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Sales Leadership vs. Sales Management – The Difference

The terms sales leadership and sales management are often used interchangeably. But should they be? There is a difference between them, and to be effective as a sales leader you need to do both. How do you know the difference, and when do you leverage the different skills?

The terms sales leadership and sales management are often used interchangeably. But should they be? There is a difference between them, and to be effective as a sales leader you need to do both. How do you know the difference, and when do you leverage the different skills?

What is Leadership?

Sales leadership can bring people from one place to the next successfully. However, it can get confused with positional leadership, which is based on the hierarchy or structure of a team. In The Five Levels of LeadershipJohn Maxwell states that this is the lowest leadership level.

True leaders are those who people want to follow. They are people who develop other leaders and bring out the best in others.

What is Management?

Sales management is the ability to get things done through other people's efforts. It includes holding people accountable and setting clear direction for them to follow. Of course, you still need to get buy-in from those doing the work, but it is more focused on the execution and the process than on developing the people.

Management and Leadership Skills 

As a sales leader, you need to have strong leadership and management skills. Knowing when to shift from one to the other is important.

Some common areas of managing include:

  • Planning (setting the short-term direction)
  • Establishing expectations for how'll you'll work (S.O.P.s)
  • Developing standards and metrics and inspecting progress
  • Communicating important information appropriately (filtering)
  • Adjusting as necessary
  • Being EFFICIENT

Some typical areas of leadership include:

  • Developing the future strategy
  • Teaching, coaching, and guiding (and helping people through change when needed)
  • Exercising influence (aligning constituencies, building relationships, and leveraging teams)
  • Facilitating process improvement (finding problems / improvement opportunities constantly!)
  • Gaining commitment, engaging people, and empowering others to act
  • Motivating and inspiring
  • Being EFFECTIVE

Can You Be Good at Both?

Can you have both leadership and management skills?

The short answer is yes. But remember, just because someone is phenomenal at management, it does not necessarily guarantee that they will be exceptional at leadership, or vice versa.

In this sense, people who are more skilled in leadership are more strategic and vision-driven. As a result, they are consistently improving their teams' skills and their own.

However, those who tend more toward management skills focus much more on day-to-day execution and coaching their sales teams to help them sell more effectively.

In The End

You can be a great sales leader with sales management skills. However, the most successful organizations are the ones who hone and develop both the leadership and management side of their sales leaders.

Contact us at info@pivotaladavisors.com if you are looking for ways to assess and improve your sales leadership or sales management skills.

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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