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Why Great Sales Leaders Are A Little Paranoid

Great leaders have to be a little bit paranoid because they can help their team uncover holes or problems well before they emerge.

As long as the team understands this and there is open communication, all is good.

As a sales leader, your number one job is to hit the numbers. The bottom line is that this is how you are judged.

You also need to coach and put your people in a position to win, because by doing so you’ll win. It’s a fairly simple premise.

However, typically it’s not easy to make the numbers unless you have a healthy dose of paranoia.

There’s A Difference Between Concern and Distrust

A client of ours is a VP of Sales and was going through a pipeline review with one of their reps. They asked us to sit in on the conversation.

Now, this rep was a top performer. As the conversation unfolded, I picked up a certain tone.

The VP questioned every single deal and every single interaction and at times accused the rep of not having the right information.

Normally, a rep would push back or more often get offended. Not this time. The rep completely understood where the VP was coming from.

As the meeting concluded and I had some alone time with the VP, I asked the VP about what transpired.

He told me that every one of his people knows that he operates with a sense of paranoia in that he’s always looking for potentially what could go wrong with a deal.

But, he then said it’s “healthy” because his intentions come from a place of concern, not from a place of distrust.

Transparent Communication

Just tell your teams that you operate in a certain way.

When you are transparent with who and how you are, people will understand and trust your leadership style.

When you don’t communicate, your people may take things the wrong way and then they may not feel motivated.

Remember, as a leader you need your people more than they need you.

Ask Questions

Keep asking questions so that you can really ascertain the validity of a situation. The more questions you ask, the more information you will receive.

This is where the healthy dose of paranoia serves you well.

But, if you throw accusations out, instead of asking questions, you’ll trigger dissonance with your people.

They’ll put up a wall. Sugarcoat things. Not give you the whole picture.

Develop Contingencies

You are in the position of being a leader because you have experience. You have a sixth sense for deals.

Help your people out by collaboratively coming up with contingency plans for those deals that you are paranoid about.

This will help guide the rep along a path that perhaps they didn’t see and by doing so increase the probabilities of a successful conclusion.

Used correctly, paranoia can actually help you as a leader.


A great way to keep your sales team on track and motivated is by implementing a weekly book club meeting. Get started with our FREE Fanatical Prospecting Book Club Guide.

About the author

Keith Lubner

Keith Lubner

Keith Lubner is Chief Strategy Officer at Sales Gravy and acts as an advisor,…

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