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Top Attributes of Sales Leaders #7: Strategic Leadership

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Well folks, this is it — the last in my analysis of the 7 traits for great sales leaders. This one is, I think, particularly interesting, because it covers ground that I really haven’t covered in too much depth. So far, most of my content has been focused on sales managers — not people who simply perform management; rather, “manager” as a position in the organizational chart. While it’s true that anyone remotely involved in some level of management has to have a strategic eye for things, the truth of the matter is, the higher up the ladder you go, the more strategic your position becomes. Ergo, this — strategic leadership — is more appropriate for VPs of Sales; individuals who own the entire sales process.

All sales leaders are battlefield commanders who must devise the organization’s sales strategy to defeat the competition…. Great sales leaders possess the knowledge to correctly deploy field or inside salespeople, to segment the market into verticals, and to specialize sales teams by product or customer types when necessary.

I think that quotation is particularly telling about the difference in the job between a line-manager and an executive manager. The most important part is that it’s really not about sales anymore. Sure, choosing a strategic deployment of field vs. inside, or “hunter” vs. “gatherer” account managers is a sales decision. But the rest of the examples that Martin gives are interesting precisely because they are not. Segmenting markets, determining how to attack specialized customer bases — these things are the quintessence of marketing, as distinct from sales.

I think the key takeaway here is, the farther up the food chain you progress, the broader your scope and knowledge needs to be. This is while you’ll frequently see in mid-sized organizations that the most senior sales executive and the most senior marketing executive are the same person. So, here’s my advice for you — if you’re a mid-level sales manager looking to take the next step in your career, start studying marketing.