Why Sales Performance Improves When You Adapt Your Sales Leadership Style

Sales Leadership | Sales Xceleration

No two salespeople are exactly alike, and yet it is common for sales leaders and business owners to use a singular “go-to” style of leadership for every member of the sales team, even though they intellectually know effective sales leadership doesn’t emanate from only one style. While their personally preferred style might work for some team members, chances are it falls short of providing other sales personnel with the support and motivation they need to succeed. Let’s look at some sales leadership styles and why it pays to adapt your default style to fit the situation and the salesperson:


The Difference Between Management and Leadership

Leadership guru Peter Drucker famously wrote that, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” That is a wonderfully concise and clear statement of the philosophical difference between the two disciplines. However, there is – and should be – overlap. That is, great managers usually have identifiable leadership skills; and great leaders manage to get things done, even if it might often be primarily through motivation and delegation.

But I want to focus on leadership here. I want to look at why leaders (even if their title is Vice President of Sales) too often become entrenched in a personal style that is comfortable for them, but ignores the needs of their subordinates. I want to share some different leadership styles that can be used in unique situations for unique salespeople. And I want to emphasize that adaptive leadership makes effective sales management and superior sales performance easier to achieve. Let’s go!


Why We Stay Stuck

Most leaders have a preferred “default” leadership style – even if they couldn’t actually label it. Some are authoritarian, others collaborative. Some are laser-focused on meeting goals while others concentrate on the health of the sale’s team culture as a primary measure of success. Regardless of the “go-to” style, however, most leaders seldom deviate from their comfort zone. The word comfort is key, here. It is comfortable to remain where you are. It is easy to adopt a style and stay the course. It projects consistency, and surely consistency is a good thing, right? Probably not.

What is comfortable and easy and consistent for the business owner or sales manager probably ignores the individuality – and individual needs – of each salesperson. And this sends a message of disrespect. It says that the salesperson whose professional style meshes with the manager’s leadership style has more value than the salesperson who needs something different, something more from a leader.

Still, it’s easy and comfortable for the person in charge not to change, so the leader – and the organization – stay stuck. What’s the first step to getting unstuck? Recognizing your default leadership style.


Different Leadership Types

Adaptive or “kinetic” leadership styles can take many forms. According to a recent Fast Company article, a 2000 Harvard Business Review study by Daniel Goleman “discovered that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability!” Goleman’s research went further and identified six leadership styles based on the approximately 3,000 middle-level managers studied. Ranging from what I perceive to be the most domineering style to the least, here’s the spectrum:

  • The controlling Coercive Leader
  • The hard-driving Pacesetting Leader
  • The goal-oriented Authoritative Leader
  • The strength-building Coaching Leader
  • The people-first Affiliative Leader
  • The consensus-building Democratic Leader

The labels of these leadership styles are pretty much self-explanatory. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages; and each has its time and place when it works best. But none of these styles are one-size fits all!


How Adaptive Sales Leadership Improves Performance

No doubt, using an adaptive or kinetic approach to sales leadership is more difficult in the beginning for the sales manager or business owner tasked with leading the troops toward common goals. But it’s also easy to understand the value in meeting people where they are and providing the type (and amount) of leadership they need to excel.

Simply put, salespeople perform better when they feel respected. When they feel valued as individuals. When they feel heard. And when they see their leader leading with concern for their needs.


The Bottom Line:

Sales leadership is not easy. But doing the right thing by giving your salespeople the individual respect and leadership they need to succeed is worth the effort. The problem, however, is that many of us are too close to our own situation to be objective. We have trouble recognizing our default leadership style, let alone changing it to suit the situation. That’s where Sales Xceleration’s licensed Advisors can help. We can identify the sales leadership style in effect, and help business owners and sales managers adapt for the good of the organization. Ready to learn more? Click here to find your nearest Sales Xceleration Advisor or call us at 844.874.7253.