Why do so few senior sales leaders end up at the top of their organizations? How might you avoid the trap that leaves you doing sales for much of your career? Keep in mind, there’s is nothing wrong with being great senior sales leaders, if that’s what you want.
I’ve interviewed thousands of great leaders over the years. I can think of only a handful of senior sales leaders who have made it to the CEO position in their own organizations. What did they know? Can this information help keep your career options growing?
It has always surprised me more senior sales people haven’t been able to get the top job in their organizations. You would think that they have many of the strengths and capabilities required to be a great CEO. They are great communicators, they work well with others, and they are very good at building high performing teams. They are seen as leaders by both clients and partners. So why don’t they get promoted to CEO? Today I share what I’ve seen to help you get decide if it’s worth the climb.
The first reason senior sales leaders seldom get the top position is they never decide they want to be CEO. They may tell friends and family they want the job, but they seldom share this ambition with others on the leadership team. They feel it would be too ambitious to say they could see themselves running the business at some point of the future.
If you want the job as CEO you must begin building relationships both inside and outside the organization. You must learn how to build strong relationships with your fellow leaders and board members. I know you’re good at entertaining people, but you must be able to have more in-depth conversations outside the responsibilities you have in your current role. Are you providing significant value to other people in your organization?
The second reason senior sales leaders don’t get the position is because they aren’t very good at bridging the divide between their salespeople and other leadership team members. Most senior sales leaders are very good at taking the side of their sales teams, but struggle to see why other people’s perspectives matter. In many cases, they can be overly combative in protecting other members of their sales teams.
Many senior sales leaders sent their career down in flames over a minor point that, if conceded, would leave them to fight again another day. In spite of what you read in all the great business books, great leadership can be messy. To succeed, you must be able to read what’s going on in an organization and then decide how to leverage what you see to help yourself and others win.
To navigate successfully in today’s challenging times you must become an expert at negotiating with other people within your organization. I understand that many senior sales leaders are great at negotiating with clients and suppliers. Negotiating can be different when you’re dealing with someone you work with on a regular basis. For many organizations, passive aggressive behavior has become a science for many lower level individuals who may feel they are not being treated correctly.
If you build relationships with others before you need them, you are more likely to come out of any given situation with a win.
Next Tuesday, we discuss how to increase your skills in two key areas that help keep you on the fast track. See you next week.