5 Ways CEOS Can Help Their Company Get Back its Sales Swagger

Tales of struggling heroes or teams who were broken down yet overcame obstacles to win always seem to capture our attention. All blockbuster superhero movies have a pivotal moment when the invincible character is vulnerable, and that is not unlike what your sales team might experience.

Even the best of sales teams go through a season of vulnerability. Maybe your sales team is in that season now. I have been there too, and even though I can stack up a career with billions in total sales revenue for companies I have run or clients I have worked with, I still know those seasons. So what do you, as the leader of your company, do when your sales team is in one of those seasons and has lost its sales swagger? Below are 5 ways you can help your sales force get back its confidence and return to superhero status.

  1. Say no. When you grasp at every opportunity, even though you know something is not a good fit for your company, you look desperate, not confident. Desperation fosters a culture of discouragement. By saying no to opportunities that are a bad fit for your culture, product or service, you communicate to your team that you have confidence in your company’s ability to win the work that your company should be doing. It also increases the time and effort your team can spend on the opportunities that are a good fit for your company.
“When you grasp at every opportunity, even though you know something is not a good fit for your company, you look desperate, not confident.”
  1. Own your story. Winning organizations have a clear and defined narrative that separates them from competitors. Recently I worked with a company on their narrative. They felt the marketplace saw what they offered as a commodity. We changed the narrative from a focus on product features and price to the following: “All that matters in your decision is which company is closest to you for delivery, historically best for off-hour response and most accurate on handling all transaction processing. Everything else is the same.” That was appropriate for their business, and it changed the narrative with most of their prospects. It moved the dialogue from product and price to a new scorecard. Whatever your story is, you have to own it and know your scorecard so that your team’s confidence goes up in the tough conversations.
  1. Lead in front. During tough times, you as the leader of your company need to be in front of the prospects with the team. I was leading a presentation team for a nine-figure deal. The day of the presentation, the CEO of my company backed out of attending the meeting. What was he saying to everyone on the team? He didn’t believe we could win. We won anyway, but he lost. He wasn’t out front and in the long run it cost him trust and respect from his leadership team. Leaders lead from the front in the tough times. It shows you believe in your team and your company, and that adds swagger.
  1. Post learnings. When there is a big opportunity that your company did not win, there has to be a debrief to understand why. The best companies post what the top two or three takeaways were of what was learned so that the team knows what to do better next time. That builds swagger back into the team because they have clear direction on what works (and what doesn’t work).
  1. Win. Little wins, big wins, it doesn’t matter. You have to win some of the time and make certain that you communicate those wins to your team and the company. There are few things that add strength to the step and a sense that we are getting stronger and better than winning. When you are down, there is a tendency to wait for the big deal to leverage as the moment for celebration. I submit from my experience that you get a lot more from building a sense of winning in your company culture along the way than you do from one thunderclap of success.

Seasons of vulnerability come and go. Iit might not be possible to eliminate these seasons altogether. But as the leader of your company, you have the ability to influence the confidence and swagger of your team; and by doing so, you can shorten the tough times. That ought to put a little swagger in your step.


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