The Sales Director: Getting it Right

Tue, 9 Apr 2024 Updated By: Brett Lyons

The role of sales director is one that many ambitious sales people aspire to achieve, it is often seen as the pinnacle of a sales career.

As a norm the sales director role is one in which an individual has the challenge of setting the sales strategy that will deliver the objectives the business expects from the sales function. Often becoming a sales director will mean putting less focus on sales management skills and more focus on developing the skills to operate as part of a senior leadership team.

Get it right and it is a fantastic role through which people can evolve as genuine business leaders. There are no fixed rules but in my experience there are certain behaviours that successful sales directors practice.

Let’s take a look:

  1. The Strategic Aim
    This might be based on sales revenue, profitability or market share. The strategic aim aligns with the overall objectives of the organisation and defines exactly what the sales director is trying to achieve. This is usually defined in a time period that will vary from 12 months to 3 years dependent of the organisation and the industry.

    Most importantly, the strategic aim becomes the vision that the whole sales function should understand and be engaged to achieve. Plus, the sales director will ensure other functions understand the strategic aim and how they can support the sales function.

  1. The Value Proposition
    How do you go to market? Analysing industry need, customer profitability and sales capability the best sales directors will define how the sales team manages each customer segment.

    Looked at from an internal perspective this will ensure the cost of sale is in line with the profitability of each customer segment. Externally the value proposition should be a key part of retaining customers and attracting prospects.

  1. Sales Capability Models
    At all levels there are two things that dictate the success people achieve in a sales or sales management role:

      1. Operational Effectiveness: The skills to do the job. Usually this is addressed through training, coaching and of course personal experience.
      2. Operational Efficiency: The behaviours, activities and best practice that combined produce the best results.

        The best sales directors will address operational efficiency by developing sales capability models for all sales, account management and sales management roles. It is important here to differentiate from micro management, a sales capability model:

        • Provides people with a guide to help them do the job and sales managers with an invaluable coaching aid.
        • It does not tell people what to do every minute of the business day.
  1. Strategic Objectives and Goals
    Fundamental to delivering the strategic aim. Strategic objectives will define the major steps to achieving the strategic aim usually focussed around financial, customer management and people objectives.

    The strategic goals are the activators or milestones that define the sequence of events to achieve the strategic objectives.

  1. Managing Change
    On the journey to achieving a strategic aim the sales director identifies where change is needed and understands that change will bring resistance. To manage this good sales directors will:

    • Develop a change map that identifies potential blocks where change will need to be managed
    • Provide the resources needed to manage change
    • Engage people in the sales team and the wider organisation who will support the change management process.
  1. Developing the Business Environment
    What is it like to work here? A good sales director knows that key to building a high performance sales team is attracting and retaining top talent, creating an environment in which people:

    • Work with agreed team values
    • Have the confidence to make decisions
    • Believe in the management and business routines
  1. Working ‘On’ and ‘In’ the Business
    Most sales directors enjoy the sales aspect of the role and are usually delighted to work ‘in’ the business spending time with customers and sales people in the field.

    However equally important is working ‘on’ the business. This is about developing and implementing strategy and working with the sales leadership team to achieve sales goals.

    Working ‘on’ the business also means becoming a member of the leadership team. Developing effective relationships with peers and colleagues across the business to ensure the organisation supports sales and the sales function supports the organisation.

Last of all going back to the opening of this article, the role of sales director should not be seen as the pinnacle of a sales career. In some cases, it may well be, but it is a fantastic role that is often the gateway to a much broader role in leadership.

Find out More

If you would like to know more about the content covered in this article take a look at ‘The Sales Director’. This is a Skill Accelerator programme designed to help sales directors, senior executives and business owners who have the responsibility of leading the sales function.

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