Leading sales teams is a challenge in normal times. Leading sales teams in times of crisis is another animal altogether! From the 2008 Financial Meltdown to today’s COVID-19 crisis, leading sales teams effectively requires every bit of your emotional intelligence and more.
Sales professionals are emotional beings wrapped inside of hard-baked protective shells of rejection resistance. They know how to handle rejection from clients. They don’t necessarily know how to handle not having a customer to call or worse, not knowing if they will have a phone to make that call from!
Effectively leading your team through times of uncertainty requires creating and leveraging three important tools: Communication, Candor and Community.
Beyond an “open-door” policy, you need to create regular and open lines of communication. It can be a weekly newsletter or a daily group text. Getting your team information as quickly as possible builds the trust you will need to weather the storm.
Let your team know the communication will be a regular occurrence. If you promised a daily email, and there is no new information that day, let them know there is nothing new to report. Consistency is key.
As you receive information, verify what can be released and release it. Be open with your team especially when there may be information you are unable to immediately share. When you do share, take pains to separate your fact-based information from your own opinion.
Honesty is the bedrock of great leadership through crisis. If your words are disconnected from reality, your ability to lead your team will be completely undermined. The most effective phrase salespeople have when presented with a question is “I don’t know. Let me find the answer for you.”. As a leader, you need to be comfortable telling your team know that you don’t have an answer.
This candor also should extend to sharing your personal experience. Sharing with your team your worry, your confusion, or any other feelings you have will add more strength to that foundation of trust you are building.
The final tool is building community. From using first person plural pronouns (we, us) to using nicknames, inside jokes and giving the group a name, the goal is to make the various individuals into a single unit.
Churchill let the Londoners know they were part of the British Family at war. Kennedy took the United States on a mission to the moon. George Bush told that firefighter that the entire county heard him. Building community is what leaders do.
The strength of the community is the individuals. When an individual needs the strength of the community, the best leaders help those individuals know the entire community is with them. With open and honest communication, your sales team will be together, fight together and win together!