You are the most important person in your sales organization. If you’re responsible for the direct management of salespeople in your company, your ability to do that well is the difference between the success and failure of those salespeople, and ultimately, the success and failure the company. It’s just as simple as that. You build pipeline and assure quota completion. You direct customer engagement and drive the engagement of your salespeople. You attract new recruits to join your team, top talent walking in the front door, and make sure no one walks out the back door either. You’re held accountable for hitting a number yourself, while holding the sellers who work for you accountable for hitting their numbers as well. You are a coach, a counselor, a champion, a confidant, and at times, even, a shoulder to cry on. You are a frontline sales manager, the most important person in your sales organization. Other people get the glory for what you do. Your boss reports revenue generation to the C-Suite and receives congratulations there, accidentally forgetting to mention you in the conversation. That’s okay. Playing those political games is not what you really want. Your salespeople get applause for their above goal performance. That’s okay too. You really don’t want another plaque to put on the wall or week-long trip away from your family you’ll have to pay income tax on. What do you want? You want to learn how to do your job better. Not a little better, a lot better. You want real-world solutions to the very real-world problems you face every day. You want proven principles and practical steps of action you can take tomorrow morning to get the most out of your salespeople. And you want less sleepless nights (okay, a lot less sleepless nights), knowing that your leadership is the very best it can possibly be. Much has been written recently on creating a motivational environment in the workplace. Shocking employee disengagement statistics have driven us to seriously consider this dynamic. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if a person doesn’t care about his or her work, the work will suffer (and the business with it). As an antidote to disengagement, we’ve been told as leaders to start with why, because why provides the real reasons human beings need to do their very best work. Character is the starting point for successful sales leadership. Remove the foundation from under a house, and the building collapses. Remove the engine from a car, and it cannot be driven down the road. Remove oxygen from the air, and people stop breathing. Pick your metaphor, and you’ll be spot on about character. Remove it from leadership, and all is lost. “We trust—and follow—people who are real, who are consistent, whose behavior, values, and beliefs are aligned,” wrote Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee in Resonant Leadership. “We trust people whom we do not constantly have to second-guess.” Be this kind of leader. But character isn’t enough. We’ve all worked with someone about whom we could say, “He’s a heck of a guy but just doesn’t get stuff done.” Is that person you? Don’t let it be. In addition to unquestionable character, become a sales leader of unparalleled competence, a sales leader who gets stuff done. Done well. Done completely. Done on time. Competence has to do with your professional responsibilities and how fully you execute them. It’s born from a commitment to master the demands of your job, not for ego or self-glorification, but to maximize your influence with others. It’s the platform, so to speak, you stand on to be heard by your salespeople. Being good at what you do leads to increased followership every time. If you’re choosing a doctor to perform open heart surgery, you want someone who won’t advise a drastic procedure like this unless it is absolutely necessary and won’t add expensive extras to pad profit. But you also want a doctor who won’t accidentally nick an artery and leave you dying on the operating table. In other words, you want a surgeon you can trust, both in their personal character and their professional competence. Chemistry is also needed here too. What I mean by chemistry is the ability of a leader to connect with people and spark a meaningful relationship. A warm smile, a firm handshake, eye contact, and a genuine compliment all combine to forge a powerful chemical compound: humanity. A leader who stands aloof, a leader who laughs at others but never at himself, a leader who’s always busy, bothered, and burdened, won’t be leading for very long. Return to our surgeon analogy. You want a medical professional with character and competence, yes, but you also want someone who cares for you as a patient and communicates that care in a compassionate way. This is commonly referred to as having a good “bedside manner,” and if you’ve ever had a doctor without one, you know how painful it can be. So it is with leadership. “But I’m not a people person!” you counter. That’s fine to say if you’re an individual contributor working in an isolated cubicle (maybe). But the minute you took on the role of sales manager, you took on the mantle of leadership, and that mantle comes with the mandate to connect with people. It’s not optional now. This doesn’t mean you must become a backslapping politician, the rare breed of person who never met a stranger and never forgets a name. Most of us are not that person (thank God). Each of us connects with others in our own unique way. The important thing is to be true to our self, comfortable in our own skin. Authenticity like that causes people to trust us, often in an instant.