I’m not sure why, but the term “growth leader” is often considered “just” a media term, and seriously underestimated in the business world, outside of academia. This is unfortunate, because in my opinion all Sales Directors should be Growth Leaders; after all, what are they doing if not generating growth for your business?
It’s a sad reality that many people earn six-figure salaries without truly earning them. But in markets – and boardrooms – that are becoming evermore competitive, it’s imperative and integral for the Sales Director to be able to justify their worth by performing and delivering results.
That’s why I consider it a personal mission to help people understand and appreciate the role of a Growth Leader. A business’s sales should always be growing, and the onus for that progress falls squarely on a company’s Sales Director.
Whatever you call your Sales Director, make sure that he or she embodies these three strategic leadership skills:
1. Strategic Vision
A Growth Leader needs to be able to interpret the marketing information and other resources available to them, and use these to devise efficient and effective routes to success, given the company vision. What does the future look like? A Growth Leader needs to have a sense of this future vision and how to get the business moving in the direction towards greater progress. More than anything, strategic vision is absolutely key to sales growth. Not every Sales Leader is naturally skilled at this and for those that are, if they aren’t privy or clear on the strategic vision, there’s little hope that they will be able to support it. It’s the MD’s role to ensure their entire team, but especially those who they look to lead, understand and support the future business.
The Growth Leadership role involves not just managing the resources you’ve got – it’s also about staying ahead of the competition and leading the market. Strategic vision is how a Sales Director can anticipate where the business needs to go, but a true Growth Leader also sees how the industry as a whole is changing, and anticipates what it takes to stay at the front of the pack. I call this “transformation” because it comprises skills of inspiring others, communicating a vision, and driving forward momentum. Transforming a strategic vision into a team journey and convincing people to jump on board is what motivates progress. The best Growth Leaders are empowered to do this. Is yours?
3. Creative Thinking
Some people refer to this skill as innovation, but I think the word creativity better captures the underlying process that is crucial for innovation. Are there gaps in the market that your company could be exploring? Are there new ways to offer the same services or products you already do (e.g., by subscription, via the internet, etc.) that could generate new customers? Are there partnership opportunities with other business that could enable you both to reach new audiences? Growth Leaders should always be inventing new and better ways for the company to reach its goals. If they’re not creating new paths to success, they’re stagnating. And in a marketplace as fierce and competitive as this one, there’s simply no excuse for a lack of forward momentum.
I consider these three strategic leadership skills to be core, fundamental skills that every Sales Director should have. They’re base expectations, in other words – not markers of high performance. If your Sales Director is falling short of the kind of growth that your business needs to stay ahead, it’s time to identify the areas of improvement to get your leadership back on track.