The Servant Way or How to become a modern sales director

If you have been working in a sales management position you know how hard it sometimes can be to get the team members to move in the needed direction, to reach your company’s targets.

You also most likely know there are plenty of skills you need to master as a manager to get the needed results out of your team.

HOWEVER – A famous writer and management guru once, very wisely, said : You manage things but lead people! This article is about how to become a modern sales director (leader) and what you can do to get better results out of your team.

Traditional way

Most sales directors can likely recognize themselves in the following scenario :

You spend at least 50% of your time following up what your team is doing or not doing. You sit behind the computer screen trying to get all the stats right , in Excel.

You swear about the fact that you don’t get all the stats reported correctly or even not at all in some cases by your team members.

You nag about the importance of activity, about the importance of adding accounts, contacts, notes etc. to your CRM to get the necessary control.

Perhaps you also feel stress when you meet the rest of the management team and they ask you how the sales is going against the set target. You answer the best you can.

Even if you most likely can present a solid looking pipeline – deep down – even you question if you can really trust the presented numbers. They are after all set by team members you know are cutting a few corners here and there.

You feel the heat and pressure from the rest of the management team to deliver results.

You feel you need better control of the situation and perhaps then do , what many others have done before you,

  • start applying more rigid follow ups on activity levels,
    follow up talks to get control of the pipeline,
  • if you also have reps on the field perhaps you even call them on a daily basis to get on top of their situations.
  • Perhaps sometimes you gather the team to explain what you believe is important/needed to do in order to reach the targets.

It’s a lot top-down-thinking and many questions about historic facts and stats. How many dials?, how many calls?, how many meetings?, how are you doing on that specific deal?, etc…

Perhaps you even ask the reps to write reports and summarize what they have done during the week, so it is easier for you to know where things go right and where they potentially go wrong. In some cases you have also stopped paying commission if the reps haven’t updated their CRM.

All these control questions and control activities tend to create a negative environment that is not empowering the team. It’s not uncommon that team members also feel harassed and micro managed in teams operating like this.

So, where did we learn this management style ?

Actually the way we organize and behave is very old but originally not designed for companies on a competitive market.

The traditional way of organizing a company is inherited from the army.

In the army you need to be able to follow orders blindly, you are potentially sending people to death, then you can’t or in many cases don’t have time to argue or discuss.

You just expect people to follow orders. For the rest of us who are not in the army , we need to start thinking differently.

Control is however necessary, because we all know you can’t leave things to chance if you want to make progress and reach targets.

It’s just that it can be achieved in better and more motivating ways, that makes your company more competitive and attractive to represent.

Note :

This army model could perhaps work well if you are a manager on a state owned company inside a country with a planned economy where you don’t face any competition.

If you recognize yourself in the first section of this article it’s time to get away from the Excel screen and transcend to being a more active part of the team.

Why the traditional way don’t work anymore

Applying a management model designed for a group of people that need to be prepared to die on a group of people you expect to be motivated, creative and where they can leave and join a competitor is perhaps not the best way.

Also, when applying all the necessary control, you tend to take on a negative role focusing a lot of what has been done or not. It usually give little room and support for looking forward.

Some companies and managers who apply the traditional top-down army organization where directives, targets and processes are pushed down through the organization also believe it’s all about putting on more pressure.

In some organizations they have tried to apply flatter structures and began including employees in the decision process to increase motivation.

In most of the cases it’s however an illusion because people asked to speak their mind rarely get any real influence.

This is probably even more motivating than just giving a clear directive , IF you combine it with a valid WHY!

However, people are not things , that’s why you can’t manage people. To get a great creative team that deliver great results , you need to lead them.

Leadership and being a modern sales director is about finding the WHY we are all there , what are we all working for together, every day, what do we want to achieve ?
It’s about help and support , it’s about coaching and mentorship to make people grow and take their own responsibility for whatever you have given them responsibility for.

If you want to lead your team into the future you need to work more with coaching and become your team member’s number one mentor and help them become better.

