Fast Forward: Skills for Sales Leadership in 2020 (and beyond)

Remember when 2020 seemed so far away? It was the distant future, one that we’ve been imagining, projecting, and predicting about for the past several decades.

What trends would shape our industry? Which skills would rise to the top as the most critical? What would the talent picture look like and how would it affect our organizations?

Now we’re at the doorstep of 2020. We also need to be looking well beyond it, to continue learning about the forces that will shape our sales organizations and the talent economy at large. As I meet with sales leaders and other organizational leaders, there are some common themes that emerge around the competencies, skills, and resources needed for the next decade and beyond.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will expand your idea generation as you build out your sales organization. Several of these themes I’m covering in my upcoming book, The Modern Seller. I also recommend these two reports for additional research on the future of sales leadership and the workplace: Future Work Skills and Expanding the Leadership Equation.

Tenacity matters. Do you have it + 3 other skills needed for #sales leadership in 2020 + beyond? #modernsellser @amyfranko

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Harvard Business Review defines agility as rapid, continuous learning from experience. Modern sellers grow and leverage agility to help the customers create a competitive advantage. By doing that, they become differentiators. How do you know if your teams are agile? Agile sales professionals seek continuous feedback, are always curious, easily navigate ambiguity, and aren’t afraid to try bold ideas. Consider agility an integral asset. This is not only a top skill for sales leaders, but for leaders of all types.

Strategic Thinking

Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, presents a compelling argument that the future belongs to the “right brained.” Those who are strategic and creative set themselves apart. Unfortunately, when we’re busy (and who isn’t?) we don’t take the time to simply think. The lack of space, time, and quiet ultimately bogs down our creativity.

To cultivate creativity, slow down. Set aside time cut out the noise, to think and to process. You’ll find your creative juices will begin to flow again, and you’ll make better, more strategic decisions.


It’s not about how many times you get knocked down. It’s about how many times you get back up again. In modern selling, we need to be able to take risks — knowing that even the best laid plans need flexibility and room for mistakes. Research shows that 80 percent of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes.” Tenacity matters.

Those who view failure as data points are the most successful. They see success and failure on a continuum and not as absolutes — that helps them to bounce back from mistakes and to not rest on past successes. Take and inventory of what you’ve learned, and use that to improve on what’s next.

Social Capital

To get significant things accomplished, nothing will help you more than a strong, deep network. There are few places where that’s more apparent than in sales. When we focus on investing in strategic relationships, we forge a strong reputation, driving results personally and in our business. The people and organizations that understand the true value of social capital are among the highest performing. Social networks also bind us to one another in ways that elevate engagement, and bring more satisfaction to our work than without them. A must for the sales leader of 2020.

As I continue to write my book, I’m exploring other integral sales and leadership attributes. Which ones would you add to the list?

Originally published at Impact Instruction Group.

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