You Can Be a Visionary Sales Leader, Without Being a CEO

September 17, 2020    Comment off


Being able to unify your team with one, clear vision is a fundamental skill for all leaders. A vision, particularly a well-explained and inspirational one, will serve as a focal point for growth and culture. It will unite your team with a common goal and ensure motivation. It will also inform customers where the business is heading.

Now that might seem aspirational, and only capable as coming from the very top. But that’s not the case. All leaders can be visionary and shape the way the business operates.

In HBR Leader’s Handbook, three vision-creation opportunities were identified, even if you are not the CEO:

  • Contributing to senior leaders’ vision work
  • Translating the company’s vision for your team
  • Developing a new front-line team vision that can be cascaded up through the company

So, if you think you can’t be visionary as you aren’t the CEO, think again.

Shaping and communicating the company vision

Let’s face it, the CEO is rarely the person in the trenches, on the front line. On the other hand, sales leaders typically are. That means you are well-positioned to create meaningful change, as you have more day-to-day touchpoints with employees. Obviously, you shouldn’t create a different vision to your CEO, but you can certainly help shape it and then spread it to your team.

Even if you aren’t able to shape the vision from the start, all leaders are responsible for translating the business vision and get buy-in from their team. This, in itself, is being visionary. Your sales team need to know the direction the business is heading and if they buy-in to the vision, they’ll work harder for the company. A win-win.

A good example is the music streaming giant Spotify, whose vision is to provide customers with access to all the music they could possibly want, all the time. While that is the company vision, you might want to shape your vision around serving customers better. You should empower your team with the tools needed and plenty of training to fit in with the company culture. It’s vision-crafting on a smaller scale, but it’s still helping the overall company vision.

The vision and action balancing act

There is a danger of becoming too visionary. Talking too much about it and not doing enough about it. Remember, the vision is the destination you want to reach. The action is the steps you need to take to reach it. The best visionary leaders are able to balance them both, combining motivation, inspiration and execution. 

The best sales leaders know how to motivate their team, get the best out of each individual, and present actionable steps to help them hit objectives and targets. The right environment is important for achieving that.

Visionary leaders are important to business growth. Here are a few steps you can take to become the visionary sales leader you want to be:

Understand what the ‘vision’ is: Understand what a vision is and why it is important. Don’t confuse ‘vision’, which is aspirational for future success, with ‘mission’, which is the reason your company exists, or ‘values’, which is the principles and beliefs in how your company operates. All play a part in ‘how’ you sell products or services, but they are different.

Contribute to the vision: If there is already a company vision in place, work on translating it or tailoring it for your sales team. Additionally, if an opportunity presents itself to contribute directly to the business vision, grasp it. If an opportunity hasn’t risen yet, learn from others – spend time with other leaders and find out how they have developed visions and look at industry-leading companies on how they do it.

Don’t do it on your own: Being a visionary leader doesn’t mean you need to act alone. Just as your CEO will receive input from others, you can too. The more people involved in your vision-building, the more buy-in you’ll get. A vision is most powerful when there is support immediately. The more people involved, the less resistance.

Top sales leaders pride themselves on being visionaries. However, the skill isn’t just in creating the vision, but translating it downwards so the team also share the same common goals and beliefs. When you get it right, you’ll end up with a more aligned and inspired sales team with aspirational long-term goals to motivate them.