In every sales organization there are leaders and there are managers, however, the key differences between the two and when to apply leadership or management skills (or both) is often misunderstood. In the current environment, it is more important than ever to find the right balance between leading and managing your sales team. Many organizations are struggling to find this balance which is why we decided to revisit a panel discussion we had at an Atlanta Sales Leadership Community. During the meeting we got valuable insight from sales executives from BetterCloud, Ricoh Americas, and TransUnion on the topic of ‘Leading vs. Managing’ and what every sales leader should know.


Managing a team is different than leading one

At the foundation of distinction between leading and managing lies the notion that leadership is creating the vision, and management is setting goals and objectives that keep the vision on track. Marty Fagan, (SVP, TransUnion), stated that “management is the bread and butter you have to do; the day-to-day things”. Managing can include tasks such as assigning work and counting the value of that work from your sales team, along with following a cadence that drives performance from the team. 

A leader is not working to promote machine-like processes. A leader doesn’t count value for a sales team; a leader creates value. This value is created by understanding the individuals on your sales team and developing nonsystematic ways to connect them to the mission organically.


Leading a team is key to building buy in

Leaders have followers; and followers are necessary in building the buy in and supporting the mission. Dean Nolley, (VP, Ricoh Americas), stated at the Atlanta Sales Leadership Community panel that, “in order for a company’s team to buy in- they have to be sold on the vision and see where they fit within it.” Good leaders over communicate the vision and the role each team member plays in fulfilling that vision. This makes success a personal matter and promotes commitment within the team. As a leader, it is your responsibility to get everyone that can impact the success of your team excited and on board with the vision.



Getting out of balance is a part of the process

Sometimes the scale tips and there is an unbalance between leading and managing. This out of balance can often happen when the business is under stress or after an acquisition. During this time, the scale may lean more towards managing over leading. Sales leaders may lose sight of the vision and go into a nose-to-the-ground management mode, but Marty Fagan advises, “keep balance in focus or you’ll just be a manager”. Even in times of stress you can’t get sucked in to the day-to-day. Other situations may tip the scale and lean to leading over managing. Over a period of time you will lead, manage, lead, and manage, but this is what creates the balance according to Dean Nolley. With time you will learn how to tap in and out of each skill to maintain balance. Trust the process.


Focus on the end result

Dean Nolley emphasizes the need to “focus on the end result and not get caught up in the cadence that you built for your managers to follow”. Each one of your managers is going to put their individuality into how they drive the business, so be careful not to discourage them for this kind of entrepreneurship. Flexibility is important, drives innovation, and shows your team that you trust them. Learn from the inevitable mistakes, make the necessary adjustments, and get the team back on track. As a leader, it is essential to celebrate the wins and learn from the losses. Chris Jones, (CRO, BetterCloud), believes that leadership is getting satisfaction from the success of the people on your team and not being concerned about being the superstar, but creating the superstars. Leaders lead by example and by enabling their team to do their jobs.


If your sales organization is having difficulty in aligning your sales team with your company’s vision, is interested in skill training or sales enablement, contact us to learn how we can help your team reach new levels of growth.