Head of Sales: The Most Challenging Leadership Job

By Scott Edinger, Founder of Edinger Consulting Group
(Original Post: Harvard Business Review)

First of all, in most cases, its members are spread out physically all over the place, since sellers tend to stay close to customers, not to headquarters. Not being all together makes substantive interactions among members and between staff and leader difficult.images

Second, there’s no standard educational path, or shared body of knowledge, for sales professionals. Accounting leaders can look to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Manufacturing leaders can look to Six Sigma and other well-defined processes. Human Resource practice is bound by regulations and case law stipulating what is acceptable and what is not. But sales professionals have, well, the experience of other sales professionals and a lot of books to choose from in the marketplace. Few of them have university degrees in sales, since so few institutions of higher learning even offer one. They come to the job with backgrounds in everything from philosophy to physics, each with its own outlook and ways of thinking. That makes training part art, part science, and all on the job.

Finally sales professionals tend to be prima donnas. I’m not saying that’s bad, particularly (I’ve spent a large part of my career leading sales organizations), but if you’ve worked with sales professionals, you’ll recognize the pattern of their typical strengths. They have a tendency to challenge authority. They’re very driven toward results, and they have strong preferences for how those results are achieved. And of course more often than not, they have extravert personalities.

I’ve had the luxury during the last decade to work with many great sales leaders, and the best of them tend to share a common set of traits and practices. In no particular order, this is what marks them out: […Continue Reading…]