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Sales leaders urged to ditch their Ivory Tower, embrace proximity for success

In a recent thought-provoking LinkedIn post, Alex Alleyne, a prominent sales expert and co-founder of On Target emphasized the need for sales leaders to step out of their ivory towers and immerse themselves in the front lines of their businesses.

Exploring this resonating sentiment with some marketing practitioners who shed light on the benefits of embracing proximity in sales leadership, Alleyne’s message struck a chord as they rallied behind the idea that proximity pays dividends when it comes to managing teams and understanding customers. 

According to Onome Umukoro, deputy manager marketing and corporate communications at Mixta Africa (Group), Alleyne’s plea for sales leaders to spend time in the trenches stems from the belief that detached management from office dashboards can lead to a disconnect from the realities of the market. 

“By immersing themselves in the day-to-day operations, sales leaders gain firsthand insights into their customers’ needs, the challenges faced by their teams, and the dynamics of their partnerships. This intimate knowledge empowers leaders to make informed decisions and foster stronger relationships,” she said, noting that being physically present with customers provides invaluable opportunities to observe their pain points, identify unmet needs, and tailor solutions accordingly. 

“This hands-on approach leads to higher customer satisfaction and stronger loyalty,” she added.

Also rallying behind Alleyne’s advice, Helen Akue recognized the inherent value of proximity in sales leadership. According to the brands and communications expert, proximity enables leaders to build trust and rapport with their teams.

“It allows them to see the challenges and successes firsthand, making them more effective in guiding their salesforce towards achieving their goals. True understanding of customer nuances and team dynamics can only be achieved through direct involvement,” Akue stated, maintaining however that the human touch and personal connections forged through proximity can never be fully replicated by technology.

Lanre Basamta, Group Head, Mobile Financial Services, Interswitch Group noted the critical importance of proximity. In an interview, Basamta emphasized the crucial role of proximity for sales leaders in gaining insights about their partners, customers, and teams. 

“It enables them to comprehend the customer, market, and competitor offerings, obtain timely customer feedback, and enhance collaboration with all stakeholders,” he said.

Other practitioners stressed that while technology has undeniably revolutionized sales processes, it is vital for leaders not to rely solely on digital tools and dashboards. 

In his comments, Marcus A. Chan, a professional sales coach, advised sales leaders to “manage from the trenches and not from a dashboard.

On his part, Mike Papacoda, Talent Solutions, Senior Advisor, Cox Communications also points out “active leaders provide better coaching and development, being in the field strengthens customer relationships, and leaders in the trenches boost team morale”.

Additionally, the practitioners also acknowledged that achieving proximity might pose challenges in today’s remote and globally dispersed work environments. They buttressed that by working side by side, leaders can provide immediate feedback, offer guidance, and address any concerns swiftly.

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