Qualities of Effective Sales Executives

What qualities should sales executives possess? It is difficult to list “success” qualifications. Sales executives’ jobs cover a gamut of products, markets, and marketing channels, and there would seem to be few, if any, qualifi­cations in common. Nevertheless, five qualities (or abilities) common to effective sales executives, whatever their fields, can be identified:

  1. Ability to define the position’s exact functions and duties in relation to the goals the company should expect to attain. Sales ex­ecutives calculate what is entailed in their responsibilities. Wheth­er or not the company provides them with a job description, they draw up their own descriptions consistent with the responsibil­ities assigned by higher management. Revisions are necessary whenever changes occur in the assigned responsibilities or in company goals.
  2. Ability to select and train capable subordinates and willing­ness to delegate sufficient authority to enable them to carry out assigned tasks with minimum supervision. Ability to delegate authority is a must. Effective executives select high-caliber sub­ordinates and provide them with authority to make decisions. Within existing policy limits, decisions are made by subordi­nates; when an exception falling outside these limits occurs, the superior decides. The more capable the subordinates, the wider policy limits can be and the more the superior’s time is freed for planning.
  3. Ability to utilize time efficiently. The time of sales executives is valu­able, and they budget it and use it carefully. They allocate working time to tasks yielding the greatest return. They arrive at an opti­mum division between office work and field supervision. Even the use of off-duty hours is important. Excessive work time and too little leisure reduces efficiency. Successful sales executives balance such leisure-time activities as community service and professional meetings against personal social activities, recreation, and self-im­provement.
  4. Ability to allocate sufficient time for thinking and planning. Able administrators make their contributions through thinking and planning. They know how, and are willing to think. They recog­nize that reviewing past performances is a prerequisite to plan­ning. They strive to gain new insight that will bring problems into better focus. Effective sales executives shield themselves from rou­tine tasks and interruptions. Failing this, they retreat to Shangri-Las where surroundings are conducive to thinking and planning.
  5. Ability to exercise skilled leadership. Competent sales executives develop and improve their skills in dealing with people. Although they rely to a certain extent on an intuitive grasp of leadership skills, they depend far more on careful study of motivational factors and shrewd analysis of the ever-changing patterns of unsatisfied needs among those with whom they work. Skilled leadership is important in dealing with subordinates and with everyone else.

Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.

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