Where Are All the Chief Sales Officers?

With the ever increasing adoption of the North American corporate structure and nomenclature of the CxO structure, over the more traditional Managing Director (MD) and Director roles here in the UK, we now typically see organisations with CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s, CTO’s and CIO’s. But where are the Chief Sales Officers?

In the past we used to have genuine Sales Directors that sat on the operational executive board, reporting to the MD and responsible for the organisation’s sales strategy, leadership, management and performance.

Now, for both successful and successful business, it is accepted that the single most important aspect of achieving business success is the closing of profitable sales.

Put simply, no profitable sales will result in no business. It is very much a case of “Can the last Chief Officer to leave switch of the lights?”

So why is it, then, that in so many large commercial organisations the person charged with delivering sales revenues, year in and year out, is often relegated to a tertiary tier on the management structure, reporting to the COO?

One reason for this is that the UK has traditionally had a rather “nose-down” attitude towards sales. Even within a single organisation, multiple functions hold sales at arm’s length with a dose of suspicion and, almost, as a necessary evil that the rest of the company has to live with!

This lack of statue and recognition often, from my experience, results in the sales function having to double its workload. Not only do they have to build relationships and gain commitments in an evermore competitive marketplace. They also often have to internally fight for the customer’s cause every step of the way to deliver on their promises. They often have to drag together the inward-looking silos of organisational departments to co-operate effectively and deliver customer satisfaction.

Despite this, I do see a shift in business thinking and practices starting to emerge here in the UK which addresses one aspect of this issue. Up until recently, there has been little in the way of professional sales qualifications. If you think about it, this is an almost incredulous way to run the single most important function of your business. Would this not be analogous to engaging a CFO of a sizable commercial organisation who doesn’t have formal financial qualifications?

But things seem to be changing. The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM) is a professional membership body for sales professionals in the UK. It is their mission to promote standards of excellence in sales and enhance the status of sales as a profession. As part of this, the ISMM offer professional sales qualifications (regulated by Ofqal), ranging from Level 1 to 6, which are gaining increasing acceptance across multiple commercial and industrial sectors in the UK. The ISMM’s Level 6 sales diploma, for example, is on a par with MBA qualifications and is aimed at senior sales executives and sales directors.

Perhaps, then, we could see a day when we have CSO’s who are proud to have achieved their Level 6 ISMM Diploma?

Leave a comment below to tell us what you think.

Written by: Adrian Atwood, Client Development Director at Sterling Chase


2 thoughts on “Where Are All the Chief Sales Officers?”

  1. Absolutely agree with you Adrian. I wrote a blog on my website about the lack of understanding, capability and high-level importance placed on the sales role and its place in the future success of the corporate entity. The SD should sit on the board with the FD and MD in my opinion !

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