Key skills for sales leaders in the business information sectorAlbert Ng
One the key characteristics that singles out a high-quality business information firm is an ability to make good sales and, as such, it’s vital for leading businesses in this sector to hire the best possible global sales leaders – but what makes a good head of sales? What skills, experiences and personality traits should a business information firm be looking for when the time comes to appoint a leader for the sales team?
In recent months, we have been involved in several searches on behalf of clients look for global sales leaders. Over the course of those searches, it has become apparent just what it takes to move into one of these positions. So what are the key skills for sales leaders in the business information sector?
While it’s not entirely necessary for a business information firm to appoint a sales leader who has previously managed at a similar revenue level or team size, a key characteristic seems to be experience of managing a business or a team that’s scalable, that has everything in place to grow. Although saying that, we have also come across candidates keen to make the jump from managing a £5m business to one of over £100m – and while these candidates may have the potential to manage a £100m business one day, that kind of jump isn’t perhaps immediately realistic.
When looking for sales leaders, most successful business information firms want to meet candidates with experience of managing teams across regions; they also want to find out that the candidate understands the pressures that come with managing a global team. How would they structure their working day to accommodate the nature of their sales groups? Do they have an appreciation of the various business cultures of their clients? What’s the difference between doing business in Asia and in, say, The Middle East?
There aren’t many sales people in business information today who are expected to simply present their product suite and features to potential clients. Much more in demand are sales leaders who have experience of spending time with clients, finding out their pain points, and presenting a solution to either help them make money or save time and costs.
Charging is often then based on the ‘value’ of how much that product helps a client in generating revenue or saving costs – and a sales leader’s experience of actually changing a team’s approach to value-based selling is particularly sought after in the current market.
Sales leaders aren’t just expected to bring in the deals – they also have to be change agents. What does that mean? It means they have to be equally skilled at selling new behaviours and ways of working internally.
Those that are good at sales leadership tend not be overly aggressive in managing change. What’s more important is that they can set out the vision, the reasoning behind their decisions, to make staff feel like they are part of the process.