Sales TrendsWe know we sound like a broken record on the evolution of sales. Selling is not the same as it used to be. Just 20 years ago, golf memberships, long lunches and snazzy promotions had a huge influence on customer decisions and Herb Tarlek’s character on WKRP in Cincinnati was a funny depiction of the truth, but not totally out of line.  Next watch the movie  Tin Men to see what selling might have looked like 50 years ago. Each of these eras had their own characters and  methods of inducing buyers to buy and today is no different. Pervasive access to information via the Internet and more sophisticated buyers has changed the way buyers buy and the way organizations sell. This in turn has an impact on the people that get hired and traits top performers possess.

Here are several sales trends that are changing the way organizations hire sales people.

1. The Economy – For the last few years, the economy has put downward pressure in most sectors which in turn has caused companies to try to do more with less. This is old news.

Impact on sales hiring:

    – The obvious impact is downward pressure on compensation packages, but we also observe that many organizations have trimmed senior and middle management, so there is a higher ratio of reps to managers and in smaller companies we are seeing all the members of the sales team reporting directly into the CEO.

2. Internet Sales – With more buyers researching and buying online companies are investing more in online marketing and lead generation programs.

Impact on sales hiring

    – Budgets that would have been allocated to reps performing outbound calling are instead going into online marketing, partnering and social media marketing. In many companies this means a drop in sales headcount.

3. Sales Methodologies go Mainstream – The relationship sell is no longer an option for many companies and most are applying some sort of structured selling approach, particularly for B2B orgs which must deal with the requirement for senior level signoff on even small purchases.

Impact on sales hiring:

    Companies are increasingly seeking to hire sales reps with some degree of sales training or exposure to methodology-based selling. We regularly have clients ask for candidates who have had success applying Sandler, Value Selling or Miller Heiman training. While anyone can take the training, it takes a certain breed to learn AND successfully apply the training.

3. Higher Demand for Solution Sales People – The number of companies calling themselves a “solution provider” surely peaked in 2010, when it was hard to find a company that did not claim to be a solution for whatever problem their target customer experienced.

Impact on sales hiring:

    On the one hand, there are a lot of companies that confuse selling something they call a “solution” with “solution selling” and on the other hand there are more companies actually seeking solution sales people. Understanding the difference is important because it takes time to master solution sales, so great solution sales reps are usually more senior and demand higher compensation. It is also important to keep the distinction in mind when setting sales strategy because solution sales people who can effectively hunt for new business are a rare breed – for a variety of reasons, as sales professionals age it is pretty common for them to be less inclined to be in roles which require hunting for new business. This has forced companies to invest in new internal training programs that develop existing talent or the requisite skills at an earlier stage in a sales reps career.

4. Production Line Selling – Larger sales teams are becoming more sophisticated in order to be able to tailor the selling approach to target markets and customers. Many organizations now have separate inside and outside sales teams as well as groups dedicated to certain account sizes or industry sectors. Sometimes these teams make hand-offs between each other as leads are developed from a prospect to a customer.

Impact on sales hiring:

    The demand for the generalist sales person is less common and the demand for people with vertical strong experience or selling a certain way, for example strictly inside or strictly outbound. Where this significantly limits the candidate pool, companies seek to hire sales professionals with the mix of personal traits and DNA that would enable them to easily acquire the necessary skills.

With all this change, if nothing else, 2011 will be an exciting year!



Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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