I worked tirelessly for nearly 5 years as a Group Sales Account Executive. I built amazing relationships with my client base. I was making a lot of commission and dominating the sales leaderboard inside my organization and amongst my peers in the league. Things were turning to autopilot, I missed that challenge, and I wanted more!
I was being groomed to one day lead the sales team and it wasn’t a secret, but not everyone was onboard with the idea. In sales, there is competition. The competition isn’t just on the sales leaderboard, but there is also competition to grow and take the next career step. If I was going to take that next step, I had to separate the hunger to be the best individual from the hunger to be the best collectively, as a team. This wasn’t easy.
There are three things I learned as I made the transition from Peer to Leader:
Your View is Different
I was a peer and fierce competitor as an individually-minded sales rep, but that wasn’t going to get me very far leading a team. I quickly had to change how I perceived the team and how I was going to use the power I was just given. A mentor of mine, Kevin Paul Scott, wrote a leadership book called The Lens of Leadership. Kevin points out in his book, “Leaders use power to elevate and empower others.” My view was now different as a leader; I had to change my mindset from “how am I going to be the top individual seller?” to “how can our entire team be the best collective unit to ever do it?!”
Your new title isn’t "Chief Problem Solver"
I felt overwhelmed early on in leadership. I was more reactive than proactive for the team and the business unit I was charged to oversee. I felt like I couldn’t get anything done! One of my leadership guidelines is that my time is theirs and it doesn’t compete with them needing me to be there for them to be successful and grow. I was spending most of my day interacting with my team and other sellers in the organization. This is great right?! I am hands on, out on the frontlines with them, and building up trust and the relationships right!?! Wrong!!!
I couldn’t figure out what it was that was such a time waster until Keith Rosen said to me, your title isn’t Chief Problem Solver. What!? I was spending all this time making decisions for the staff that they could easily be able to do on their own. All day someone on the sales team would come to me with a question, expecting me to make a decision for them on how to make a sale or handle a meeting. The problem with that, is that I was enabling them to not make decisions on their own because it was easier to just have me do it for them. What Keith taught me was that I should use open ended questions like I did when I was a seller to coach them into making the correct call on their own. Over time this questioning model was just as beneficial for me as it was for them. They were more empowered than ever before and our business moved faster than it ever had in the past.
Never Stop Recruiting
If you are not fully staffed, you need to have a talent pipeline and constantly be recruiting talent… If every spot on your team is full, you need to have a talent pipeline and constantly be recruiting talent. Yes, even if your team is full… keep recruiting. You probably get the first part of that, yes, we need to hire because we have open spots, the second part of that you are like “but I have a full team?”. If you are striving to build a great sales team, your team members are going to grow and develop so fast that without a bench you won’t be able to sustain full strength. We were so fortunate to have an amazing program with the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers that having a sales team constantly at full strength was nearly impossible. These young women and men were always thought of when another team had a leadership or senior level position open. Constantly recruiting will also help you network within the industry and build your own personal brand. It’s such a small space that you never know when that call from way back in the day turns into you and that person you met teaming up at another team down the road.
Mitch Ried is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Louisville City FC and the newly built $65 Million Lynn Family Stadium. Louisville City FC is a USL Championship Soccer club who since its first season in 2015 has become the most successful USL clubs in the modern era, winning conference championships in 3 of its first 5 years and back to back championships in 2017 and 2018. Mitch started his career in Arena Football before joining the Atlanta Hawks, where he grew from an entry level seller up the leadership ranks to Director of Group Sales. Mitch joined the Cleveland Cavaliers as Senior Director of Business Development and was later promoted into Vice President of Franchise Operations. He had a great opportunity to join the startup Alliance of American Football which brought him and his family back to Atlanta. You can connect with Mitch on LinkedIn here.