Skills most associated with salespeople such as negotiation, persuasion and being a good listener, have been named as vital to career progression amongst senior business leaders.
A study by Huthwaite International and YouGov revealed the skills senior business leaders cite as most important for career advancement.
Leadership and people management skills were voted most important by 63% and 61% of respondents respectively.
Following closely were listening skills (51%), negotiation (46%) and persuasion (45%) – synonymous with the sales industry.
However, the research showed that the more generic grouping of ‘sales skills’ were not as highly regarded, as they came second to last in the list, with only 24% of respondents rating them as important.
The skills senior business leaders rate highly for career progression are:
1. Leadership - 63%
2. People management – 61%
3. Listening – 51%
4. Negotiation 46%
5. Persuasion – 45%
6. Presentation skills – 34%
7. Specialist/role relevant skills – 33%
8. Questioning skills – 33%
9. Able to manage budgets – 26%
10. Sales skills – 24%
11. Digital awareness – 19%
Tony Hughes, CEO of Huthwaite International, says that the findings suggest a lack of understanding in business of the skills involved in successful selling.
He says: “This study also demonstrates just how valuable the skills possessed by successful salespeople are. From negotiation and persuasion to listening and asking intelligent questions, sales roles equip people with some of the most important skills for career advancement.
“However, sales still suffers from people mistakenly believing that it’s simply wheeler-dealing or being pushy. Instead, being an effective salesperson requires a broad range of skills. You must ask the right questions to probe and test people’s needs; you must be able to make the connection in the client’s mind as to why your product or service solves a problem they are having; and you must be able to negotiate so that both parties come away feeling happy with the deal.”
An industry breakdown of the results showed that financial services believed listening and questioning skills were vital for career progression.
Rating leadership most highly was retail, and the manufacturing sector thought specialist/role-relevant skills were most pivotal to excelling careers.
Speaking to Executive Grapevine, Hughes says: "Programmes that map out an employee’s career progression are not just essential for personal development; they also help to keep staff members actively engaged with your company. An employee who can see the skills they need for promotion, or to transfer to a preferred department will welcome the clarity in how to achieve it. Skills development training is central to career development programmes. It provides the tools for both individuals and their business to reach their goals faster."