Leadership: Sales vs. Marketing
SALES vs. MARKETING Series. Posts comparing how these two disciplines approach a similar commercial topic. Find out the key elements of leading effectively a Sales team and compare with those of a Marketing team. The same general Leadership principles apply but there are distinctive differences, which one must master, especially when a new role demands to manage or interact closely with these disciplines.
The general Leadership principles could be summarized in 5 categories: Lead by Example, Inspiring and Engaging Teams, Look for New and Take Risks, Empower Others to Succeed, Encourage and Acknowledge.
How are these principles enriched when applied to specific Marketing and Sales tasks?
For example, Marketers need to understand well how users of their products or services make their purchasing journey. Based on that journey, defined through data analysis but also through strong intuition, they must be creative and innovative in adapting their products and their communication to the various groups of users. Creativity and Innovation are therefore essential to marketing.
While Marketers focus on Users, Sales executives focus on their Customers. For sales executives, the sales journey, the actual sales process of how to interact with the customer, seems so important. Ensuring that this process is daily applied, in the most efficient way, by all members of the team, often across the world is key. Therefore, Sales Process Analysis and Optimization seem to be paramount. Different than in marketing!
For excellent Marketing leaders today, creating a stimulating, exciting, enjoyable but also delivery oriented environment for their teams is paramount. Personalities with various interests and specialization add to it. A marketing leader should be able to steer them towards concrete results. The notion of a music band often portrays that.
Successful Sales leaders on the other side, implant a sense of accountability, a certain code of behavior where members continuously seek to prove themselves, in a numbers driven, target reaching, results achieving way. KPIs are introduced and success metrics are followed. However, while personal style is appreciated as part of a strong personality, the dominant climate is characterized by discipline and firm command, similar to that of an elite army unit.
Please note that it should be done in an Inspiring and Engaging way, as one of the 5 general Leadership principles indicate. Not by hitting people on the head: that is assault, as Eisenhower once said.
Both Marketing and Sales manage knowledge, albeit in a different way. For Marketing, especially now when many of the rules are re-written, it requires continuous exposure and training on new trends and new tools. It should include exchanging of ideas and blue sky thinking. Getting to know and screen what constitutes true evolution and what ephemeral hype.
In Sales, training is also needed in a structured, continuous way. There are skills and technical, product or service related, knowledge which must be commanded by the sales team. However, more structured and down to earth. The subtle difference is that sales is a mentoring-based profession. On top of formal training, regular feedback sessions and on-the-job-training must be included to develop the natural sales intuition of each sales team member.
Tip: check how the on-the-job-training takes place in your sales organization. How often and in what way do team leaders work with each of the sales consultants? How is feedback shared?
These three dimensions: Sales process analysis and optimization, Discipline and firm command and Learning through mentoring are rather unique for sales leadership.
They should be added to the five fundamental Leadership Principles, which apply in the same way in Sales as well as in Marketing:
Lead by Example: ensure that sales leaders while strategizing and dealing with the other corporate departments, they fight from the front. They are there to contact customers, to mentor their own direct reports, to check the sales process in action.
Inspiring and Engaging Teams: they convey clearly and passionately the future and the vision of the company, have endless positive energy to engage their teams and realize every project, from the most mundane to the most thrilling which brings them closer to their target. It is not merely about hitting some targets: it is about changing an industry, setting the trends, being recognized as the industry thought leader.
Look for New and Take Risks: they encourage a culture of open contribution, of thinking out of the box, of daring to take calculated risks fearlessly, knowing that change is a continuous requirement which takes time and major effort. It may be the introduction of new technologies, the targeting of new customer segments, of introducing programs and concepts which add value to the customer, beyond the products and the services they sell.
Empower Others to Succeed: it is about the success of the team. In that aspect the recruitment of talents and nurturing them to reach the maximum of their potential is also included. It is clear that the success of the team is the addition of the successes of individual members. A success breeding environment gradually rejects those who wish not to aim for the best.
Encourage and Acknowledge: they are sensitive to what happens to their team, they know how to praise and reinforce positive behavior, beyond material rewards. Celebration of achievements is essential for all leaders. It allows the organization to breath, get ready for the next target which starts immediately after the one has finished, connects success with good times. Motivation for every team is the invisible fuel for outstanding results, especially for sales!