Why Sales Leaders Are Like Skilled Air Traffic Controllers
Air traffic controllers have some major responsibilities, including directing aircraft, monitoring and regulating air traffic, and guiding pilots during takeoff and landing. If you ask David Mattson, the CEO and president of Sandler Training Worldwide, these professionals share many parallels with sales leaders.
True, sales leaders don’t wear headsets or work in towers at the airport. However, if a sales leader’s team is producing, Mattson says it’s because of their ability to do what an air traffic controller does. In this issue of PromoPro Daily, we go into greater detail about Mattson’s metaphor.
Both process complex data. It’s not easy being an air traffic controller or a sales leader. Both professionals must navigate a constant stream of data to make high-impact decisions. These decisions have very narrow margins for error, Mattson says, and they can carry huge consequences for everyone involved.
Both maintain constant communication. Just like air traffic controllers constantly communicate with pilots, ground crews and colleagues, sales leaders must maintain strong lines of communication in all directions. Disaster can often be averted by these professionals’ ability to communicate effectively — even in stressful situations.
Both ensure people get where they need to go. Mattson says the bottom line is that both air traffic controllers and sales leaders have a lot of people counting on them. Whether it’s pilots, crews and passengers or clients, customers and team members, both of these professionals are responsible for other people.
Both serve as a critical buffer zone. Any number of variables could impact a flight, Mattson says, but an air traffic controller doesn’t simply dump all that information on the pilot. They keep pilots focused. Sales leaders play a similar role. They edit out the noise and make sure they get the information they need to move deals forward. They keep salespeople focused on generating revenue.
Both know their process front to back. Neither of these professionals can just wing it — the stakes are too high. Instead, Mattson says they always follow clear, documented procedures. For example, sales leaders set clear exit criteria for each state of the sales process. They also make sure their staffers are properly trained on those criteria.
Both know where things are going. Like air traffic controllers, sales leaders know where things are right now and where they are headed. Mattson says this requires following a proven process with total commitment and forecasting responsibly.
Both refrain from drama. There’s no time for passive aggressiveness or other games when air traffic controllers are on the job. The same is true for sales leaders. If something goes wrong, Mattson says, the big issue is what happens next — not whose fault it was.
You may not have thought about it before, but sales leaders have many things in common with air traffic controllers. Both are responsible for ensuring the right plan gets implemented and that all the right decisions are made. Be proud of where you are leading your team.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: David Mattson is the CEO and president of Sandler Training Worldwide. He is a best-selling author, global keynote speaker and industry thought leader.