More Sales Science, Less Voodoo

Rainmakers continue to be in desperately short supply, and sales leaders continue to wonder why.

In a recent job posting for a senior sales consultant, a major IT consulting company required that candidates possess an advanced degree and significant experience in application development. Consider the personal attributes and natural interests of an individual with these qualifications: are these the same characteristics that predictably support credible, insightful conversations with most senior strategic-client executives? Probably not. With recruiting approaches like these, it should be no surprise that research from the past three years shows that fewer than 5 percent of today’s salespeople consistently and successfully execute executive-level sales campaigns. This is because, long before training begins, sales success is predetermined by innate attributes.

Sales Strategy
Sales Science

The tables above illustrate research drawn from a large cross section of sales people. The first one shows how sales people are selling today, according to Bob Bartholomew from Revenue Storm.The second one uses empirically developed attribute profiles to determine the natural sales approach of those salespeople.

Traditional, “offering-centric” salespeople deliver feature and terms-of-transaction messages to purchasing and project-focused contacts who often have an existing and proactive interest in those messages. Salespeople who excel in this approach have an eye for detail and natural interest in technical issues.

“Operation-centric” salespeople deliver operational efficiency messages to client managers who have no inter- est in details about the offering or the transaction of buying. Salespeople who excel in this approach often have an analytical personality and natural interest in business processes.

The “strategy-centric” approach is perhaps the most difficult to execute, requiring a salesperson to deliver messages about strategic benefits to business- or mission- focused executives. Those who are successful in this ap- proach tend to have a risk-taking personality and natural interest in markets and economics.

Some salespeople will have no difficulty changing how they sell, but many will struggle to do so. It is possible for ambitious salespeople to overcome their personality and natural interests to change the way they sell, but making this change requires coaching and experience that goes far beyond mere training. Regardless of how you believe those in your organisation should approach selling, your guiding principle in recruiting and hiring should be to hire to attributes and develop (train and coach) to competencies (knowledge and skills). 

www.accelerateperformance.co.za

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