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September Roundup: Sales Leader Edition

Whether you are a first-time sales leader or a seasoned leader starting with a new team, there are challenges. We asked two sales leaders what advice they wish they could have given themselves back then and would give to any new sales leader now.

Ted McDonald

Ted McDonald has over a decade of sales and leadership experience. He currently works as the VP of Sales and Marketing at Bioworks Inc. McDonald has a vast history of working in the biotechnology and agriculture industries. He is skilled in negotiation, sales, team building, process development, and management.

Jon West

Jon West is the Director of Sales for King Technology's recreational water business - with over a decade of experience at that company. West helps retailers, distributors, and OEMs profitably grow their businesses. West works with a first-class team of National Account Managers and manufacturer representatives.

What advice would you give to another sales leader or first-time sales leader?

If you were a great salesperson before becoming a sales leader, be prepared for your job to be very different. It’s not about your success anymore. It’s about enabling the success of others. Managing your time will become more critical as you will get pulled in many different directions. Have a good coach or peer to use as a sounding board or guide during challenging times.  

– Jon West

There is a lot to this question. I would start with a few simple pieces of advice. First and foremost, make sure that you have an understanding that this is not a sales position. You are no longer working as a salesperson, while at times you may need to sell, your primary role is to help coach your sales team to success. This can be difficult for many young or new sales leaders as they may want to rely on what they used to do or know and feel most comfortable in the trenches selling. Secondly, many sales leaders are promoted from sales roles where they will no longer be peers to their former peers, and they need to understand this and set expectations quickly. While the trust you earned as a peer can translate, boundaries and expectations are critical at this point in a young sales leader’s maturation.

- Ted McDonald

What are the qualities or traits of a good sales leader?

They can manage, they can mentor, and they have a vision. Being a great communicator is super important, and so is setting clear expectations for your team members.  

– Jon West

The qualities of a good sales leader are evident, in my opinion. As a leader, it is our job to serve the team and serve the company we represent. An attitude of a servant in leaders sets the stage for your team to serve as well. Of course, the ability to help guide in planning, coaching when opportunities arise, and enabling your team to make the decisions they need to make in the field will help your team grow and mature into an effective team for your company. The ability to handle many tasks and stay focused is critical. Humility and the desire to coach your team to reach their potential will set your company up for success.  

- Ted McDonald

What area challenged you the most in sales, and how did you overcome it?

Driving big deals with long sales cycles was a challenge for me – although a challenge I enjoyed. I had to stay positive, committed to getting it done, and always focusing on the next best action I could take. Providing my manager with frequent and detailed updates and asking for support when I needed it was critical.

– Jon West

For me, it is and has always been about planning – research is detailed. Those who plan sell more. Once you learn to prepare, it then goes to the fundamentals of selling. For me, the adage, ‘you have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk’ is something I am always telling myself. While it is easy to get excited about your products or solutions, I was challenged as a younger sales professional to remember it is not about me, my products, or my solution. It is about what our customers need, and I have to make sure that my team and I know how to build that trust. I am convinced the best sales professionals don’t just help solve problems, but they allow their clients to uncover new situations so they can be prevented in the future.

- Ted McDonald

About Ann Turner

Ann is a Senior Consultant at Pivotal Advisors. She has well over two decades of leadership experience in sales, marketing, and training. She has worked with start-ups, small businesses, and Fortune 500 companies with a focus on B2B. If you want to find out more about Ann, check out her profile here.
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