Over the past few years, our assignments with vendors, distributors and resellers pointed to a range of issues with Sales Leaders and their roles as leader/ Manager -who-sells/team coach/interface with HQ/problem-solver/Board level presenter.
We started to collect anecdotal and then more structured research on the changes needed at the top of the Sales function.
Then we started to join up a few dots………C-level buyers are unimpressed with most of the sales people they see……..sales leaders know they spend too much time on admin and rescuing deals that might help this week’s “commit” call……… core-performing salespeople don’t feel that they get enough support…..round and round we went.
Bigger issues cropped up too:
- Customer hostility to sales tactics
- New entrants to the market
- The digital economy
- Businesses wrestling with the Cloud and the Internet of Things
So we wrote a short paper on the subject and the feedback started arriving, like this comment from a US-based vice president in strategic sales: “My belief is you are right on target - most companies today are not evolving to take a longer term focus on how to drive their sales organisations and, while clearly it has to be a consistent message from the top, it involves a new level of transparency throughout the organisation and significant skills development at the first level sales manager”.
And a well-travelled former CIO commented: “in my humble opinion, those who seek out and actually manage their customer’s hopes and expectations through cooperative involvement will win the big race. Very few do this well, if at all”.
Back in the UK, we read in CRN's IT Buyers Guide report that “51 per cent of respondents said failure to understand their business objectives was customers’ main frustration with IT suppliers”.
Everybody talks about the ultimate “beneficial relationship between vendor, reseller and customer” but where it happens there’s often a dependence on personal relationships rather than business strategy.
We see businesses starting to tackle these issues from a number of angles – changes in recruitment models, stronger links between marketing, sales enablement and sales, changes in direction signalled from the top.
There is no one way to make big changes and no silver bullet to hit the target. An interesting question to ask when coaching the senior vice president of Sales is “What will good look like in Sales leadership in 2015?”
We captured several responses with the phrase “bringing clarity, the right resources and vision to our key client relationships….instigating…..managing relationships at C-level”.
When you think about developing the people who will demonstrate those competencies, it leads you to questions about how you are recruiting and developing Sales Leaders……and how they in turn recruit and develop their people.
Here are a few questions to help you put the Sales Leadership question in the context of your own business:
- Does your funnel of high potential Sales Leaders look better or worse than your current sales funnel?
- When did you last get any unfiltered feedback form your key clients?
- If you assessed your Sales Leaders against “what good will look like in 2015” how many of them are in striking distance of achieving it?
Peter Grundy is managing director, Europe for The Partnership, a coaching and mentoring specialist for business leaders.
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