S-Academy | The War for Sales Talent
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The War for Sales Talent

The War For Sales Talent

The War for Sales Talent

There’s a war for sales talent, are you ready for battle?

There’s no getting away from it, love it or hate it, sales is THE oldest profession in the world, and despite what the pro-social / digital / e-selling camp may tout, face-to-face salespeople will always be needed because driving sales directly is the one single most crucial value chain activity in any business. Period.

So it’s simple, right? Set up a business, hire some salespeople, give them a car and a laptop and a phone, with a healthy dose of encouragement (if they’re lucky) and send them on their merry way, then sit and wait for the sales to rain down like manna from heaven.

Oh, if only it was that easy!!

The truth is sales is hard, it takes balancing a complex mix of interoperable organisational components across people, processes, and technology to make sales work for any business and it all starts with hiring the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles. Get that right and life is ‘somewhat’ easier.

But the real challenge is finding these elusive rainmakers to start with. Sales roles are consistently in the top five hardest jobs to fill every year, and there is a growing global battle for sales talent across every sector, size, and scale of business.

Start Ups and SME’s are impacted further because they don’t have the reputation or pre-existing sales of larger businesses on which to grow, knocking down doors is harder, yet they are the one ones who need more experienced salespeople to do just this, and they’re typically difficult to attract.

So why are we experiencing such a massive drought of sales talent in a global economy that is reporting rises in unemployment, particularly amongst our younger generation?

Well, there are a few things!

Sales gets a bad rap

Let’s face it, sales isn’t exactly seen as the sexiest of careers. Ask anyone to describe a typical salesperson and you’ll still hear a tale of the ‘shiny shoes, bad suit, pushy car salesman’ type that has gotten sales a bad reputation. We just can’t seem to shake the old-school perception that salespeople are manipulative and slimy, and this makes roles harder to fill.

In addition to this, many a potential candidate is put off by the level of commitment that’s required to succeed and aren’t willing to dedicate themselves to a profession that requires occasional long hours, can sometimes be stressful and requires a degree of tenacity and resilience to bounce back from rejection. Instead, there is rising demand for a more flexible work/life balance and less stressful environment that fits with their lifestyle.

The simple fact is sales isn’t seen as a legitimate career option which is misguided because a career in sales is challenging, fulfilling and financially rewarding for those that truly commit themselves to the cause. It takes grit and determination to be a great salesperson, the faint-hearted need not apply.

Who’s teaching who?

The negative perception of sales is further bolstered by a distinct lack of education in the discipline. Until recently mainstream business education skipped over sales with most MBA programs offering no sales-related subject at all despite sales being such an integral part of a business. Even at the undergraduate level of business education, sales courses are sparse, to say the least, which does nothing to legitimise sales as a career.

In the UK, professional associations such as Institute of Sales Management and Association of Sales Professionals are doing what they can to raise standards in the industry by offering accredited training but for the most part training and development falls on the shoulder of employers who are delivering sales training to varying degrees.

Yet many businesses aren’t investing in training their salespeople at all, with a staggering 25% reported as offering no sales training of any kind. Some lucky sales recruits may get initial training when joining a company, but beyond this are then left to their own devices, with no further development beyond induction.

What’s clear is that sales organisations have to step up and work collectively to raise standards by offering training and development opportunities that position sales as a legitimate career choice, changing the unfairly negative perceptions of sales once and for all. Until this happens the talent pool is likely to remain limited and the war will rage on.

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About the author:

Anna Ashton is an award-winning sales strategist, author and professional problem solver with more than 20 years’ experience gained at the coal-face of international sales. She knows what it takes to be a top performer. Anna works with board executives and sales leaders to dramatically improve the performance of their sales organisations – particularly when it comes to creating winning sales strategies, motivating sales teams and developing new business.

Anna is Managing Director of S-Academy and can be contacted through her business networking site at https://www.linkedin.com/in/annaashton

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