November 28, 2012 Keenan

What Kind of Sales Leader are You?

What kind of sales leader are you?

It seems like a rather innocuous question. Can you answer it? Better yet, HAVE YOU ANSWERED IT?

The answer to this question can and will have profound impact on your career.  You’re career growth can be severly stunted without a solid, well thought out answer to this question.

The type of sales leader you choose to be or aspire to be dictates the environments where you will be successful. Not all sales leaders are the same. Some are good at building teams and starting from scratch.  Once the team or organization gets to a certain size, they’re done. Some sales leaders are great operators. They take a something good and keep it that way. They make things hum and keep them humming. Should the team get side swiped by a bad economy, a new product that misses the mark, or a fantastic growth opportunity, they are toast. Some sales leaders are visionaries and strategic. They are great at moving laterally, or up and down.  They know how to execute and move large, bureaucratic organizations. They have excellent political skills and work in scale. Give them a large organization and lots of autonomy and they are going to kill it. However, put them in a small organization, take away their autonomy or ask them to focus on minute details, ask them to roll up their sleeves and they will sink like a brick.

Everyone of these types of sale leaders can be successful in the right environment.  They key is to find the right environment.

The problem is few of us take the time to assess our skills, our strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes to determine the type of sales leader we are and where we can and will be most successful.  Most take the traditional path of least resistance until we stub our toe or worse get into a postion we are ill-suited for. We look up at the next position and say, I want to be the Director of Sales, then VP, then SVP, then EVP/CSO, never taking the time to determine if what we are shooting for fits. We never ask the question, what type of sales leader am I and does the environment I’m aiming for need or fit my skills?

It’s important to be deliberate in understanding the type of sales leader you want to be, are capable of being and are suited to be. Don’t spend time in a sales leadership role that doesn’t play to your strengths. Don’t be shooting for that next promotion because it’s right in front of you. Don’t just default into a postion. Build your own brand of sales leadership and leverage it where it’s best utilized. You will be far more successful if you are deliberate.

What type of sales leader are you?  There is more than one kind and knowing what kind of sales leader you are is more than half the battle.

Do you know?

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  • Rob

    Jim, great post and insight here. I would take it a step further though and say that this applies to individual contributor sales people as well. They also need to be self aware and concious of where their skills fit best in an organization. At the very basic level they should know if their skills are more of a hunter or a farmer role. From there, they should know what kind of products they are passionate about, what kind of territory they want to manage, what kind of boss they work best with, what kind of companies they are good at selling to, what kind of autonomy or management they work best with, do they like start ups or large companies etc….
    I think too many sales people just look for the best paying job and give it a run. If you don’t know your skill set intimately and don’t align yourself with a company where you can be successful in a variety of areas, then it will be a tough slog for both the sales rep and the company.

  • http://asalesguy.com Keenan

    Great point Rob, well said!

    //keenan

  • RBC

    Hey Rob, funny you should mention the hunter/farmer analogy as I’ve been thinking about it recently. I sell advertising and consider myself a hunter as a large chunk of my revenue comes from new business – creating content specifically for clients. I’ve found my best success selling to people who subscribe to our magazine. I’d argue that the successful ‘hunter’ chooses carefully where he hunts, and if you look closely the line between this and farming blurs!