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What it means to be a sales leader in 2018

What it means to be a sales leader in 2018

John Iandolo, Chief Sales Officer, Adare SEC

The role of a sales leader continues to evolve as business demands grow at a near phenomenal rate.

The demands and challenges are increasing in size, complexity and speed, greater cost management, more stringent governance and compliance obligations.

There are faster business reaction times and more agility, there’s reacting to existing, or new, competitive threats, the differing customers likes and wants, and, interestingly, the need for sales growth to capitalise on the opportunities that do arise from this evolving marketplace. That’s before we introduce the pace and change that comes with technology advances.

It is with this backdrop that the role of the sales leader has to adapt and satisfy new needs.

The biggest change to the sales leader role has been the material shift to focus on people – customers, colleagues and partners. Looking at how to communicate, ways to communicate and building effective relationships for the best outcomes is a top priority.

There’s a need to get quicker results and that also means there’s an increasing focus on the attraction, development and retention of people so businesses need to be at their best if they are going to keep their elite staff.

A strong sales leader possesses the ability to communicate, collaborate and get on with other business functions seamlessly. Historically, sales leaders would only interact with other business units as sales saw fit. Today the profession is more inclusive and more of a cross-functional role. It’s a much bigger picture.

It’s about creating an integrated sales function. You are selling as a team and delivering as one too and clients want to see that. It is noticeable that sales leaders are more frequently moving into more general management roles, such as CEO and MD positions,because of this broader, team orientated approach.

Conversely, the needy demands of businesses in a hugely competitive domestic and international world are also requiring the sales leaders to provide quicker short-term results. The sales leader of 2018 and beyond,therefore, needs to be well balanced between short-term needs and longer-term goals.

An obvious role development is that the sales leader is coming into the public eye. The proliferation of social media means that the sales leader needs to be more vocal and evident than previously. They need to be a thought leader in their chosen market as well as creator of highly performing teams.

The sales leader is an architect of not only an environment for success, but one that is enjoyable to be a part of.

There is still a need for the softer people skills (coaching, developing, supporting, interviewing) as well as practical sales skills (such as listening, qualification, presenting, negotiating, closing and so on).

However, the sales leader of 2018 needs to complement them with new skills and techniques to create a personal spectrum of talents that they can call upon to meet the new challenges. For example, understanding finance is now a key requirement while skills covering legal and contractual obligations, such as employment law and GDPR, are increasingly part of the role.

To compete on this new technology-driven and change-orientated market, the sales leader has to be a coach, general, diplomat, evangelist, ambassador, architect, advisor, instructor and now chief stitcher/tailor to join it all up in an integrated way, because in a competitive world who has time for complex and siloed suppliers/partners?

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