There are effectively two types of sales leaders…
The Hero and the Hero-Maker
It’s easy to see why so many sales leaders fall into the trap of playing the hero. There are lots of common causes:
- You’re under pressure to deliver results so you do what you’ve always done – you jump in and get it done!
- It’s typically easier (and faster) to do it yourself than to coach someone else to do it
- You are a control freak and a perfectionist
- You may be trying to cover (overcompensate) for a talent deficiency on your team
- Your giant ego craves the spotlight and the glory
Regardless of the cause, the consequences are bad. Often very bad.
While In the short term, “hero mode” might help you drive more results for a limited amount of time, every other consequence is devastating. Your salespeople become co-dependent. You kill their credibility within accounts. You stunt their development. You make yourself the bottleneck. You drive away top talent. Worst of all, you end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the edge of burn out.
Sales leaders, now more than ever, you need to be on guard against playing the hero. It’s hard enough to resist it during a “normal” year, and 2022 has been anything but normal. Between coming out of the pandemic, inflation, supply chain challenges, and the now constant talk of a looming recession, many sales leaders are feeling even more pressure to rely on “hero mode” to hit their goals this year.
But, this is the blunt truth you need to hear right now: it will not save you. In fact, it will become exponentially harder to finish the second half of this year strong.
With that in mind, here is a quick checklist of the 5 most common “heroic” behaviors that sabotage sales leaders. Give yourself an honest evaluation on each one, considering how tempted you are on a regular basis to commit them. Over the next six months, you will be tempted often. It’s important to recognize these behaviors before the temptation begins if you want to increase your chances of resisting.
Hero Behavior #1: You seize control on sales calls (customer meetings)
At the first sign of struggle, you can’t resist taking the reins and taking control. Your salespeople never get true “sink or swim” opportunities because you keep diving into the pool like a human life preserver even for the smallest missteps.
After the meeting, you tell your people things like, “The opportunity was too important to fumble.” Great confidence booster for them, right?
Hero Behavior #2: You’re constantly “modeling the way”
Rather than waiting for the salesperson to stumble before jumping in, you never relinquish control in the first place. You’re always emphasizing “watch and learn” instead of giving your people a chance to do and learn.
Hero Behavior #3: You want your fingerprints on every deal
There is no such thing as a big deal that doesn’t require your involvement. Sometimes this is about control, and sometimes it is about credit (more on that later). Either way, you can’t resist making your presence known, even when the opportunity is progressing just fine without you.
Hero Behavior #4: You force yourself to find flaws where there are aren’t any
No presentation nor proposal, no matter how good they are, will escape your red pen. You consider it a failure if you don’t find even the smallest of tweaks to deem critical.
Hero Behavior #5: You take the credit
Lastly, you make yourself the hero not just by your actions, but also in the way you describe a win or your team’s results to your superiors and the rest of the organization. You’re sure to emphasize how you opened the door in the first place, how you handled the insurmountable objection, how you took the presentation to another level. Instead of letting your management skills shine through the performance of your salespeople, you bring the focus back to yourself. (Ouch!)
All of the above behaviors can be tough to admit. But owning your heroic tendencies—and almost all of us have at least one—is the only way to avoid the inevitably awful consequences that come with indulging them. Playing the hero is neither scalable nor sustainable. In the long term, it will kill your sales culture, drive away the talent you need to ultimately succeed, and leave you overburdened and exhausted. I’ve even seen cases where the heroic sales manager becomes unpromotable. After all, how could the team possibly succeed without him/her?
I recognize the landscape is particularly challenging right now. You’re going to feel that tug to leap in and save the day more often than usual. But instead of doing everyone’s job for them, I challenge you to double down on the things that true hero-makers do—coaching, leading, and holding salespeople accountable. The results will not disappoint you.
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