Tech is changing almost every industry and sales isn’t immune.
In the past a good sales person would be able to listen to their clients, determine what it is they really need, and think on their feet. And while none of that will really change, the means of communication with clients, the technology involved in the sales process, and how staff adapt to disruption means roles within the high-performing teams of tomorrow will look very different.
We spoke to a range of Australian sales executives to discover what they believe will be the most important skills sets looking ahead. Here are 10 of the key takeouts.
1. You’ll need to have empathy for the disrupted
“Customer empathy is a huge one. It’s about both having an understanding of a customer’s challenges and goals as a business or an individual,” Intuit Australia’s MD Nicolette Maury says.
Recognising changes the business is going through is critical, especially as more sectors get flipped by technology.
“Pretty much every industry is under disruption right now,” she says, adding “for a sales person going out to introduce a new product or a new piece of technology, it’s really important for them to understand the journey that that person is going through to make sure that they’re not just selling them something without understanding the change management that might have to go along with it.”
2. You’ll need to know how to collaborate
Sales is no longer a silo. It works across various aspects of a business so reps will need to be able to work with a bunch of different people, both inside and outside an organisation.
They’ll also need to understand the interests of the different parties and be able to coordinate to get ideas together and close a deal.
Because of that, many directors are hiring outside traditional sales reps, says Triad Retail Media managing director Barry McGhee.
“You need sales reps who can cut through and look at what data is actually relevant,” he says.
3. You’ll need to have a tech specialist on the sales team
Increasingly, sales directors are hiring a specific tech specialist for their teams to keep an eye on the market and ensure the product is keeping up with developments.
“We apply data to help us identify where the market opportunities are and which categories to go after,” McGhee says.
Having a specialised person can help the rest of the team understand spending behaviour and the market and tie all that back to the product the company is trying to sell.
4. But all sales staff will need to brush up on their tech skills too
Maury says that as entire industries are being disrupted, “the role of a sales person needs to become more of a technology specialist and someone who can help the people they’re talking to understand the insights that technology can provide.”
“Our sales guys need to understand the benefit of data that comes into Quickbooks Online and how it benefits an accountant or a small business customer,” she says.
Maury says sales people need to understand the ins and outs of a product and explain what it does.
“They need to understand in enough depth so they can do some early trouble shooting and answer some basic questions in those early days,” she says.
But McGhee says it’s about “trying to find a balance” between someone who has solid interpersonal skills and someone who has the ability to grasp data.
“It’s a case of seeing the potential people to be able to sell heavily around data,” he says.
“With so many clients you could be going after, you need to be able to isolate the best data.
“As any new technology changes and becomes mainstream, we need sales people across the board to understand programmatic sales.”
5. Creativity will still count
While data and tech is taking over the world, old fashioned good ideas, interpersonal skills and the ability to build relationships are still critical to the sales process, McGhee says.
“As data becomes increasingly prevalent, there’s potential for that to come back full circle and for creative to be back at the forefront,” he says.
6. You’ll need to be quick
There’s no room for slowcoaches in the sales teams of the future, says David Boldeman, national sales director at Allure Media, Business Insider Australia’s publishing company.
“Being able to move quickly and punch out sales proposals at a high pace is required for closing,” he says.
7. You’ll need to understand data and know how to act on it
With so much data available, sales people will need to draw insights from the numbers to be able to support arguments and ensure forecasting is more accurate.
While there are a bunch of tools available to help with this, sales staff will still have to know what to look for amongst the mass of information.
“Sometimes you can get too much data. The speed at which you can use the systems to calculate win rates, dollars out in market and forecasting has made the sales manager’s job easier,” Boldeman says.
There are also tools now available which tells the sales person when a client has opened and read a proposal. Many teams are using this interaction point to time phone calls or emails so the proposal is front of mind when they reach out.
8. You’ll need to be able to write, not just talk
With email, text and messaging apps, sales is becoming less face-to-face and more reliant on written communication. “A well written proposal goes a long way,” Boldeman says.
Being good on the phone isn’t as essential as being a gun on email.
“The days of 90 phone calls a day are dead. People don’t like to be interrupted or communicated to that way. Having good email chat is essential for cutting through the clutter in your prospect’s inbox,” Boldeman says.
9. You’ll need be across the details of your client’s business more than ever
Sales people are becoming much more engaged with their client’s businesses and in many cases are taking on the role of business consultant, advising on strategy, market changes and business directions.
Because of that, sales people will need to know the right questions to ask so they get the information they require to sell the right solutions.
“They need to understand what CRM they’re using, what data they have, how they’re leveraging that data. It’s a far deeper level of engagement. That drives a partnership model,” McGhee says.
After landing a deal to build out eBay’s advertising sales team, McGhee says his company had to work out how to leverage the data the company had so it could build a business off the back of it.
“It’s so much about sales people who can match their platform with the client’s needs,” he says.
10. And you’ll need to be able to consult on your client’s business to build a partnership
“A sales person can actually help the client and the advertiser understand the changing landscape, that goes beyond their own product and goes into the role of the advisor,” McGhee says.
Maury agrees saying it’s not about doing a fantastic pitch and closing a sale, it’s about building long-lasting partnerships.
“In a world where we’re digitally connected, people are still looking for those human connections. So being able to build a relationship is becoming increasingly important,” she says.
“Being able to understand more holistically how these products fit in with the rest of someone’s business or the rest of the technology which someone uses. So there’s an element of being a more consultative person.”
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