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Do today’s NAMs want to be tomorrow’s Sales Directors?

By Sophia Bryant
Sophia Bryant

Stories from a sales director, recruitment leader and specialist FMCG educator and what NAMs really think!

We meet a lot of national account managers (NAMs), and national business managers (NBMs) and heads of channel and sales directors at Six Degrees. That’s our job. Over 14 years Six Degrees has tracked, managed, helped and watched in admiration, occasional consternation or pride the career paths of many, if not most, of Australia’s FMCG sales community. As specialists, we don’t have the distractions of jumping into other sectors or functions. Being a specialist works if you stick to it. Day on day, month on month, year on year, the knowledge and insights soaked up, enable us to see the trends first and help our clients and talent make the best decisions possible for them and their businesses.

FMCG talent trends and salary insights

For the past few years our teams have been producing the Six Degrees Market Insight reports which sum up talent and salary trends. We produce them for FMCG sales, covering the world from national account executive (NAE) to sales director and the same for category and brand. Our reports for sales during 2016 turned a few heads, including ours, based on how much the role and salary of a NAM was changing. The AFGC asked us to present our insights at Industry Briefings Events in Sydney and Melbourne. Such was the feedback we then ran a session in our own in December, inviting 25 high-potential NAMs to our boardroom to discuss “the career path from NAM to sales director”. Mike Dickson, Director of Six Degrees Sydney and a FMCG sales recruiter of 20 years lead the discussion with Ken Basha, Customer Director at Cerebos describing his career path and Paul Bull, Group MD of Real World who talked about the new “mini MBA” his company has launched for FMCG sales on behalf of the AFGC.

The evolution of the NAM

We knew the role and salary of a NAM had accelerated in 2016 more than any other year. But, how connected were the brightest crop of today’s NAMs to those trends? What did they see happening in 2017? Did that differ from our views and the trends of 2016? Did the NAMS feel equipped and supported to navigate these changes? Did they see themselves as future sales directors? How do they equip themselves for the path ahead? The key takeout’s from the event:

  • NAMs perform a mini GM role, which they love, but they feel too narrow in their skill-set to maximize performance.
  • The trend that will define 2017 is how interchangeable the role of a NAM and category manager will be.
  • So, don’t focus all your energy coveting that role on Woolworths, get into category, quickly! Only a small number had considered this seriously.
  • Be open to alternate channels. Most FMCGs are working to diversify away from that 75% grocery reliance. The progressive ones are putting top talent on quick service restaurants (QSR) and food service. Do it!
  • Take a role in sales management, look at a state based role, you’ll need more leadership than managing a channel.
  • Look at any opportunity to broaden your perspective; category, shopper brand, new channels or even functional roles in commercial finance or HR

So, do today’s NAMs want to be a sales director?

Yes, some of them but not all. Career breadth is the most important trend of 2017. On one hand this is essential to equip yourself for senior sales leadership, but on the other it will open the eyes of today’s millennials to other paths and they won’t be afraid to take them.

"Career breadth is the most important trend of 2017."

Later this month (March 17th) we’re hosting a follow-up event for Sales Directors. Mike, Ken and Paul will ask if sales leaders are setting up todays NAMs to be tomorrow’s sales directors? The event is full but please reach out to Mike or I if you’d like to discuss our Market Insight Report, your team or career.

Get in Touch with Sophia on 02 8024 7122.