Days of dynamic duos

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 May, 1995, 12:00am

Salesmen bring home the bacon so don't be surprised if they are not promoted. But there are ways of working together.

IF YOU are a salesman and have any ambition of getting ahead, there are obviously ways and means of gaining that elusive promotion. The top salesman with a few years up his sleeve is usually considered an great asset.

The problem is that it is likely he or she will want to get out of the day to day grind of selling and move to managerial level. This is where most think they can use their talents to the long term advantage of the company and to the personal benefit of themselves and, usually, their family.

The problem may be that the chief executive officer is, in all likelihood, happy to see the top salespeople stay exactly where they are - selling. The problem is how does one get out of sales and into a senior position.

Top managers have all sorts of skills. Some can motivate employees, or build consensus, or hold down expenses, or simply focus on the right priorities.

In some companies, these skills are more highly regarded than selling. I don't share this view (what could be more important than generating revenue?), but it's a fact you have to deal with. I know lots of companies being run by 'professional managers' who have not made a sales call in years.

There may be a problem in that if, buried in any bid for promotion, salesmen could lay claim to 'single-handedly' making all their own sales. That suggests they are operating as a lone wolf, which runs counter to any strategy I know for advancement in an organisation. The key to success today is partnering.

Some years ago I wrote that we would be seeing more 'twin leaders' in corporate hierarchies. If the 1980s glamorised the CEO, then the '90s would be the glory years of the COO and the CIO. More companies would be run by twin leaders. One would be the classic Mr (or Ms) Outside - the COO, the rainmaker promoting the company's image and future to the world. The other would be Mr Inside - the CIO, someone who knows operations, administration and finance, and can keep the organisation in high gear. The best companies I've seen recently have two people at the top working as partners rather than as competitors for the title of king.

This twin leader format can be duplicated at all levels of the corporate pyramid. If you look around your company, I think you'll see that the most successful people don't operate as prima donnas. They do nothing 'singled-handledly'.

Every step forward is the result of the teamwork that is not always obvious to the untrained eye. In most cases, they've probably identified a soul mate who complements their talents and functions as their unofficial business partner.

This partner may be the bad cop to their good cop (or vice versa). He may be a sounding board for new ideas. He may be their extra set of ears for internal gossip. In some cases, he may simply be their press agent, someone who says complimentary things about them to superiors and peers.

My point is, in any organisation, even those with seemingly benign office politics, two people working in sync (and not worrying about which one of them temporarily has greater status or a bigger pay cheque) can get more accomplished than someone operating alone.

Ideally, finding a partner should happen naturally. It can't be arranged or forced. But before you can find a partner, you must realise you need one.

Think about how nice it would be if you had a partner who could point out your friends inside the company, who could praise or defend you among your peers, and who could advance your ideas as if he were a disinterested party. Think about how much more effective it would be if your partner, rather than you, were outlining your career objectives to the CEO.

If you can't find that sort of partner at your company, perhaps you should be looking for someone who expects that sort of support from you.