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There are many professional degrees and designations, Mechanical Engineer, Chartered Accountant, Project Management Professional, Attorney and so on.
There are many professionals with multiple degrees as well, some have an ME and a JD for example. Highly experienced, well educated people whose designations make it easy to determine their relevancy for a position.
Therefore, when looking for an accountant, you wouldn’t entertain an engineer with no previous finance experience, would you? Conversely, your job description for an engineer wouldn’t mention the requirement for a law degree either.
A person with years of experience in sales, working for engineering companies, would never be considered for an engineering role. Why then, do companies have no problem hiring engineers as sales managers?
Because there’s no title, degree or education that can make you a great sales leader.
I have worked with great sales leaders who studied engineering, law, marketing; a vast myriad of backgrounds. What made them great sales leaders was that they understand sales and they understand sales people and they had the experience to back it up.
That is the key to this discussion.
One of the greatest mistakes I see companies make is promoting individuals into sales and sales leadership roles with terrible sales qualifications. Someone who has sat in front of customers a few times, given a few presentations or helped develop a great new product does not mean they are great sales leaders.
I manage complex budgets, but I’m far from being an accountant. I likely wouldn’t even get hired as a bookkeeper. However, I have held executive level positions with P&L responsibility. Yet, there is still an understanding within industry that I am simply not the right person to be an accountant. In fact, many would say “Sales guys! They’re not detail oriented (in fact, we are), they can’t be accountants!” However, many times companies have said, about someone in their ranks, “He’s great with customers! (i.e. has given a few presentations) Make him the sales manager!”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you end up with companies spending money on products that fail, budgets that aren’t met, sales teams that aren’t motivated and have turnover, and top line growth that suffers.
If you are an SME, and you need a sales leader, make sure they have the background and experience, just as if you were hiring an engineer or a lawyer. Promoting someone from within who simply doesn’t have the skills is setting you both up for failure.
You can teach a great sales leader all about your technology, your markets, your type of customer. A good sales leader will get it and bring you success. But you can’t necessarily teach a great accountant how to be a great sales leader.
Need help identifying the right skills? We can help.