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Leading Your Way to Greater Sales

Being an effective supervisor can pay big dividends throughout your company.

It’s often said there’s no “I” in “team.” That may sound like a cliché, but in my years as a sales manager, I’ve found it to be very true. In the two years I’ve been in the material handling industry, I’ve learned the value of teamwork, and it’s something I’ve tried to pass on to those I supervise and to everyone in our office. Now sales are stronger than ever, and it’s in no small part due to applying some key concepts of leadership- listening, modeling, motivating, educating and being sincere.

You’ve Got 2 Ears. Use Them Both.
Listen to those around you. If one person has a problem, it’s likely more people have it, too. When listening, try to get beyond what’s being said- try to uncover the real problems. This will let you develop solutions that benefit the organization as a whole and stop the problem at its root.

It’s better to take on a larger blaze once than to keep putting out small fires every other day, only to have them flare up again. Be responsive to situations. If you ignore people’s problems, the problems don’t go away—but the people do, often disgruntled and no closer to having their problem resolved.

Show What a True Problem-Solver Is
You want the people you manage to act as problem solvers for customers. Model that behavior and attitude within the company as well as externally. I was taught to view sales as a means to solve problems for customers, not merely to increase the bottom line. I’ve been able to put those teachings into practice during my time in the industry, and I think our sales force—and other staff, too—have learned a lot from these principles.

You don’t have to be a workaholic, but don’t be afraid to put in the time and effort needed to ensure that your people succeed. Burn the midnight oil when you need to, and those you manage will see that you’re willing to go above and beyond. Hopefully, this will instill the same desire in them. As a manager, you’ll be judged by those you supervise not only by the way you handle present-day concerns, but also what you accomplished when you were in their shoes. People want to know that you’ve truly been where they are.

Motivate with More than Money
Employees, especially salespeople, are motivated by money- there’s no disputing that fact. But remember that people aren’t one-dimensional. It’s important to help them set goals that will help them reach their desired sales levels, but it’s just as important to find out what really drives them. I’ve noticed today’s younger generation seems to have a different motivation and a different work ethic. Merely dangling dollar signs in front of their eyes won’t do the trick. Find out why they do what they do and where they want to go. Once you discover what drives those you manage, find ways to guide them down that path. Help them set goals and keep them motivated, especially by positively reinforcing when they do something right. Don’t subscribe to the mantra, “Why should I praise them for doing their job correctly?”

Never Stop Learning or Teaching
When our organization changed our sales approach to focus more on the customer than the entrepreneurial nature of our salespeople, it took a lot of educating. Yes, we’ve been sending our people to manufacturers’ schools, but we also strove to educate our entire organization. We’ve emphasized the idea of working as a cohesive unit instead of a series of individuals. While it’s led to increased sales volume—to the tune of 30% to 40%—it’s also changed the way people approach their jobs. The industry is constantly changing. You can’t stand still, and you can’t allow those you supervise to do so, either.

Be Sincere!
Customers will know when you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes. When you’re offering them solutions, do so in a sincere, forthright manner. It’s just as important, though, to deal with your salespeople in a sincere manner. They need to know you’re a person of your word.

Positive leadership can have very tangible effects on your people and your business. A focus on people can lead to enrichment both financially and personally. Products don’t sell themselves- it takes people to make that happen.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Adam Hutson Meet the Author
Adam Hutson, 33, is sales manager for Warehouse Equipment and Supply (Huntsville, AL). A 2-year veteran of the material handling industry, Adam has enjoyed applying his sales knowledge in order to help his company excel. He holds an MBA from the University of Alabama.

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