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The difference between a manager and leader often gets blurred. While the two roles overlap, like a sales manager supervising their team but inspiring them along the way, it’s important to distinguish just how important leadership is by itself. 

So, what’s the true differentiator for a leader? They’re early adopters of innovation.

On this episode of The Sales Engagement podcast, we talk with Dustin Abney. Dustin is the Enterprise Sales Manager – U.S. East at Redgate Software. He joins the show to talk all about: 

  • The single characteristic that helped drive Dustin’s career forward
  • Insight into Dustin’s personal development and strategies for the audience
  • The differences between managing and leading a team

Let’s dive in!


Gaining grit

Dustin got a late start in technology sales. 

He tried out oil and gas, then dabbled in entrepreneurship. From there he turned to an SDR post before finally moving into a full sales cycle account executive position. About 4 ½ years ago, Dustin moved to Redgate.

Being able to coach reps and join in the closing process has given him a driving passion for his career. But it’s not just passion that drove Dustin’s career progression from BDR experience to scaling out entire STR shops and now to serving as the frontline manager.

The one key characteristic that fueled his career was grit.

Dustin says grit isn’t just one thing. It’s actually the sum of three attributes. 

1 — The first one is passion. You have to have passion for what you do. If you’re not passionate, then when hard times come, you’re not likely to dig deep and power through.

2 — The second attribute is courage. Challenge yourself. You have to be able to take on hard tasks and set ambitious goals. 

3 — The last one is resilience. If you’ve been in sales long enough, you know that you might make 32 calls before lunch. Of those, 30 will go to voicemail and two will tell you to get off. Resilience is picking up the phone the 33rd time. It’s that call that will land the big account. 

Three ideas bundled together — passion, courage, and resilience — form grit. And grit is the key to career success.


How to GROW

Dustin learned early on in management that there’s a difference between coaching and directing. If you’re doing your job as a sales coach, you’re helping that rep find the way forward on their own. 

Could you have reps on your team that require direction? Sure, all new members need you to tell them how to do things. But people who are established don’t need you to show them how it’s done. 

That’s why Dustin created the GROW model to help coaches be better.

The G stands for goal. Set a specific goal. When you’re coaching someone, you’re not giving them advice and support for everything. 

The R stands for relatable. Is your goal relatable and relevant to what you want to accomplish?

The O stands for obstacles. Help the person you’re coaching identify what’s stopping them from making progress.

The W stands for way forward. How are you actually going to get where you want to go?

Nine times out of 10, the person you’re coaching has the answer already. They just need someone to help guide them in figuring it out. 


Managing vs. leading

What is the main difference between managing a team and leading one? How do you implement this difference into your everyday life with your team?

People sometimes use the terms “managing” and “leading” interchangeably, but they’re two different concepts. Why do the lines get blurred? It all comes down to modern managers.

The modern manager has to coordinate activities that are going to help achieve organizational goals. On the frontline, managers execute against organizational strategies. But those same managers also have to be able to motivate and inspire their team members. 

Motivation and inspiration are leadership skills — leadership skills that management has to undertake. So what happens is, managers try to motivate and inspire while also making sure their teams execute the strategy and deliver the results the company needs. Things get blurry.

True leaders, though, are pioneers. They are the people who are bringing the organization to the next level, the ones willing to take risks and go out into the unknown.

Dustin once read that a leader’s primary contribution is the recognition of good ideas. They support those ideas and even challenge the system in order to get those ideas adopted

The key differentiator between leaders and managers, therefore, is this — leaders are the early adopters of innovation. They recognize different patterns and ideas and have the gusto to try to make them happen.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

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