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TCV Insights

Follow the Leader

Updated: May 9, 2023

By Rick Vohrer, Director, TCV Growth Partners-

What do you think of when you hear the term “Sales Leader”? Are you a sales leader, or a sales team leader?

What makes a sales leader, a sales team leader?

Who remembers playing “Follow the Leader” as a kid? How about “Simon Says”? Did you enjoy playing them?

Which role did you primarily play? How are these simple games beneficial to children’s development?

Here are just a few of the benefits of playing these games:

  • First and foremost, it teaches children to follow directions – in this case, visual or verbal directions.

  • Children must pay attention and listen to what is happening in front of them, or risk being “out”. This builds their concentration span and listening skills.

  • Copying the various movements develops gross motor skills as kids are using the large muscles of their bodies. They develop speed, balance, agility, directionality, and other skills.

  • By playing the “leader” kids learn to think creatively as they have to perform a series of actions for their followers.

  • Winners generally have won while saying little or nothing.

When we are older, we learn about various military leaders in our history classes. Some of the more famous military leaders in history are:

  • Alexander the Great

  • Genghis Khan

  • Napoleon Bonaparte

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

ALEXANDER THE GREAT: “There is nothing impossible to him who will try.”

His teacher was none other than Aristotle, who had learned from Plato, who had learned from Socrates. Alexander’s father gave him much more than an army and political allies. He also shared with him a vision to rule over Asia. Alexander died at age 32. Despite his young age, he had created one of the largest empires ever to exist. Much of it was thanks to having a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish.

GENGHIS KHAN: “When it was wet, we bore the wet together, when it was cold, we bore the cold together.”

Genghis Khan was a brute. Like other military leaders, he thrived on conquest. In fact, many experts believe that the Mongolian invasions in the 13th century eliminated 11 percent of the world’s population at the time. One of Genghis Khan’s defining attributes was his ability to unite other people. To maintain order and unite those he conquered, he enacted Freedom of Religion, Outlawed Slavery, Established Merit-Based Promotions, Emphasized Universal Law, and Education. This free flow of goods and information made it easier for different people and tribes to feel like one large community.

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE: “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”

He fought in 60 battles and only lost seven, most of them being at the end of his military career by studying some of the best generals in history and how they used their powers. He studied the geography and culture of a place before setting foot there. He was an unmatched organizer, used his unparalleled charisma to win more followers, including forces sent to oppose him.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends.

Practicing strengths-based leadership before it was fashionable—delegating responsibilities to others and placing people in roles and positions where they could maximize their strengths. Though he commanded huge armies, Eisenhower often only saw himself as a regular soldier. D-Day: “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”

Everyone listed above is a military leader and they all handled their responsibilities differently. Each one is a product of their personal and cultural identities, yet they had similar core beliefs. They held true to what they felt their purpose was and used their unique talents to influence others.

This doesn’t mean all leaders should act like military conquerors. Leadership styles can be used for both good and bad. Focus on the good, and you’ll find the results you achieve can benefit others tremendously.

Are there similar characteristics found in business and sales leaders? If you have ever taken a business class, you learned about some of the leaders.

Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Steve Jobs: “That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Madam CJ Walker: “I got my start by giving myself a start.”

John D. Rockefeller: “Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one’s aim.”

P.T. Barnum: “Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.”

Joe Girard: “Getting a spot on the list of famous salespeople requires more than just sales. It requires great aftersales service and personalized touch to show customers that they matter.”

Zig Ziglar” “Confidence in your ability to help others, being able to showcase your value to prospects and the ability to get up when knocked down are the qualities that make famous salespeople what they are. He also emphasized the value of teamwork saying you can achieve more with others than you can alone.”

Mary Kay Ash: “If you are in a position of power, empower the people around you and offer incentives and rewards for great performance. Treat everyone as you would like to be treated and use frustrations as opportunities. And always expand your network to increase sales.”

There are many different leadership styles to choose from. The best style will differ depending on the situation and the person, but there will be core characteristics that stand out.

Successful sales leaders are competitive, energetic, driven, passionate, communicative, inspiring, etc. Analytical and process-driven, Innovative and Strategic, A good listener, Effective delegator, Firm and Decisive, Organized, and resourceful, Excellent motivator, Coach-like mindset. Kind fits the military and business leaders above.

Do you show leadership in sales? Want to improve?

Ways to improve your sales leadership skills:

  • Listen and teach the skill to your team.

    • Try playing an adult version of “Follow the Leader”

  • Give feedback.

  • Hold weekly one-on-one meetings.

    • Employing #1 and #2.

  • Develop emotional intelligence.

  • Become a coach.

  • Identify people's strengths. Leverage the strengths of each of your employees and help them develop their skills. ...

    • If you need to identify these and learn how to best use them to develop your team, have your team take the Strengths 2.0 assessment.

  • Show that you care.

  • Be transparent and authentic.

A sales manager pushes their team to close as many deals as possible because by doing so, the manager looks successful. A sales leader pushes every individual salesperson on their team to perform their best so that they can all look and feel successful.

Need help growing and managing your sales team? Feel free to contact me - Rick@TCV-Growth.Partners


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