A zillion really good articles have been written about the skills that make an effective sales leader.
Some of the consistent themes from these articles include things like: coaching, developing strategy, motivating, presenting and providing vision. Legendary sales training and personal success guru Brian Tracy offers a strong list of skills and qualities here, which is worth a quick read for sure.
In recent years, I’ve come to believe that one of the most critical skills a leader can cultivate (and yet is often overlooked) is the skill of DESIGN. In many ways, it’s the skill which gives all the others life.
Before you start booing or click to another tab on your screen, at least check out the definition of design that I’m working from:
OK…there is some jargon stuffed into that definition, but the bottom line is this: design is the process of putting serious thought behind an idea and then crafting it into a form that actually gets the job done. At least that’s my translation.
So yes, a sales leader should (must!) have a strong vision, a well thought out strategy and ways to motivate her team but without the skill of DESIGN, or the ability to leverage design, these powerful elements may never reach the point of application in the field. That’s because design is the vehicle that delivers all that good stuff to the customer – in this case, our sales team.
So if design isn’t on your leadership radar right now, here are some thoughts that might change your mind:
DAYS OF DISTRACTION
The amount of noise that is pumped into the average person’s daily life to today is insane and it’s only getting worse. Research by the Radicati Group suggests that by 2018, the average business person will have 97 e-mail messages hit their inboxes per day…an average of around 12/hour. Add to that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram notifications, text messages and maybe an old fashioned phone call or two and the fire hose of communication is officially open in the face of the folks on your team.
EVERYTHING WE DO
Our visionary, strategic and motivational efforts flow directly into that stream of distraction…literally everything we do. The list is endless: meetings, e-mail messages, conference calls, presentations, field coaching reports. While it’s easy to rest on the fact that “we’re the boss” so our team will always pay attention to and learn from what we have to say, it just isn’t true. How we choose to design our initiatives (including if we choose to not think about it at all…) has an incredible influence on how our message is received.
In this world of information overload – which includes everything we do as leaders – our audience has developed a case of selective hearing. Information is filtered (or scanned…another “s” word) and emotional connection only takes place with those things which stand out, speak directly to someone or have the most clearly communicated value. We all have this selective hearing today. In short, we pay attention to those things which are well designed. This isn’t just about aesthetics, either (though that can be part of the story,) it’s about the thought that goes into our efforts across the board.
The cool thing about design is that it should be a truly customer-focused process. And our sales teams are our customers. So design begins by taking the time to understand where they’re at. How do they prefer to receive information? Are they visual or audible learners? Do they like to consume information on the phone or computer? What time of day are they most engaged? What do they do for fun? The more you involve your team in this process the better, more effective and easier your design challenge becomes!
If all this design talk is driving you nuts or scaring the crap out of you – no worries. This is a great area to reach out to others in your company or network to get some help. As a leader, it’s OK to not have every skill mastered (I clearly know this well) as long as we know where to go and get it. Design fits this model perfectly. I rely on a number of colleagues, friends and online resources get my hands around design challenges. Here is just one online resource that might help get your wheels turning!
- Canva.com: an online tool to create cool visuals for use in your communication efforts. Free to sign up and use with upgrades available for minimal cost. The graphics used in this post were created for free with Canva! They also have a “design school” with different tutorials and content to help guide you along.
NEVER TOO LATE
The beauty of being a leader is that the next chance to communicate with our team is right around the corner – so it’s never too late to work on the skill of design. The opportunities are everywhere and endless!
In the week ahead, think about what small opportunities might cross you path where you can intentionally consider how design – look, feel, size, shape, timing and sound – might impact how your message is received? Maybe just that next e-mail message you’re about to write. Or that conference call on Friday.
I’d love any feedback you have and if you have any leadership skills that you think are overlooked?
Thanks always for reading.
It means a lot!