How sales has changed—and what it means for your sales candidates


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You may have heard of a little thing called the Global Financial Crisis. Yes – it may bring back a few bad memories, but it was actually an important turning point for the sales industry, and understanding how it affected the way salespeople sell is vital.

Overall, selling is much more difficult than it was pre-2008. We have discussed previously about what the ‘New Normal’ is when it comes to the economic climate businesses operate in today – and of course this has an flow-on effect for those in sales.

Budgets are tighter, decision-makers are harder to get in front of, and even when the right person is presented to, getting through the buy-cycle takes a lot longer than before the GFC. So selling is hard, getting cut-through is difficult, and it means that more than ever before, salespeople need to be resilient, and able to recover quickly from rejection.

But it is not only the GFC that has had an effect on the way salespeople do business – there are a few other big changes that have occurred which has required an adjustment to the sales process, largely as a result of technology.

Basically, salespeople are no longer always the source of product knowledge or pricing because this information is online. This then means that salespeople enter the sales cycle to find their prospects much further along in the buying cycle, putting the potential customer more in control of the process.

Online has also bought with it a lot of self-service and free resources that have mitigated the need for salespeople at all – for example travel, commodities and retail items.

In turn, the business world has become significantly more international, where there are not only competitors just down the road, but those who are global and operate in your market from overseas.

So what does all of this mean? That during sales recruitment, we need to look for certain attributes in our sales candidates to find those who will be successful, because the old ones – like relationship builders – just aren’t going to cut it anymore in such a competitive environment… not if you want more than mediocre results.

One of the most effective salespeople are those known as ‘challengers’ – why? Because they are able to add value as an individual, rather than selling purely on the value proposition or added value of the product and/or service – asking the tough questions and having the tough conversations to uncover pain points, THEN presenting a solution (as in this video here with Dave Kurlan from the Objective Management Group).

There are also some key characteristics that need to be present in salespeople in order for them to succeed – and these became even more critical after the GFC. The two with the most significant impact, as discovered by Kurlan through his extensive research, are:

  1. Difficulty recovering from rejection – The biggest problem here is the amount of time it takes to mourn the loss, and recover. Some salespeople don’t return to normal for days and weeks after being rejected, which is obviously not good for productivity.
  2. Commitment – Commitment is about doing whatever it takes to make a sale, and since the GFC, those salespeople who have conditional commitment – as long as it isn’t too scary, too hard, or they don’t have to extend themselves – will find it extremely difficult to achieve above average results in sales.

So have a think about what you look for in a salesperson – has your criteria changed at all since 2008?

If so, does it meet any of the qualities mentioned above? If not… how are sales going for your business?

We coach our clients through this HIGH PERFORMANCE SALES PATHWAY to help them get clear on their strategy, transform their sales team and achieve sales growth, without stress and uncertainty of going it alone.


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