Sales – it’s the backbone of any business, so why is it that nobody wants to do the job? Despite the increasing demand for salespeople, there continues to be a struggle to attract individuals to a career in sales. The online job platform, ZipRecruiter, highlights just how sought-after salespeople are – there are more than 700,000 open positions in the United States today.
So, the question truly becomes, how should a company sell the role of a salesperson?
Last week, the Wall Street Journal published the article, “The Pay is High and Jobs Are Plentiful, but Few Want to Go into Sales,” which discusses the changing nature of sales and how this has impacted companies in search of salespeople. This article emphasizes that sales positions are good, well-paid, and plentiful – but understaffed.
This blog post will discuss:
- The factors that discourage individuals from pursuing a career in sales
- The changing nature of sales
- How S&P Data Digital has adapted to the new sales landscape and what go-to methods we use to maintain an efficient sales environment
It is easy to associate the struggle of hiring salespeople with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, as Patrick Thomas notes in this article, this problem has existed long before the pandemic. The reason? There is a significant sense of discomfort associated with sales positions. We are all familiar with the stubborn stereotypes that plague sales. When it comes to the sales professional, we tend to envision the “used car salesman” persona: a manipulative and pushy individual who prioritizes making the sale above all else. With these stereotypes in mind, it is no wonder why people are turned off from sales roles.
It is crucial to recognize, however, that this stereotype cannot be further from the truth.
Sales has changed dramatically over the last few years – no longer does the “used car salesman” fit the description of salespeople. In the new age of sales, salespeople do not necessarily operate in pressure-cooker environments, nor do they utilize “smile and dial” strategies. Rather, sales involves problem-solving and working with clients, as well as being empathetic and curious about a customer’s needs.
The sales landscape has changed in three significant ways:
- It has moved from a high-pressure environment where making the sale is of the utmost importance, to a consultative partnership
- Sales that were once only face-to-face have now turned virtual.
- The understanding of the best salesperson has changed – experience is no longer the most important criteria sought after in a salesperson. Rather, interpersonal skills – being understanding, for example – are prioritized and coaching is used to build-up the best people.
A Consultative Partnership
A major reason for the shift to a consultative partnership is that customers are now aware of when they are being persuaded and instinctively put up their guard. Think of the last time you got a cold call – it probably began with a variation of “the reason I’m calling is… do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” You could probably hear how well-rehearsed that line was. This resistance from prospects means that old sales tactics won’t work. Sales associates must employ their soft skills rather than recite from a script.
Sales is no longer a “close at all costs” process – rather, it is a process of mutual discovery, consultation, and partnership. The relationship between a salesperson and client must be genuine and sincere.
The Medium is the Method
The second shift in the sales landscape – massively accelerated by the pandemic – has been the move from face-to-face selling to an online environment, which S&P Data Digital likes to call ‘screen-to-screen’ selling. Accompanying the shift to virtual selling are four major implications:
- The relationship between salesperson and client is now grounded in collective problem solving, as opposed to pricing and relationships.
- The soft skills of empathy, curiosity, understanding, and partnership are triumphing over the once-prioritized tools of inclusion, closeness, and track record.
- Remote selling means that salespeople are no longer required to be geographically fixed; companies can hire the best of the best from all over the world. The talent pool, then, is much deeper and rich.
- A quick note on software sales: most of today’s sales are software and service contracts as opposed to hardware contracts. Software represents a recurring small investment (relative to hardware). This is critical: since the investment is smaller, the service provider only continues to make money if the contract is renewed. This means that the sale is only a good deal for the service provider if the customer is – and remains – happy. A successful salesperson is one who solves a problem and provides good ROI to their client.
The Best Salespeople
There is a new template for a salesperson – one that does not focus solely on experience. As Mark Cope, Senior Vice President of Sales and Customer Experience at CentralReach, points out in this article, companies must look beyond experience and coach up salespeople to meet the demand.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that salespeople are not ready-made; rather, behind the best salespeople lies a supportive coaching team and training strategy. To grow as a company, it is crucial to invest both time and money into your salespeople.
S&P Data Digital’s Solution
So, what do these three changes mean for companies like S&P Data Digital?
S&P Data Digital has no doubt found these changes to be true – and our clients echo this sentiment back to us all the time. We are leaders in identifying, developing, and executing on sales. In turn, our company has been able to tackle – and benefit from – the changes to the sales landscape.
In our experience, sales is less about convincing a prospect by using manipulation tactics and more about understanding the needs of the prospect. S&P Data Digital uses our Trusted Advisor Model, which treats sales as a partnership. Our goal is to build a trusting relationship with the customer – one that will last years and lead to multiple deals over time – rather than simply making a one-time sale and going our separate ways.
Securing the best salespeople begins with recruiting and hiring. During the hiring process we look for important traits and skills such as curiosity, empathy, and a sense of adventure. On top of this, however, we put sales associates through rigorous training that has been developed over the years and is customizable to each of our clients and programs. We treat sales as a trade and develop our people; the best salespeople are right under our noses – it simply requires time and commitment to build them up. In turn, sales associates not only feel supported but prepared for their roles, yielding stronger results.
In short, the new age of sales sells itself. It is crucial for companies to recognize that the sales landscape is changing and work towards changing the narrative of a salesperson. It’s time to let go of the negative stereotypes that impact one’s desire to enter sales as a career and recognize that the role of a salesperson has changed for the better. What once defined sales – high-pressure environments and manipulation techniques – has been replaced by consultative partnerships and supportive coaching.
Many of us may not have envisioned working in sales as our future – but if you are smart, you will embrace this transformation and go along for the ride.