How to create motivation as a modern sales director

Many studies have been done to understand what motivates and what demotivates. Most of these studies pinpoint a few things that you as a leader need to master, if you don’t want a completely demotivated team on your hand.

Key things to provide your team members with

  • Clear targets and expectations
  • Clear why you are there, what are you fighting for every day
  • Clear rules and structure
  • Clear instructions

All these things combined are crucial for people to be motivated and being able to focus on what’s important and to give meaning to what they are doing every day.

Companies and leaders who master to provide these things get more motivated teams.

Motivated and committed teams have been proven to be key if you want to build a more profitable and fun-to-work-at company.

The modern sales director = The servant way

If you agree with us and want to implement these changes in leadership then it is probably also necessary to see your own organization from a different perspective than the classical top town.

Some people measure their own personal career success in how many people they MANAGE.

If you want to become a true leader and modern sales director, you should instead measure your success in how many people you SERVE. WHY ? Because that’s how a modern sales director should see upon leadership , i.e. that you don’t manage people, you serve them.

In a modern organization the CEO is actually the biggest helpers of them all. As a leader your main responsibility is to give out clear


When this is done your main job is to understand what the colleagues need, to become successful within their responsibilities, and to make sure they get that. That is the servant way!

This creates a company which is self-driven, motivated and committed. Those are key ingredients to build a great organization that delivers profit and at the same time creates a warm atmosphere toward the common target.

The modern sales director knows the need, not the want

So , if you have given out responsibilities, targets and a clear vision on where you are going as a company , HOW do you understand what your colleagues need to become successful ?

The easy way is to ask your colleague what they want, to become successful.

Do you, as a modern sales director, always get the true answer then ? NO , that is actually not the case. You get an answer but in many cases it’s not what they actually need, to reach their targets.

As a great leader you don’t just need to be the greatest servant , you also need to be the greatest listener and analyst.

If you really want to understand what your colleagues need to reach their targets you need to know the area they are responsible for , which of course requires knowledge.

You also need to be able to analyze what they do good and where they need help. So you can determine what they need to reach their targets.

Once you understand what is needed and have got the acceptance for that by the colleague , then you can get going and arrange so they get that needed help, whatever it is.

  • More finances
  • More colleagues
  • Better leads
  • More clear processes
  • etc.
“Being a leader is not about giving people what they want, it’s about giving them what they actually need!”

This is the servant way, i.e. make sure you truly understand your colleague’s true needs and make sure the GAPs are shut.

Being a servant is also about being a great mentor and coach for your colleagues. In such an organization you can’t get caught up in administrative work to identify stats and historic actions.

Those parts needs to be automatized and you most likely need great software that can assist you on gathering the information and provide you with analysis. So you can free your time for being the greatest leader you can potentially become.

We can promise you it’s also much more rewarding for you on a personal level to work in such a way than in the more traditional interrogation/follow up way , from behind the Excel spreadsheet.

The modern sales director keeps the culture over time

Even if you implement the servant leadership in your team or organization it’s not a bulletproof method and you won’t only have super committed team members.

You will always get new people on board that fail against your targets , set responsibilities etc.

Recruiting sales reps is usually hard and it’s not uncommon. You need to recruit 4-6 people to find one that performs well.

What is vital though is that you, as  a modern sales director, are both quick, solid and clear on your evaluations, for your own sake, the new recruit’s sake and actually also for the sake of the rest of the team.

If you have solid team you don’t want them to lose focus or temper because you get new people onboard that are not acting according to your culture.

We therefore recommend you to implement clear milestones/checkpoints during the initial phase of the new recruit’s first weeks/months in the team.

That makes it more structured, scalable and easier for you to determine if they can stay or if you need to go separate ways.

It’s also equally important to promote/reward team members that performs well.

This gives inspiration to other team members who see what a good performance and responsibility can give.

It’s not until you get the benefit of working together with committed and focused colleagues that you will find true happiness at work. Take your first steps of getting there by becoming one of the first servant if not THE first servant within your organization.