Drive a high performing team

Having the brightest talent engaged, focused and self-motivated makes the difference between feeling like you are winning every day versus feeling like you are a hamster in a cage, or, at best in a mediocre existence.

A Harvard business review states that 69% percent of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota rated their sales manager as being excellent or above average. So, we can see that the high performing leader creates and leads a high performing team.

In our own recent survey of top performing sales leaders, we found that there was a pattern to the leaderships behaviours and driving successful teams.

Leaders with these common characteristics created a team that was supportive, dynamic, intrinsically motivated and driven to succeed. They possess vitality and optimism at their core.

Their teams were more resourceful, resilient, accountable and positive. They upheld a ‘can do’ attitude and went the extra mile.

This positiveness radiated and showed itself in everyone’s self-esteem, confidence and abilities. The natural consequence of that reflected in their results and  figures.

So, let’s jump to discovering what are those identified leadership behaviours? Here are the  top 10:

Those top sales leaders are:

  • aware of how to sell

Yes, if you are a sales leader YOU need to know how to sell. It was hands down the top differentiator between those higher performing teams and those lowest performing teams. When the times are tough, the team is looking to you for guidance.

Think about it this way, I can read a book on how to ride a motorcycle and then share my tips with others, but I’m probably much more effective (practical, realistic and credible) when I myself am a motorcycle rider. (I am by the way).

  • close to the field

Besides just knowing how to sell, those teams that were smashing it had a leader who was too was engaged, doing calls, seeing clients, rolling up their sleeves and getting down and dirty. This meant the leader was able to ‘lead’ with knowledge, conviction and empathy.

Crucially, this  aspect of ‘I’ve walked the walk and am walking it now’ meant they can, with credibility, pave a way for their team to be successful.

They can brain storm objections and come up with suitable, tried and tested solutions.

They can create strategies and guidance on how to approach clients, how to have the right conversations.

I’m not advocating that the leaders always go out, but in my experience many sales leaders get caught up in directing the needs ‘from above’, and before they know it, they end up being detached from what their reps are doing.  Which means, that when they dish out ‘advice’ or  bark instructions like  ‘use the CRM better’ it lacks the punch of plausibility, silently unsure if what they are expecting, is even realistic and doable.

  • evolving

Those high performing sales leaders are on a constant wave of development – always listening to podcasts, always immersed in a book. They see personal and professional development as essential daily activities to being top of their game.

From the team’s point of view, seeing a positive ‘can do’ leader has a profound effect on their perception.  Inspired by their leader’s continuous learning, those teams  unquestioningly embrace learning as positive and vital.

They accept failures as opportunities to learn. When teams are on a regular path of learning, the overall emotional Intelligence heightens (less blaming and more accountability).

  • clear on expectations

Leaders who are crystal clear on the business expectations have less ‘hands on’ managing to do.  The team understand whatthey need to do to and what is required of them.  They know how to achieve it.

The leader makes it clear what a successful pathway looks like.

It’s surprising how many sales leaders wait until review time to define the standards, e.g. informing a team member that the 10 calls a day they have been doing for 6 months is well below par and that 15 will get them the results.

Weekly meetings and daily stand ups are an opportune time to show that success comes from being organised, proactive and setting yourself up for a minimum of 15 calls (more importantly the right calls, at the right time, with the right message delivered to the right person). It’s a time to embed what success looks like in behavioural terms.

  • aware of the individual style

What motivates each of your team? Are they literal or inferential learners? Do they learn best visually, verbally or by you writing notes?

Our lovely friend Simon Sinek discusses how public displays of recognition are of higher importance than money rewards.  (He isn’t really my friend, not  yet). Whilst on Simon – his number one YouTube hit on the ‘why’ is a must watch for every leader. This brings a deeper meaning to what drives behaviours.


  • good at coaching

Know how to coach and mentor. When working on individual development plans ask yourself ‘is this gap coachable’. Know how to read the situation so that you are encouraging that rep to dissect a situation and see if they have worked out a better course of action next time. So, rather than say ‘You should have told John Smith we can help with this and that’ you say ‘if you were to do that again what would you tweak’, and see if they have worked it out.  You are looking at missing links in learning. Coaching is as much listening as it is guiding.

Focus a lot on the discovery part of the client interaction. This is where the client has decided to buy into the sales person or not (including all the preceding interactions that created an impression: phone call, Li request, calendar invite, email, how they were spoken to, did they see value etc – all before the discovery call).

Good coaching dissects this part of the process. Think of it like a compass to a sailor. Setting off into the wrong direction results in being way off course.

  • run meetings that evolve everyone

In your weekly meetings are you focusing on pipeline or focusing on skill development? When leaders focus on developing the team’s skills they are leveraging real stories for immediate learning.

The consequence of a highly skilled and highly developed team is a realistic and successful pipeline.

Ask each person to take it in turns to share a success journey, as well as a ‘failure’ journey.  Focus being the journey that  we are honing in on here. Objectively looking at what went well, what could be improved, what would alter if done again  – what made a difference to the meeting etc.

Perhaps it was luck may have brought John that incoming $50k deal (the foundations of which were laid two years ago by a previous rep) , but hard work and graft may have lead Sarah – through all the right touch points, expressing the right behaviours – to now have a long term partnership with a client that so far has invested $20k and is likely to keep ploughing in money over the next five years.   Share and grow together.

  • leaders in their industry

They learn about the market place, the playing field, the competitors.  They know how to be in the right place at the right time. They are able to feed back to management about developments in the field, various tweaks needed to any sales and marketing message. They are on LinkedIn and post relevant, helpful articles.  They know how to position themselves as influencers.

  • calm and considered

The hot-headed emotive days should be behind us. Curved balls are plentiful,  so being able to control your expectations as well as emotions is essential. A stressed leader will result in a stressed team.  The team pick up on how you are acting and behaving.

If you are not familiar with the devastating effects of stress let me give it to you in a punchline. Stress = lower productivity.

  • aware there is no silver bullet

One of my favourite Thomas Edison quotes is “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” That sums it up.

Be smart about how you go about your day. Be what you want your team to be – organised and efficient,  focused and resilient. Above all, when it’s needed, be prepared to grind it.  Smile and be grateful for the opportunity that many have. Positive work ethic is contagious.



What to do

Have awareness of how to sell so that you can be empathetic, encouraging, supportive and provide guidance

Learn more

Read: ‘How to motivate your team’>>>

Learn: join our live, free webinar for sales leaders where I will be covering the 3 qualities need to drive a high performing team

Smarter Selling is sales and mindset coaching for high performing leaders and teams