. You must be able to recognize when to pivot between these leadership hats, and how to do so effectively. You are not only doing this with your team members and customers, you are doing it with your sales leadership peers, departmental colleagues, and superiors. This is the difference between a sales leader that is good, one that is great, and one that is world-class. 

Welcome Our Guest!!

I am thrilled to announce that I have invited Lindsey Hood, professional coach, to join in on our discussion as a guest blogger and share her insights!! Tomorrow, Lindsey will kick it off and share her perspective on the roles of an effective sales leader – so stick around, share your thoughts and welcome her!


What I Really Do!

Transformational Leadership in the Sales World Continued

Part 2 – Sales Leadership

Like most of us, I’m a sucker for a good meme! I mean, where did we ever find humor before the YouTube, GIF, and meme days?! Who knows! The “what I really do” meme is one of my favorites. I searched and searched for an accurate representation of a “what I really do” sales management meme, and although there are some funny ones out there, there wasn’t one that I felt captured all perceptions from my view point accurately. So, I generated one myself… of course! 🙂 Are you down for a meme generator competition?! Keep reading!

what i think i do.png

If the template had more boxes, I would have added a prospect one, with the funny image of jaws jumping out of the ocean with the kill in it’s mouth! If I could have split the last “What I really do” image into several images, I would have also included these along with the barrier buster image shown!

I’ve been a busy bee over the last several days with a different project, so I haven’t been able to publish the continuation of the Transformation Leadership in the Sales World Series. {As a side note, if you clicked on the above link to the project I’ve been working on… the answer is no, the nursery set is not for us… and I don’t have that kind of news to share lol!}

As a prequel to the next topic in the series, I wanted to share this meme to get you thinking first. Some of you may look at it and chuckle… nodding and thinking to yourself, “yep, that’s pretty accurate!” Some of you may look at it with an entirely different or slightly varying perspective. While others may look at it and laugh, because they don’t have an opinion one way or the other.

Share Your Thoughts! MEME CHALLENGE 🙂

BEFORE I dive into the next topic, I’d first like to get some feedback from you to make the next post more interactive! You don’t have to be in sales to participate, in fact, having the perspective of both sales professionals and other professionals will make the conversation more interesting! Please take one quick second to take the MEME CHALLENGE by commenting on this entry or on any social platform with your thoughts:

  1. From your perspective of what sales managers do, what does this meme mean to you?
  2. Do you agree with all the various perceptions of the images, just a few or none at all?
  3. If you could change any part of the meme images or personas, what would you change them to and why?

EXTRA CREDIT: If you’re feeling really ambitious, create your own and share it in the comments! It can be of ANY role, or using the sales management them. 🙂 *Note, you may have to screen or snippet the final meme if your link doesn’t work!

I’ll give everyone a few days to think about it and participate, and then we’ll jump on in.


Transformational Leadership in the Sales World

Part 1

This is the first of a multi-post series on Transformational Leadership in the SALES WORLD. So, stick around there is lots to talk about.

Sales Operations? Strategy? Sales Planning? Enablement? OH MY! It’s amazing how many organizations are expanding their sales organizations to not only include roles focused on these critical functions – but how much of a priority it is as a part of their overall business strategy. The adoption of sales operations reminds me of the evolution of ‘procurement’ with the adoption of supply chain and strategic sourcing. As companies shifted more focus to the bottom line, EBITDA, and working capital – things like inventory turns, cash flow, cost deflation, and leveraging buying power became crucial and necessary for growth.

Quick example comparison, if interested, but feel free to skip: Despite their recent struggles and criticism, no one can argue that General Electric has been a well oiled machine for over a century; holding a spot in the top 10 of the Fortune 100 for over two decades. If you have ever worked for, or done business with this powerhouse you know that two of the most respected business functions is Human Resources and Sourcing. While GE was demonstrating the results that come from a focus on strategic sourcing for decades, the rest of the world was still trying to grasp the concept. Now, all of a sudden carrying a masters in Supply Chain Management is one of the most respected and universal fields of study for business operations. I continue to be puzzled by the lack of even undergraduate field study options in sales, but my prediction is that in the next 10 years this will be common for sales operations and strategy, and sales masters programs will follow. NO disrespect or discredit to those marketing degrees, I’m simply saying sales studies should be a more narrowed focus. [end rabbit hole]

Isn’t That The Sales Manager’s Job?

According to research in an article published by McKinsey & Company, “companies that build world-class sales operations functions can realize one-time improvements of 20 to 30 percent in sales productivity, with sustained annual increases as high as 5 to 10 percent.” But wait a minute, isn’t Sales Operations just the administrative “non-revenue” reporting data tasks? That improvement rate can’t possibly be accurate! First, I’d like to start by debunking the idea that sales operations is nothing more than sales administration/reporting; and an even more common misinterpretation that sales operations is sales enablement, vice versa – or that sales management is all of the above. If you see any of these things as one in the same, or as interchangeable then you’ve just successfully killed your chance at ever having a world-class sales organization, before you even got started. They are not the same, will never be the same, should not be treated the same, and they are certainly not interchangeable. In fact the opposite: they are all critical, both individually and as a whole. A common example I hear is that “it’s the managers responsibility to institute selling strategies”- man, if I had a nickel! The person who says this does not understand how many different sales methodologies are out there or how they are constantly evolving as the market does, and that you can have success with more than one. How can a manager successfully institute ANY selling methodology if they don’t understand what the business and organizational strategy is? How about a segmentation strategy, as another example. A sales manager that creates a territory strategy without data, a plan to execute or a program to scale will never become anything more than a colorful map. If you are too focused, or completely lack focus in any of these areas, the others suffer immensely and so does the performance of your sales team. Sales operations is about optimizing, sales enablement is about scaling the optimization, and sales management is about maximizing both. From this point on, when I refer to Sales operations, enablement and management this is what I mean:

3 sales pillars

For quick clarity, it’s important that I mention that this illustration is absolutely NOT suggesting that things like process, data, and strategy are not factors of sales enablement or management. The illustration represents the role in which each fundamental is the starting point, if you will. All sales folks, should absolutely have the ability to use data analytics or create repeatable processes, as examples.

So Then What Is It

1. make the best or most effective use of a situation, opportunity,  or  resource.

How can you maximize and scale anything before you have optimized it?

Breaking It Down

data pillar.png

3ps two

optimize.pngAs I mentioned earlier, this is a multi-segment series, on applying transformational leadership in the sales world.

Step 1: Setting up a structure that creates world-class sales organizations and cultivates transformational leadership.

This starting point is really pretty simple. Even the MOST successful sales manager in the world cannot, and should not be expected to, incorporate a focus of sales operations with their regular day job from the side of their desk, nor should any organization want them to try! “But we can’t allocate the budget it would take to do this”… you might be saying. That’s the thing though: this is an investment, and just like any investment you need to understand your return.

Stay tuned… more to come in the next post.