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Leading By Example

by David Brock on September 12th, 2013
role model in letterpress type

Every manager knows this, it’s Leadership 101, we must Lead By Example.  What much of the literature misses, is that we are always Leading By Example, whether we do so consciously or unconsciously.

What we, as leaders do every day, how we behave, the things we get involved in, how we set priorities — our people watch, observe, and emulate.  What we do, always trumps what we say.

So the issue isn’t about Leading By Example, but Are We Setting The Right Example?

The other day, I was meeting with a group of sales executives.  As often happens, the issue of CRM and CRM utilization arose.  It was particularly sensitive with this group, since they had just implemented their first CRM system.  They were worried, why aren’t people jumping on board faster, how do we encourage utilization?  I asked for a quick break, sat down with the CRM administrator and looked at some reports.  3 of the top 4 executives in the meeting, including the EVP of Sales, had never logged into the CRM system!  Interestingly, the greatest level of utilization came from the 4th executive’s team.  He was using it, so his people were using it.

Likewise, we want our people to use the sales process, our opportunity planning, account and territory management tools.  We want to leverage the training we’ve spent so much money in providing.  We want people to use the tools we’ve invested in.  If we aren’t using them ourselves, then why should we ever expect our people to use them?

If we conduct meetings that are a waste of time, what kind of sales calls do you think your sales people will have?  If we spend our time sitting behind our desks, hiding behind paperwork, where do you think your sales people will be  (it’s kind of hard to figure that out from behind a desk)?

If we talk only about getting the deal and the PO and not what we are helping our customers achieve, how will our people learn how to create and present value?  Likewise, if we create no value for our people, where will they turn to in learning to create value for our customers?

If we blame our people for poor performance, or others, how do we expect our people to take ownership?  Likewise, if we make or accept excuses.

Our actions and behaviors set the example for our people—Always!  If our actions aren’t aligned with out words, guess what people will do—they’ll emulate your behavior.

So if we want our people to stop pitching, to engage the customer in conversations, then the most effective way to do that is to stop doing it ourselves—stop telling, start asking.  Start engaging your people in conversations, ask questions, learn, makes suggestions, grow.  It not only develops your people, but it sets an example they will start emulating in their behaviors.

I attend a lot of sales meetings.  All follow the same format, they basically are cheerleading sessions about how great we are and how great our products are.  Executive after executive stands up and talk about nothing but the products or company performance.  It’s little wonder, that sales people do the same thing when they engage customers.  What if we had sales meetings where all we did was talk about what’s happening to our customers and their markets?  What if we focused only on opportunities where they could grow and improve?  How might that change how our people engage the customers?

So, whether you like it or not, you are already leading by example.  The key question is, as it always is, Are You Setting The Right Example?

  • Are you asking more than you are telling?
  • Are you disciplined in the way you manage your own personal workload?  Do you maintain a schedule, do you focus on your priorities, do you get things done?
  • Are you continually learning, do you look to continually improve?
  • Do you care about your people, do you care about your customers, is it obvious in your behaviors?
  • Are you using the processes, systems, and tools you have put in place to improve effectiveness and productivity?
  • Do you create value in every interchange with your people?  In every interchange with your customers?
  • Do you meet your commitments?
  • Are you interested and interesting?
  • Do you have a disciplined approach to problem solving?
  • Do you hold yourself accountable, do you take ownership for your goals, your behaviors, the results you create?
  • Are you collaborative and open?
  • Do you respect your people, your customers, your peers, your own management?
  • Do you trust and are you trustworthy?

We are always Leading By Example.  There are no time outs in leadership.  Everything we do or say has an impact.  The issue is, are we having the impact we want, or are we creating unintended consequences?

Sales effectiveness and getting top performance from our people is actually pretty easy.  It starts from within ourselves.  Are we effective, are we top performers?  It’s just that simple.

What kind of example are you setting?  Are you the kind of leader you would follow?



Interested in our Sales Management Operating System–a framework to look at the entire sales function and how the different pieces, parts fit together? Ask for our free interactive MindMap by emailing dabrock@excellenc.com with your full name, company and company email.

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3 Comments
  1. Gary permalink

    Great article. It always amazes me how we ask our salespeople to listen actively, probe deeply and find the motivational heart of the customer that will enable them to say yes, and yet when was the last time we as sales managers/coaches treated each of our salespeople in the same way?
    When did we ask the big questions and just listen as the salesperson gave us all the clues we need to know in order to help them find the solutions to their challenges? Practicing works a lot better than preaching, as you’ve pointed out. We’re leading, so the finger points right at us.

    • Amen Gary! It’s very easy to get our sales people to do what we want, we just have to walk the talk! Thanks for the comment.

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