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Habits For Establishing Credibility As A Sales Leader

Whether you were hired brand new to the company, or started out as a salesperson and were promoted to sales leader, you need to build credibility with your sales team. Establishing credibility as a leader is not something that happens overnight. It's a process that involves time, effort, and patience, and is worth the investment for successful leadership.

Why Build Credibility?

According to Inc. "Research shows that only 49 percent of employees trust their senior management, and only 28 percent believe CEOs are a credible source of information." Trust and credibility go hand-in-hand. Credibility positions sales leaders as a highly dependable source of expertise, information, and decision making. A credible leader focuses on creating successful situations for all. Credibility can translate into an improved team and organizational performance under your guidance and effective relationships with vendors, distributors, and clients.

When There is a Lack of Credibility

The title "Leader" or "Manager" doesn't come with an automatic badge of credibility. It is something you have to earn. Here are a few signs that your team doesn't fully trust you:

  • When you ask for feedback or ideas, they are silent.
  • When there is conflict, you do not hear about it from your team, you hear it from someone else.
  • Your team never comes to you for help or aid.
  • Your team is talking as a group and when you approach, they stop talking.

When trust fails, it does not matter how effective a leader you are in motivating others, or your overall leadership style. All of these other strengths are irrelevant when a leader is viewed as no longer trustworthy.

Here are a few ways to build your trust and credibility.

When You Aren’t From Sales

Many think that as a leader you need to be an expert or have a great track record and come from sales. Not necessarily the case. Many great leaders have come up through operations and finance. True that you will eventually have to understand the products, industry, competitors, etc. The best way to do that is by spending time in the field with your team and understanding what they go through.

But your job is not to be the sales expert right away. Your job is to help your sales team think through things and leverage the resources that can help them be successful. That may be to point them at a subject matter expert or simply by making them think things through – NOT just giving them the answers.

Be Accountable for Your Actions

Being accountable for your actions means owning up to a mistake you made, not blaming others or your team. Credible sales leaders take full responsibility for their actions and decisions and follow through on their commitments to their team members. These leaders accept when they make a mistake and do everything that is needed to fix it. When you are willing to own up to a mistake, your team will more likely follow your lead and do the same. You create a safe, trusting space where your team is willing to lean on you.

Show Respect and Recognize

One of the quickest ways to lose your team’s respect is by pointing out their negative attributes all the time and focusing solely on what they do wrong. Sales Leaders earn respect when they reward and recognize their salespeople's efforts. They take the time to appreciate and understand the unique ways each person thinks, acts, and is always on the lookout to empower their talent.

Recognizing the effort your sales team puts into their clients, the numbers and goals goes a long way. Rewarding salespeople in a way they wish to be recognized demonstrates you care for them and creates a supportive work environment. You can earn their respect by rewarding them for their accomplishments. A few ways to reward your salespeople are:

  • Public or private praise
  • Telling the CEO and having them write a note
  • Letting the salespeople talk about their success in a group meeting

If you want even more information or ideas on rewards and recognition, check out our blog, "The ABC's Of Managing Your Sales Team."

Listen to What They Say

A disconnect between you and your sales team can damage trust, employee engagement, and collaboration. This can contribute to a decline in productivity, increased turnover, and ultimately loss of market share. Listening to your sales team and considering their opinions makes them feel valued and shows that they can always come to you. It reengages them, improves morale, and builds trust and credibility.

Join Them in the Field

Often, your sales team believes you are too far away from where the action is. You cannot see anything from the locker room. You need to be on the sidelines. But the key thing is to make sure you do not take the call over. It's up to your salesperson to lead, drive, and close, and it's your job to give feedback and ask questions. Allow your salesperson to come to a conclusion on their own.

If you need help with this, check out our download, "Curbside Check-in."

Provide Positive Feedback and Challenge Their Thinking

Positive feedback provides positive observations and suggestions that allow others to see what can change to improve their focus and results. You will likely get much more from people when your approach is positive and focused on improvement. According to Officevibe, "96% of employees say that they want to hear feedback regularly."

By providing feedback, your salespeople can know what they are doing well and what they need to improve on. Here are a few tips to provide effective positive feedback:

  • Make the feedback specific
  • Give it promptly
  • Let other salespeople see it
  • Explain their impact

By providing positive feedback, you are reshaping behavior and molding the actions and attitudes of the team. In addition, challenge their thinking from time to time. This doesn’t mean telling them they’re wrong, but by asking them how they arrived at their strategy or approach. Or asking them what they thought about another approach. People respect people that teach them things and expand their capabilities. If you help someone get better because you made them think outside the box, you will absolutely establish credibility with them.

In the End

Credible sales leaders walk the talk and make their actions speak louder than their words. They deliver what they promise, showing their team they are valued, and recognize their efforts. Sales leaders with established credibility are respected, trusted, and more likely to get buy-in, which ultimately leads to more productive teams.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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