In the highly competitive world of sales, ensuring strong leadership often presents a daunting challenge for organizations.
“What we’ve often seen happening is people who get great results become the sales leader by default,” says David Jeffrey, regional vice president, commercial sales at Toronto-based Salesforce Canada Inc., a leading customer-relationship management platform provider whose parent company, Salesforce.com Inc., is headquartered in San Francisco. “But just as in sports the best players aren’t always the best coaches, the best sales performers don’t always make the best sales leaders.”
Companies spend more money on leadership education than any other type of corporate education, according to a 2015 report by the Brandon Hall Research Group in Delray Beach, Florida. Yet only about 20 per cent of organizations believe they do a good job at developing leaders, and more than 70 per cent are worried about their current leaders’ ability to guide their organization into the future.
Given that the sales department drives revenue and market growth in virtually any company, building strong sales managers must be recognized as a critical imperative, says Mark Healy, executive director at the Ivey Academy, the executive learning centre at Western University’s Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario.
“I think competition between businesses today is much more intense and the sophistication level of companies with good sales organizations is higher,” he says. “So the stakes are higher, which means companies today need to be doing everything they can to succeed.”
A new leadership framework developed this year by the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) could soon make it easier for companies to identify and develop strong managers in their sales organizations.
... just as in sports the best players aren’t always the best coaches, the best sales performers don’t always make the best sales leaders.— David Jeffrey, Regional vice president, commercial sales, Salesforce Canada Inc
Over the summer, an executive committee at the CPSA worked to define the key competencies of an effective sales leader. Mr. Jeffrey, who was part of the committee, lists off these attributes: compelling communicator, business acumen, ability to build a sales team, coaching skills, solid understanding of sales processes, technology competency and professional sales conduct.
“Throughout the summer, we ran a series of focus groups and interviewed sales leaders in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” recalls Mr. Jeffrey. “Now that we’ve defined the sales leadership profile, we’re moving on to the next stages.”
These next steps include defining the indicators and measures for each competency, and testing the framework.
“What we’re doing now with the competency framework is creating subsets under those big headings,” says Mr. Jeffrey. “Creating measures for this is the hardest part – it’s a work in progress.”
For instance, a subset under the coaching competency might include emotional intelligence, which influences a sales leader’s ability to read people and get the best out of them, adds Mr. Jeffrey.
Already a number of schools have shown interest in the framework. The Ivey Academy, for one, is using the framework to build a new sales leader designation program, which is set to launch next spring.
“The CPSA reached out to us because we had a sales management program that they felt matched the leadership competency framework they had built,” explains Mr. Healy. “CPSA asked if we could build a program that aligns with the framework, and within three months we came up with a revised program.”
Mr. Jeffrey notes that the importance of more comprehensive sales and sales leadership education has not gone unnoticed in Canadian schools. Ryerson University, for instance, is introducing a new sales major program. “We’d like to see this roll out across all business schools,” he says.
See the Sales Professional Competency Framework at cpsa.com.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.