Our internal salespeople are performing better than our outside salespeople, thought a sales manager at an asset management company. They also earn only a third as much. We need a fresh breed of salesperson with a higher digital quotient in the pharmaceutical industry, as doctors are declining to meet face-to-face with salesmen in meetings. One of our vendors was criticised by a technology buyer at our own consulting firm: "Although Alice has the title Customer Success Manager, she attempts to knock on my door whenever she smells an expansion opportunity. She is merely an aggressive salesperson.
The profile of what it takes to succeed in sales is shifting across industries. We gathered online data from more than 20,000 job listings for sales positions between 2019 and 2022 to gain more insight. Companies continue to focus on the traditional criteria for employing salespeople, including traits and abilities including sales experience, communication abilities, curiosity, and motivation.
The following five future-focused competencies are recurrently mentioned in sales job advertising at the same time.
Preparing for the client's tomorrow
Account managers at industrial distributor W.W. Grainger are required to "show understanding of market data and access to resources to promptly respond to unexpected changes in the customer's business," according to the job description. Further, Microsoft wants its account executives (AEs) to "understand how startup organisations grow and mature their commercial models" in order to have an agenda-setting seat at the buyer's table when selling cloud services to digital native startup customers.
Internal and external collaboration
"Liaise with specialists, service officers, and other resources to assure the integrated delivery of investment, fiduciary, credit, and banking solutions," according to Bank of America private client managers, is required. Although many sales forces already have cooperation ingrained in their DNA, for others who have shifted away from a one-on-one strategy with customers, it is a seismic upheaval. In complicated buying organisations, where a variety of decisionmakers must come together to agree on a purchase, salespeople must also foster collaboration.
using digital and online mediums
For successful client involvement, Pfizer sales representatives must "utilise current digital tools successfully (e.g., Veeva Engage, Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Office) as well as adapt fast to new/beta solutions (e.g., digital triage app)". Salespeople that are aware of when and how to employ digital, virtual, and other in-person sales channels will have happier customers overall.
electricity generation from data
Key account managers for 3M need "quite advanced Excel abilities and proficiency with complex data analytics." Salespeople certainly need a higher inclination and aptitude for applying analytics in client interactions, even though this 3M position is a little bit on the cutting edge (most salespeople don't need to be analytical gurus). This involves the capacity to work with algorithmic outputs, such as suggestions for the optimal course of action, and a readiness to contribute feedback to the development of AI models.
ability to change
Executives in charge of managing accounts for Apple's enterprise channel must "adjust to change and discover the appropriate path without necessarily knowing all of the pieces to the jigsaw." Salespeople frequently act as agents of client change. However, as a more flexible approach to sales planning replaces conventional ways of working to a quarterly sales plan, they must also adapt to new dynamics in their own world.
Can these five competencies be cultivated and nurtured on the job, even though hiring for these five competencies is undoubtedly an option?
Collaborating and flexibility are two qualities on the list that are probably in the "hire for" category. These are generally innate qualities that take time to develop, according to our experience working with customers on recruiting over a long period of time. The "hire for" list also includes certain other skills that are more teachable, like using digital and virtual channels. "My reps never signed up to be virtual reps... they want to be out in the field," a manager said. The organisation now evaluates candidates' technological aptitude and openness to communicating with clients via the channels they prefer, whether they be digital, virtual, or in-person. "A third of my workers just don't get it; they don't have the digital skills and interest," another sales manager claimed to us. The correct development, apprenticeship, and support programmes can significantly increase the skills required for future success for the two-thirds of those who do "get it."
By 2025, people born after 1980, or digital natives, will make up 75% of the workforce. Therefore, for the majority of employees, making the transition from smartphone use to learning how to utilise Zoom, CRM applications, and websites like LinkedIn is not difficult. Companies regularly provide salespeople with training on how and when to communicate with customers online using platforms like social media, email, and videoconferencing. The pandemic-induced extended transition to virtual labour revealed that the majority of the technologically illiterate and defiant can climb the digital learning curve, despite the fact that many sales organisations are hiring for digital capabilities.
Centralized organisational resources for assisting salespeople can be an option for some of the competencies that organisations are searching for. Consider a scenario where a salesperson wants to send a customer a contract renewal with price that has been modified to reflect the customer's actual prior service consumption. The salesperson can spend a day gathering all the data and making a spreadsheet to figure out the solution. Or someone at the corporate office with analytical know-how and simple access to data could put together a better response more quickly. A central Center of Excellence (COE) is a resource some businesses have to assist salespeople in responding to a request for proposals (RFP). Others use a COE to provide key account salespeople with on-demand industry and consumer research.
"Anticipating the customer's tomorrow" becomes equally the responsibility of headquarters and salespeople. This helps salesmen stay focused on their clients.
However, developing some competencies need for more than just guidance and instruction. Think about the Microsoft AEs who work with startups that are digital natives. Beyond what they may learn from a COE report, AEs must have a thorough understanding of the changing technology requirements of startups if they are to be effective. Such skill is developed over time through experience and training.
In the job postings, there is a single, obvious overriding topic. Experience and competencies focused on the future are sought after by sales companies. Numerous new employees will come from organisations with diverse cultures and working practises. This means that acculturation is essential for the onboarding and absorption of new salespeople. New hires at Salesforce take part in a week-long "Becoming Salesforce" programme that includes breakout sessions centred around company principles and fireside chats with management. Additionally, a technology for internal collaboration called Chatter enables new workers to learn from the company's top performers as they share their best practises.
Sales companies can position themselves for success in the digital era by utilising these and other techniques to match sales hiring, development, support, and apprenticeship with the five forward-looking competencies.