Why It’s Time to Embrace the Servant Leader Role

BY C. Lee Smith
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Most sales teams have moved beyond the hard-​boiled tactics that fueled conflict in the old movie Glengarry Glen Ross. For a while, the consultative selling approach became popular. But today's buyers are savvy and well-​informed. To succeed, it's time to employ the latest sales methodology. In a recent Manage Smarter podcast, James Rores, CEO of Floriss Group, author of the Collecting WINS Sales Methodology, and Founder of the Growth Multiplier Movement outlined how you can apply the servant leader approach to your sales and sales management process. 

Servant Leader Model in Sales

In the real world, most of us are either servants or leaders. Historically, leaders leveraged power to get their way. They used their positions to accumulate authority. That approach can only take a person part of the distance they need to go, especially in a sales situation. These days, buyers don't want to be sold to. When you’re working with a client, you should focus on the fact that you both serve a shared goal. You, and the client, want to increase the client’s sales. That's where the servant leader model comes into play.

When you employ the servant leader model of sales, you explore what the buyer wants, why they want it and how it makes them feel. Instead of talking about your product or service, you’re determining if you can truly help the client. If you can’t, it’s best to move on. While that position makes sales managers and reps uneasy, Rores tell us we can fight that by maintaining a full pipeline and moving on to the next prospect.

Servant Leader Model in Sales Management

Can the servant leader model work in the sales manager and rep relationship? Absolutely. I’ve found that the up-​and-​coming generations of sales reps — members of Gen Y and Gen Z — like to make sales, but they don’t like selling. And they don't like to be given orders without any context. That means sales managers should rethink how they train younger team members to measure success. It won’t always be about how many people they convinced to buy your product. Remember that clients evaluate your reps “based on the impact or the value of what” they bought from them. 

When you talk with reps about measuring their success, think of them as volunteers. Now, more than ever, sales reps can easily find another job, and maybe one that pays more than they’re making with you. That means you need to approach the relationship as a partnership.

To truly serve your reps, avoid attitudes and phrases that undermine your leadership role. With years of experience on your side, it’s easy to try to resolve an issue your rep is having by saying, “The way to look at it is like this…” That kind of statement is the same as saying, "I know best," Keith Corbin pointed out in a recent Medium column. Avoid that inclination. To coach your rep with a servant leader mindset, change your statement into a question like “What would happen if you looked at it from the perspective of…?” Questions like that encourage your rep to own some of the situation and to think constructively about how to find solutions to solve their own problems.