Salespeople must have confidence. How often have you heard that? They must have confidence in their products, confidence in the value of their solutions, and confidence that their companies can deliver. Most importantly, they must have confidence in their own ability to sell. If a salesperson has all of these things, he or she has captured lightning in a bottle. And this confidence makes it easy to establish credibility and gain clients’ trust.
But here’s one you don’t hear often: Salespeople also need to have confidence in their leaders.
How do you make sure your team has confidence in your ability to help them become stellar performers? And what does it take to convince them you have their backs?
Do Sweat the Little Things
Leaders who inspire confidence pay attention to the little things. They don’t just notice when reps hit their numbers. They also recognize team members for making contributions that aren’t in their job descriptions. They recognize people for influencing those around them, for upholding the values and mission of the company, and for promoting the vision of the team.
They also recognize talent—and understand that confidence and loyalty are two-way streets. When your team knows you believe in them, they are far more likely to believe in you—and to work their butts off for you.
Shut Up and Listen
Confident leaders recognize the value of their teams’ ideas and feedback. They listen carefully to what their people say, and just as importantly, they act on what they hear.
Many leaders will spend time with individuals on their team. They’ll give people opportunities to weigh in on certain topics and take time to hear them out. But many sales leaders don’t actually take their teams’ suggestions.
I know firsthand how deflating it can be for people to think their voices are being heard, only to learn it’s still business as usual. I worked for a boss who said he had an “open door policy.” Several of us interpreted this to mean he wanted to hear our opinions and suggestions. It seemed like a logical assumption, and he seemed to be listening. He took copious notes, engaged us in conversation, nodded his head, and thanked us for coming in. But nothing ever happened. So we did what no leader wants his people to do. We said, “The heck with it,” and did exactly what we wanted—until we were told otherwise. Although leaders should encourage diverse thinking, they shouldn’t have a bunch of loose cannons running around—especially when it comes to something as important as the mission and direction of an organization.
Confident leaders not only listen; they seek out people’s opinions. They recognize and appreciate bold ideas, and put them into action. In other words, they make sure their teams know they’re being heard.
A Little Recognition Goes a Long Way
Sales leaders should also recognize people by simply saying “thank you” in the moment—and then following up with a handwritten note and maybe even a small gift card to show gratitude for a job well done. The amount is not what matters. It’s the recognition and appreciation that will instill loyalty and confidence in your leadership ability.
I thought I didn’t care about recognition and awards. Then I worked for a company that gave out lots of awards. In my first year, I won “Rookie of the Year” and “Bias for Action.” I won a spot on our awards trip four years in a row. (At the time, I thought every company recognized top performers with trips, but most don’t.)
I also received a carved crystal paperweight on an elegant, engraved base. That was more than 20 years ago. I’ve moved my office several times in the intervening years, but I won’t toss it. That award is still in a prominent place in my office.
If you want your team to have unrivaled confidence in their leader, make them feel like the rockstars they are (or could be). That doesn’t mean you have to roll out the red carpet or lavish them with fancy gifts. A heartfelt thank-you note or a public shout-out can be just as memorable.