Sales directors – competencies for the job hunt

Sales Directors

Sales Directors

Over the years we have written numerous articles about the front-line sales management position. We have consistently labeled the front-line sales manager as the pivotal job for developing and sustaining a superior sales force.

While exploring the front-line sales manager position we have spent less time writing about Sales Directors – the individuals to whom the front-line sales managers report.  We thought it might be time to correct that omission since the Sales Director position is a strategically important one and is also one that many sales managers view as the next step in their career development.

Given all that, we thought a discussion of the Sales Director position from a career development perspective would be an interesting one.  Let’s assume you are a front-line sales manager who wants to become a Sales Director.  What does it take?  What are companies looking for when hiring a Sales Director in 2014?

We just had a conversation with the folks from Software Advice a company that evaluates sales enablement tools.  They had recently completed an interesting research study on the skills companies want Sales Directors to have in today’s market.  The research report was an analysis of 200 Sales Director job listings across 50 states pulled from top online sales boards such as: Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Here are some of the key research findings plus a few thoughts of our own as to how a sales manager could up their chances in the job search.

Here are a few of the key findings:

  • Industry Experience. 72% of the companies wanted specific industry sales experience – for example healthcare companies wanted applicants to have experience in the healthcare industry.  Not a surprising finding, but the 72% number was striking.
  • Management Experience. 55% wanted candidates with sales management experience.  Again not a surprising requirement – if any thing we were a little surprised the number was not higher.  It does say what you do as a sales manager matters and just having great sales experience is probably not going to be enough – you need to have demonstrated leadership and have a record of managing a team.
  • CRM Experience.  29% requested experience with CRM software.

Jay Ivey a market associate for Software Advice summarized an important point – “Candidates who develop their career within a single vertical (e.g., technology, healthcare) will have a significant advantage when it comes to obtaining a more senior-level position.”

Clearly what constitutes successful selling is changing – so it follows that the requirements for a Sales Director position are also changing.  Here are 7 key skills we have observed front-line sales managers seeking Sales Director jobs should develop:

  • Business Acumen.  Being able to bring a business and economic perspective to everyday activities.
  • Adaptive Thinking.  Coming up with creative and innovative solutions that are not rule-based.
  • Computational Thinking.  Being able to translate vast amounts of data into useful information.
  • Political Savvy.  Understanding the political environment and culture within which you are working.
  • Transdisciplinary Competency.  Knowing how to integrate knowledge and concepts across disciplines and areas of expertise.
  • Collaboration.  Knowing and being able to leverage institutional resources and working with others.
  • Critical Thinking.  Being able to identify and challenge the assumptions underlying actions and inactions.

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©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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