Be a Sales Team Captain

As a sales manager you need to wear a lot of hats – you are a leader, a manager, a coach, a trainer, a translator of company messages and many other things. But one role I often see overlooked is that of team captain. I believe this is one of the most difficult areas of management in sales. The ability to be the captain of a team is not found books or courses but in skilfully relating to individuals – managing relationships and interactions ‘on the field’.

In sport the team captain must not be just a competent player, they need to inspire confidence, translate the game plan into action and make changes when necessary. The must make tactical decisions, communicate effectively and handle pressure.

It is not dissimilar for a sales team. The sales captain needs to translate the business objectives into actions on the playing field; communicate with the team members, the market and management; make decisions to changing situations (tactical) and bring individuals together to develop a cohesiveness and willingness to achieve group success, not just individual success.

“Talent wins games’ but teamwork wins championships”
Michael Jordan

A good team captain will provide valuable feedback, acknowledgement and reward. They will share leadership within the team and they will celebrate success.

Unfortunately I cannot credit the author of these key points of sales ‘captaincy’ as they come from far back in my career, but remembering these three C’s will help you focus on this area of your role.

Caring – No team captain is successful unless they genuinely care for the success of the team and the individuals that make up the team. A good captain must also care about the the role they have, the company they represent, their customers and about competing. A caring team captain knows to treat the team members with respect and recognise individual contributions. They are sensitive to each individual’s personality and their pride. They respect the input of team members. They encourage and recognise improvement, no matter how small. They don’t manage in a way that belittles an individual or their efforts (praise in public, criticise in private).

Courageous – A good team captain needs to ‘walk the talk’. Be prepared to face difficult situations to support the team and individual members in and outside the office. But a good team captain will also hold team members accountable and take appropriate action when one team member is negatively impacting the rest, or simply not pulling their weight.

If you’re wrong, be courageous and admit it. Learn from the error, apologise to those impacted and avoid it in the future. Your team will respect your humility and honesty.

Be courageous enough to set stretch targets for your team and the team members. It takes courage to believe in your team and in your ability to help the team achieve these targets.

Consistent – Team captains cannot afford to be inconsistent. Actions, communication and participation needs to demonstrate what is expected of the team and needs to be done consistently.

Like any sporting team, a sales team will produce their best results when led effectively on the field and when all members of the team are working towards a common goal – not easy when salespeople have often chosen a career in selling because of the individual nature of the role. Even more challenging when your best salesperson is a ‘lone wolf’ generating excellent results. The team captain needs to be mindful of how these and others operate and how to integrate them into the team.

Being a great team captain isn’t about ordering people around or manipulating them to achieve results, Its about inspiring and guiding them towards the teams goal while still achieving their personal goals. It’s getting the team to recognise their individual efforts are important in achieving this goal. To do this, good sales managers need to know and understand their players. It’s not about manipulation, it’s about motivation.

This article was first published by the author on Linked In.