The Makings of an Effective Leader

The Makings of an Effective Leader

When I consult with the next generation of business owners and key executives, I am frequently asked what makes an effective leader. This is an important question. As John Maxwell notes in The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” He asks, “What makes people want to follow a leader?” And, “Why do people reluctantly comply with one leader while passionately following another to the ends of the earth?”

Key leadership principles

Here are four stated leadership principles from writers I admire that address these questions:

  1.  Accountability – In The Oz Principle, the authors explain how we lead by resolving problems using these four steps to accountability: see it, own it, solve it, and do it.
  2. Influence – In The Go-Giver, Burg and Mann show us that influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interest above your own.
  3.  Trustworthiness – In The 8th Habit we learn from Steven Covey that 90% of all leadership failures are failures of character. He purports that an effective leader needs to be trustworthy and that trust is developed from strong character and competency.
  4. Multipliers – In Multipliers the authors explain, “Multipliers are genius makers who bring out the intelligence in others. They build collective, viral intelligence in organizations. Diminishers are absorbed in their own intelligence, stifle others, and deplete the organization of crucial intelligence and capability.”  A leader needs to be a multiplier.

Today’s successful leader

Experience shows us that these four character qualities are foundational to the makings of a successful leader. To be an effective influencer in your organization, show accountability, put others first, be trustworthy, and use your ability to bring out the intelligence in those you lead.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

Boosting Inside Sales

Boosting Inside Sales

Tapping inside potential

Digitalization, combined with a worldwide pandemic, has caused significant disruption in distribution sales, especially inside sales. Advice on how to succeed on the new playing field, particularly in regard to servicing your 80/20 accounts (the 20% that generate 80% of your sales), is plentiful. I have written recently on the importance of using Enterprise Selling techniques to retain and gain customers in this digital age. However, there is also a wealth of information on another approach for distribution account retention — boosting sales from the inside.

Blending sales techniques

While each offers a different approach to sales, Enterprise Selling and Inside Sales Management, can work well together. By blending these two models, company assets can be coordinated to boost sales. Campaign coordinators and field specialists can offer support to the inside sales team. Project leaders can work with customer service and business development staff to improve results. In addition to supporting Enterprise accounts, this blended model puts resources into mid-size, high profit accounts and encourages more effective prospecting activity.

The inside sales team and digitization

While the pandemic temporarily closed the door to servicing customers in person, it opened wide another. Today, the level of communication between rep and customer can be far greater with virtual face-to-face call activity. Digitalization also provides better access to account information. To take advantage of new digital tools and boost sales, you need a well-developed team making outgoing calls.

Focus on customer interaction

The inside sales team should focus on these types of interactions:

  1. Next tier territory accounts – Direct your sales team to work with outside sales territory managers to focus on building business in the group below the 80/20 accounts.
  2. Attend to the In-store customer – Lead generation and midsize account development can originate from customers who regularly stop by a branch office. These clients may be picking up a purchase, renting equipment, or just visiting your showroom. The inside sales department needs to engage with the customer to see what additional products or services they might use.
  3. Marketing department – Social Media is now a major means of marketing.  Make sure your social media team works in sync with the sales team to capture new business leads.
  4. Business lists – Make a focused effort to have your inside sales team develop leads from vendors, SIC/NAICS coding, social media, website data, etc. To make these lists effective, have inside sales reps qualify listed leads before sending them to the outside sales team.

Be strategic

Be strategic with a blended sales model that works to retain existing customers and penetrate new accounts. Using Enterprise Selling and refining the efforts of your Inside Sales Team, you can boost sales and stop losing business to alternative channels.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

Hold Them Accountable

Hold Them Accountable

A commitment to resolution

The owner of a distribution business complained that his staff was not following through on commitment deadlines. I had been consulting with this team for over a year. They were excited by our implementation of “The Oz Principle, a method of being accountable for your actions. The Oz Principle’s definition of accountability is “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.” I had worked with the team on moving past blaming others for problems. They were now on the next steps ­— seeing the problem, owning it, and making a commitment to resolving it. The owner saw solutions being recognized by his team but was finding it difficult to hold them accountable.

Steps to accountability

This is a common scenario. Identifying the problem is often easier than solving it. “The Oz Principle” authors recommend the following steps.

  1. Clearly define the desired results – Be sure a specific outcome has been established. Often, next steps are not consistent with getting the required results. Ask the lead person to send notes on any purposeful conversation. These should summarize expected results with a timeline.
  2. Determine a mutually agreeable time for a progress report – Specify a time to review progress on a commitment. I find that this is often the stimulus needed to ensure you stay on track. Scheduled reporting sets you up to succeed by creating deadlines and a chance to make adjustments to your progress where needed.
  3. Deliver praise or coaching – Reviewing steps progressively gives you the opportunity to praise and motivate the team as they work toward a common goal. It also provides a chance to brainstorm and make modifications when needed. Be careful with your assistance. Do not allow the team to think you are making them less accountable.

