Categorized | Down to Business, Marketing

How to build a great sales organization: Lead, follow, and get out of the way

By Brad Raney

Last year was a difficult year for businesses, regardless of size or industry. Everyone’s salessales suffered. This left many companies in the Catch 22 of having to downsize—even in the sales department— just to survive the economic landslide. Organizations were forced to reduce their ability to reach out to clients just at the point when they needed even more face time and client “touches” to maintain market share.

With half the year gone, 2010 is looking more promising. The big challenge is how to recover the lost contact with clients and begin to rebuild and grow sales. A three-step process can help you accomplish this: lead, follow, and get out of the way.


Leadership can be demonstrated in a number of different ways. However, a simple way to demonstrate it is through developing talent, attitude, and trust.

• Talent. To turn aptitude into skill, conduct weekly developmental sales meetings that do more than cover general housekeeping items. For instance: Plan your meetings in a series to keep attention and energy flowing from one week to the next. Incorporate current industry trends, late-breaking news, and product knowledge. Other suggestions: take the team on a field trip to see a new business or bring in an outside speaker.

Try engaging your team with a monthly feature called “You Run the Meeting.” Assign responsibility for planning one sales meeting each month to a team member, on any topic they choose.

• Attitude. Help your team become prepared mentally for the task at hand. Reward great performances publicly during the sales meetings with a “Wall of Fame” where great sales are posted, and individually with small gifts and tokens to let each person know that you care about them and value their efforts.

If an employee’s attitude (a disposition, not a temporary mood) becomes negative, take that person aside (perhaps at lunch) and talk about what is clouding his or her vision and how you can help get the person back on a positive path.

• Trust. Don’t place blame; show you trust your staff, even when mistakes happen. Help them to solve problems while teaching them how to avoid making the same mistake again.  Value your team members’ opinions.


“Following” means listening and taking into account suggestions and ideas that can make your department function at a higher level. Here are three ways to follow:

• Channel the energy. Every team member has his or her own unique set of experiences, hopes, dreams, passions, and desires. That diversity of thought is very powerful if channeled into creative problem solving.  

• Build attitudes from within. Channeling and directing a team’s energy helps to create a culture of teamwork, trust, and respect. This positive environment breeds a positive attitude that increases productivity.

• Have fun. When tension builds within the department, take note and do something to ease the stress. Some suggestions: Have an impromptu team lunch; go to a movie as a group; hit a happy hour on a Friday afternoon.

Get out of the way

Getting out of the way—letting go—take courage and trust. It is the most empowering way you can motivate a sales team. To get out of the way:

• Let your staff make decisions. Sales—and decisions leading to signing on the dotted line—are made in the field. Give your staff the authority to make decisions as they deal with clients. How much authority? Give them parameters that allow them to deal with customers while keeping you comfortable.

• Learn from mistakes. The only way sales people really learn their craft is in making mistakes. Do not assign blame; rather, look for ways to avoid the mistake in the future. And, in the meantime, back up your staff.

• Pave the road. Give credit where it is due; never take credit for your sales team’s success. Create an environment that allows each person to flourish— “paving the road”. Smooth out the bumps, put up signs telling them when danger is approaching, and then get out of the way and let them drive as fast as possible toward their personal goals!

Brad Raney.smallBrad Raney is local sales manager of CBS47 and is the creator of the “Improve Your VOWELS” program and Web site. He can be reached at or 904-343-0169.


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