How to Find the Hidden Leaders on Your Sales Team

BY Kathy Crosett
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Are there hidden leaders on your sales team? If you’re like most sales managers, you might feel like you've barely kept your head above water since the pandemic began. As the work from home orders extend into next year at many organizations, the reaction from some sales professionals might be less than enthusiastic. That's why it may be time to tap into the leadership potential in your organization.

The Negative Impact of COVID-​19 on Team Spirit

The most extroverted members of your team are missing interpersonal interactions in a big way. Other team members may be feeling discouraged about their lack of progress this year. Many organizations have slowed down their buying plans, which means your reps are feeling the financial and professional pressure. As Lisa Rigsby, our Vice President of Sales, says, “When sales reps go a long time between sales, they start to doubt their abilities.” When your team members feel demoralized, you know they could use more one-​on-​one time with you. If you don’t have that time to spare, consider using proxies.

The Hidden Leaders on Your Sales Team

In a recent SmartBrief post, Joel Garfinkle wrote about how too many teams don’t reach their full potential because leaders don’t realize they have hidden management gems in the group. Have noticed whether team members always seem to seek out a specific individual’s opinion? Do they always suggest that this person be included in various meetings? There’s a reason this is happening. You may have been stuck in a rut or were too busy to notice that someone on your team has great management potential.

Often, these are not the individual rainmakers. Instead, individuals with management potential may be introverts and working behind the scenes to make the team a success. Once you become aware of an individual’s contributions, acknowledge their work. Doing so will give them a sense of accomplishment. If you continue to ignore them, you risk losing this person. In our research, we’ve found that 28% of sales reps leave an organization because they felt they didn’t get recognition for their work.

Recognition Leads to Retention

In addition to acknowledging the work your hidden potential future manager is doing, you can also increase their team role. Ask them to hold regular brainstorming sessions with the rest of the team to think about ways to improve their work from home situations. You can also ask them to meet virtually and unofficially with a rep who’s struggling with a specific aspect of the sales process. Putting them in this role allows you to assess their ability to act as an empathic manager. At the same time, you’re showing the rest of the team that you care about each individual’s performance and that you’ll do what it takes to help everyone improve.

When you position yourself as a true team leader, instead of an old line supervisor, your employees will become more engaged. Taking this step will also help increase retention. Overall, our research shows 23% of sales reps have left a department or company because of their manager’s performance. And 27% left an organization because they didn’t like the team or company culture.

Sales professionals have a tough job in this economic climate, but the right moves on your part can help them feel like they are making a difference and getting ahead.