An opportunity to help

As a leader, you have the opportunity to help those around you mature through accountability. By following the simple steps outlined above, you can hold your team accountable and achieve desired results.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

The Balanced Sales Team

The Balanced Sales Team

The changing sales landscape

In my 50 years of distribution sales and sales management, I have worked with all types of sales reps. By nature, I am a relationship builder. As a Chief Sales Officer, I tended to be most comfortable working with other relationship builders. For me, the time and marketplace favored this model and yielded successful results. The sales landscape is constantly changing, however, and recently, at an accelerated rate. To build a successful sales organization in today’s complex marketplace you need a mixture of sales types. Sales managers need a balanced sales team made up of individuals who can address varied needs.

Which type of rep are you?

In their book, “The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, describe five types of sales reps. Take a minute and see which one best describes you.

  1. The Hard Worker – These “nose to the grindstone” sellers are always willing to go the extra mile. They will make more calls, send more texts and emails, and respond to all RFQs (request for quotes). They are self-motivated. To the hard worker, sales is a numbers game.
  2. The ChallengerChallengers are assertive. They tend to “press” customers as well as their own managers and senior leaders. They look for a deep understanding of the complex issues at hand and will push customers to think outside the box. A challenger can teach a customer how their company can compete more effectively.
  3. The Relationship BuilderThese are natural networkers. They build and nurture strong personal and professional relationships. Relationship builders will advocate across the customer organization and are generous with their time.
  4. The Lone Wolf –These reps are self-confident, don’t like paperwork, and are difficult to control. They are loners but diligent in the pursuit of their goals and tend to be very successful.
  5. The Reactive Problem Solver – Detailed problem solvers fit into this group. Every organization needs them. Reactive problem solvers are more concerned with solutions than sales results, but they keep you out of trouble.

Achieving Balance on Your Sales Team

Each type of sales rep brings a particular strength to a sales organization. In a rapidly changing marketplace, a mixture of talent provides balance and the ability to meet new sales demands. Examine your sales profile to determine how you can make the most effective contribution to your team.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

Accountability: Steps to Success

Accountability: Steps to Success

Problems and Solutions

We all need to take steps to accountability. Throughout my career in executive leadership, I have had relationships with people who were critical of the company that employed us. These were generally successful, mid-level managers. I would listen to their issues, ask questions, and consider their opinions. My parting words were always the same, “Please get back to me with possible solutions to the problem.” Most did not follow up on that request and perhaps felt that I was being dismissive. However, I have always believed if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

The Blame Game

In “The Oz Principle”(oz-principle), authors Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman classify complaining individuals as being part of The Blame Game. These people typically take a wait and see attitude or cover their trail, do some finger pointing, and ignore/deny the facts. “It’s not my job,” or, “I’m confused: tell me what to do,” are common refrains among the complainers. Unchecked, malcontents can demoralize an organization. They can operate at what Connors, Smith, and Hickman call, Below the Behavior Line, an environment where no one acknowledges the truth of the situation.

Steps to Accountability

If we are honest, we probably all have times when we’re functioning Below the line. To operate Above the Line, “The Oz Principle” lists these progressive Steps to Accountability:

  • See it – Recognize and acknowledge the full reality of the situation.
  • Own it – Accept responsibility for the experience and realities you create for yourself and others.
  • Solve it – Change the reality by finding and implementing solutions to the problems. Be creative. Avoid the trap of falling back Below the Line when obstacles present themselves.
  • Do it – Have the courage to follow through with the identified solutions, even if they involve a lot of risk.

Be Accountable

Practice the four steps to accountability.  See it, own it, solve it, and do it. These actions will keep you out of the Blame Game and Above the Line for productive behavior.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.

Becoming a Go-Giver

Becoming a Go-Giver

One of the benefits of retiring from the corporate executive world is that I now have more time to read, write, teach, and give keynote speeches. I was a stereotypic go-getter — in at 6:45 AM and at work until I got it done. While I always believed in working with others, my personal drive to get things done ASAP made that challenging. Today, I am working on being more of a go-giver.

The value of people

What’s changed? Since leaving the corporate world I have worked as a consultant. In this position, I can see just how valuable people are to each other in the business world. For example, I counsel a senior executive who lost his job in the recent economic downturn and had to deal with a sudden illness at the same time. By working together we have rebuilt his strength and belief in himself. Today he is ready to re-enter the labor force. I find good people who work well with others generally find the next venture is better than their last. I believe this will be my client’s experience.

Five Laws of Stratospheric Success

The reward and joy one finds in working through people is summarized very effectively in “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann (

Here are Burg and Mann’s Five Laws of Stratospheric Success:

  1. The Law of Value – “Your true value is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”
  2. The Law of Compensation – “Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.”
  3. The Law of Influence – “Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.”
  4. The Law of Authenticity – “The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.”
  5. The Law of Receptivity – “The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.”

A Passion for Giving

In my work, I derive the greatest joy from working in the hearts and lives of others. Paid compensation pales in comparison to the richness of the relationships I have formed. As Burg and Mann write, “All the great fortunes of the world have been created by men and women who had a greater passion for what they were giving – the product, service or idea – than for what they were getting.”

We need go-givers in the world now more than ever. Stay open to receiving and give the gift of yourself whenever you can. Giving leads to the most rewarding kind of success.

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.