Your business will fare much better if you make yourself redundant!
What does that mean? It means that greatness in leadership comes from having a great team, and everyone working together. Each person striving to be better, win promotion, push for a new challenge, perhaps taking their career path in an international direction with all the benefits and experiences this can bring.
As soon as I learned to drop the word “I” from my daily vocabulary, and to replace it instead with words like “we” and “us” things began to change rapidly. I began to see amazingly improved results which I was able to celebrate with my team in a much more meaningful and enjoyable way, as we grew our company together.
The loneliness of running and leading a business can be hard to bear – but it is much more bearable if you make it all about your team rather than all about you. Celebrate the bigger picture of overall growth and success, and things will feel much less lonely at the top!
One of the best tips when it comes to growth is focus on your sales team – but to no longer perhaps be a part of your sales team, unless of course, also like me you face the stark realisation that running a bigger business is not what you wish to do. You can remain the shareholder, but you can choose any role you play and too often I see growth being hindered by the individual whom must desperately wants growth, the company owner whom has always also been the primary hunter, business development person for their own company.
You can of course choose to grow and change, become a better leader, and move away from sales, but only if your company can afford this change of status. When you’ve been doing everything yourself in your business and then move into more of a leadership role, it can be hard to hand over your best customers to someone else. These may be clients you have fought hard to win and it can feel emotional and uncomfortable to pass this relationship onto someone else so that you can concentrate on leading the business on to greater things. Stepping away from these clients who you may even enjoy spending time with is a necessary part of growing any business. You simply cannot be top sales person and lead the whole company evolution as the company grows up; there will need to be a transition which is a tough period but if you have decided you want to run the show then really work to let go. In my experience many people fall at this leadership hurdle because they don’t want to hand over their precious clients, habit means they are in a routine selling and often the rest of the company can be neglected.
Plan well. Introduce new account managers gradually and communicate with excellent consistent intent to allow your customers come on a journey with you. Just because you have the idea your client likes the way you sell to them doesn’t mean a new person can’t inject fresh enthusiasm, new innovations and indeed new energy into the relationship. In fact, a fresh new salesperson might even achieve more with an account that you may have neglected slightly as you struggled to lead the business as well as maintain your sales role. The only way you will know the answer to this is to try it – which I appreciate can be daunting, but the best things in life are, as they say, on the other side of fear. You don’t need to detach yourself entirely from your clients. A great way to stay in touch with people is to make sure you still answer incoming phone calls in the office. I heard once Richard Branson called his top 100 accounts each year simply to say thank you for their business. I started doing this and the results of the calls were always excellent. You should also go out on visits with sales people at least twice a year to make sure everything is still going well. Changing a role is not necessarily removing yourself from the day to day sales development of the company and certainly does not mean you remove yourself from all client contact.
Tips to maximise sales force success:
- At the first point in induction we found it was a terrific way to show a sales person how we worked by putting them on the road with other sales team players. Learning, seeing, on the job questions and client interactions help make someone understand the flow of the order process before they then are introduced to back office services and systems which better fall into place when they then meet the team that supports them.
- When someone joins your sales force it pays to get them to start off early and quickly with winning orders. Momentum is a powerful force in sales, and introducing a new salesperson to strong leads which they can convert well will help them to get things moving and to produce strong results much more quickly. This may of course cost you when it comes to commission – but the value of a quick win for a new salesperson is immeasurable. Not only will it get them on their way with selling, they will also learn the order process that much more quickly, and become more familiar with the company as a whole as things move along.
- Get members of your team to present to you as if they were selling a competitor’s product against your own. What are the strengths and benefits of the product, as they see it? Your sales team should be intimately aware not only of every detail of your product but also of key competitors’. Is there something you can learn here and apply to your own product? Are there features and benefits that other products have that you have not considered in your own presentations and learning from others in your own team. A priceless investment in getting your people into the same room should be meticulously planned, a week pre-circulated agenda and a serous intention to give and take value from all the participants.
- Of course, regular meetings of the sales team are a must. Here people can compare notes and best practices; sharing skills and expertise is a priceless way of building momentum and overcoming objections.
- A monthly meeting where you share profitability (or lack thereof), performance, changes in personnel and any updates is an incredible way to move from being seen as a benevolent dictator to a part of the team. Here you can encourage others to step up and become leaders, suggest ideas and ask questions without being ridiculed.
By making yourself redundant you allow your team the autonomy to work together to achieve great results. Give your people the freedom to do their jobs without you watching over them or doing it for them, and I’ve always found myself to be pleasantly surprised by the results. Precious is the ability to multiply those representing your products in the field whilst you ensure the delivery systems, the operations and the financial support is planned and in place to support growth. Time back gives you the opportunity to work on the overall vision of growing the business, rather than being bogged down in the day to day minutiae. And it also means you will be able to take a really proper holiday, safe in the knowledge that your team are perfectly capable of managing without you for a week or two!