Tony Soprano's Advice on Sales Leadership

This will not be a political post, not going to touch that topic with a ten-foot pole. I am staying true to my expertise, which is sales.

Recently, I re-watched an episode of “The Sopranos”, one of my favorite shows and followed with amusement when Tony lectured his nephew Christopher on leadership. After a disastrous hijacking attempt, Tony’s comment to Christopher was“Did you do anything to prevent it from happening?”A very insightful lesson on leadershipcoming from a mob boss, but the reality is that no matter what business you are involved in, without good leadership it won’t be successful.Sales Leadership is no exception. A good sales organization is always led by a leader with a vision, a clear direction and passion. So, in the spirit of Tony Soprano, I am asking the question:

Are you a sales leaders who does everything to prevent failure?

Excellent sales people don’t always make good sales leaders

First off, you need to understand if sales management is something that you are good at. Being a good sales person and being a good sales leader are two different things. Unfortunately, it happens quite often that successful sales people are promoted to become sales leaders. The results are often disappointing, because sales people are driven to be successful, while sales leaders need to have the desire to make their sales people thrive.

Hire with Care- Retain with Purpose

Hiring and retaining good sales people is part of a successful sales organization. Not every sales person fits with every organization. Culture plays a big role in making sure that your sales team is motivated and driven. When your sales culture calls for a tactical sales approach you want to look at hiring hustlers, people who will flourish in a fast-moving environment. If your sales cycle is longer than 6 months and requires a consultative sales approach, you probably want to hire sales people who are more thoughtful and deliberate. If you are a sales leader who inherits an existing team, it’s crucially important to assess each person’s sales skills to be in a position where you understand how to structure your team.

Provide Support

Sales leaders are there to support their team in every single aspect necessary. Whether it’s helping manage expectations with the CEO, handling issues with Finance, or calming down a frustrated account manager who feels that your sales people oversold, you need to be up to the task.Your sales people are like your children. They need care, patience and support.Sales people are a bit like artists. They often tend to be sensitive, scatter brained, and not always detail oriented, which brings me to the next point.Related: How Fear Blocks Sales Success

Creating a Framework for success

Successful sales leaders provide a clear path to success. If you develop a process that is transparent where sales people understand what is expected of them, they will be more motivated to stay within that frame and it will be easier for them to succeed. in other words – help your people understand what success looks like. Many sales people think that all they need to do is sell and increase revenue. If your organization is focused on profitability, there could be a disconnect.

Identify Pitfalls

Too many sales leaders only check in on numbers, disregarding the obstacles their sales people might face. If you have regular check-ins and meetings with your sales people where you gauge their progress and support them in the areas where they might need assistance, you will be successful as a sales leader and your sales people will feel supported and motivated.

Don’t Coach Quota

The biggest misconception about good sales management training/coaching is that managers should coach their team to meet quota. While the end result should be to reach (or in the best case scenario exceed quota) the only way for that to happen in a sustaining way is not to coach to a number, but to support best practices. Sales people know when they are behind, they don’t need to be reminded all the time.