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Sales Skills Vs Management Skills

I had a discussion with a friend yesterday.
He told me that having good sales skills does not imply good management or leadership skills.

I shared with him that sales require interacting with external parties, so it is more challenging than dealing with internal people who you know better.
He said it is precisely because you see these people every day which makes the dynamics more challenging.

I thought about this further.
In sales, you can walk away from accounts or prospects that no longer fits your business product or services.
In management, your employees and managers need to be internally aligned to run the business effectively.
This always challenging as everyone has their own personal interests and agenda.

Huge Enterprise Sales Is Different

However, in my personal opinion, sales become a lot more complex than just selling when it comes to huge enterprise deals.
Now it involves

  • Interacting with multiple stakeholders in the prospect's business
  • Understanding the wider ecosystem - the prospect's own clients, partners
  • Dealing with regulatory bodies

There's a lot of getting people aligned, painting a vision and even getting people to help you do work without being directly under your authority or control.
In addition to that, one must be familiar with the associated financial, legal sides to the deal.
Big deals can take a few years to close. (like the cloud contract for the Pentagon, USD 10 billion)
As such, there are management and leadership skills involved.

One can even go further and say that closing a huge enterprise deal of USD 10 billion is like starting a billion-dollar company.

The Difficulty Depends on the Scale

My personal opinion is that the level of complexity is all about the scale.
Complexity in terms of power dynamics, industry knowledge, finance, legal, etc.

Managing a large team is more challenging than closing a small sale.
Closing a huge sales is more challenging than managing a small team.

Being the sales manager is most often more challenging than being a salesperson in the same company.
You deal with a larger set of power & people dynamics.

I think learning how to close bigger deals will improve your management skills and vice versa.

Valentin has reacted to this post.

I haven't reflected on this at length but, at first blush, I'd also say the two are quite different.

I think an important difference is the "law of the lid", such as the tendency for the boss' overall value to be the ceiling of the people he can recruit, keep, and motivate.

The "law" is not a real "law" and doesn't apply like clockwork, but it's an important tendency. I remember feeling terrible for having to call some people I didn't respect "boss".

That tendency is not as important in sales.
As long as a salesman is not highly dislikable, you can buy from him if the product adds value.

Furthermore, I've seen some otherwise good salespeople do very badly in management, so there is also my personal experience (observation, in this case) to confirm that.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks for sharing your experience Lucio.

I can resonate with this too. Several bosses made me feel "wrong" that they were in a position to influence so many people.

I can also safely say I use many products and services of companies that I would not like to work there because of what I heard about the culture.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano