Data and analytics, technical acumen, and understanding the needs of the customer are what I call the “big three” hard skills required for success in B2B ecommerce. But sometimes overlooked when it comes to building your capabilities are the softer skills, specifically, influencing. The word “influencer” is frequently found on B2B ecommerce and digital marketing job descriptions, but ask three employers exactly what that means and you might get three different answers.
What exactly is it, and why is it so important in the context of B2B ecommerce?
Influencing is one of the critical competencies for every leader at every level in an organization. Essentially, influencing is what allows a leader to get things done. Without the ability to influence others and get them to “buy in”, a leader is unable to achieve their vision. The rise to prominence of influencing on B2B marketing job descriptions has accompanied the trend towards less hierarchical management structure. Years ago, command and control ruled the day. But leadership has become much more distributed, and that’s especially true in B2B organizations that are creating new organizational structures to support digital transformation. Working across internal silos becomes essential. These cross-functional teams consist of people with different values, agendas, experiences and needs, and team leaders must be able to shape and transform opinions, behaviors and actions without formal management authority. In B2B ecommerce, influencing skills are truly a “must have” in these environments.
The ability to influence is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Academics argue over whether leaders are born or made, but employers don’t care. What they care about is, “Does this candidate have what it takes to build commitment among the varied stakeholders, and get results.” Influencing skills touch on things ranging from teamwork to relationship building to customer service, so as a B2B ecommerce candidate be prepared to share examples of how you persuaded a team to accept an unpopular decision, or when you had to work with a difficult customer or client, or how you commanded respect from others who were more senior than you. Be prepared. Don’t wing it. Influencing now rides high on the job description totem pole, so be ready with good examples and you’ll coast through it.
Want to sharpen your skills in influencing? Hands down, the best book I’ve ever read on this topic is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Not only a great read to help advance your professional life, but this is a handbook on how influence works in everyday life.
Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With more than 100 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 29 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.
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