In this series, we have explored why sales roles are so hard to fill globally and we have reached a simple conclusion – far from being made easier by technology, selling has become harder: And it demands an increasingly complex and sophisticated set of skills.
In real world job postings, we see the significant disconnect between the ‘functions’ of the typical sales spec today and the ‘qualifications’ – what we at ESI would call skills – required to carry out those same functions:
|Host||Ideate editorial sensibility|
|Write||Comfortable with rejection|
|Draft||Have a thick skin|
|Research||Strong verbal, written & communication skills|
|Exude interpersonal skills|
|Empathy, active listening & executive presence|
|Attention to detail|
|Strong execution & follow-through|
|Comfort with fluid environments|
Looks quite stark, right?
It is this disconnect between the traditional functions of a sales executive and the skills that they require to perform those functions that underpins everything we do at ESI. Employers lose billions in sales performance every year; not because they don’t recognise the difference between the “skills” and the “functions” of a sales executive: but because they don’t know how to identify or develop the necessary soft skills in sales, in the first .
At ESI, we are in constant dialogue with our customers and partners about this subtle distinction between sales operation (or function) and sales skill. We hear our customers bemoan the fact that their team is struggling with ‘prospecting’ or ‘negotiation’ or ‘outbound’ or some other generic activity. What’s even more concerning for them is that they have tried all the usual sales ‘training’ solutions We all know that there are some superb programmes that cover topics like “Negotiation” or “Time Management” based upon decades of research into best practice in selling. At the other end of the scale, you don’t have to look much beyond YouTube to discover how to make a cold call or research your target persona on the internet. So, what’s the problem?
They don’t work!
Sales today, as evidenced by the table above, is not simple. It’s not some programmatic, linear process that yields the same, consistent results day-in, day-out. Businesses…and customers….and people….and the solutions they require, all demand different approaches. And to achieve a successful outcome, a professional engagement that is responsive to each parties’ needs, is essential. This involves bringing everyone together on a shared, positive journey to conclude the transaction. Ideally this engagement is led by a real live person who has all the soft skills that are listed in the table above, and more. The sales professional needs to lead the process by being responsive, agile and reflective. Not to put too fine a point on it, the sales process needs to be led by a person who can…..Think!
That complex ability to think, to be responsive and to make every customer engagement and solution feel almost bespoke to that customer, does not come easily. The skills above cannot be developed in a 2 day training course or by watching a YouTube video. These skills include a set of high-order cognitive abilities, advanced professional competencies and a mindset that drives high-performance.
So, how do you teach sales skills? Those who recognise the complexity of the skills needed, will also understand that these competencies need time to be developed. One of the main ways this can be done is through “learning on the job” and gaining sales experience within the organisation. But structured learning and clear direction is also essential to upskill sales teams. Yet how can organisations implement an effective sales skills programme across teams – without taking people away from what they were hired to do?
Almost an impossible task? No, not now…..
ESI customers have met this challenge head-on, through our virtual, self-paced sales skills development programme. The course is ideal for sales teams working remotely or from a variety of locations. It enables individuals to get an overview of all the core skills needed to sell successfully and to deep-dive into modules where their personal skills need to be upgraded. For organisations, it facilitates a standardised approach to selling that can be quickly implemented across the business. It is also highly motivational for sales professionals, improving their focus on driving their own sales performance.
ESI offers the definitive, digital solution to upskill your sales team.